The Modern Combat series is probably the best way to chart Gameloft’s success in the mobile market. The first game marked them out as one of the few creators of console quality games in a market of novely touchscreen and tilt titles.
Since then, every Modern Combat game has only improved on the quality and spectacle, always borrowing ideas from the big hitters like COD and Battlefield and always pushing the format in terms of graphics and multiplayer gameplay.
The latest game is, thankfully, no different. Modern Combat 5: Blackout takes the same approach with its homage to Call of Duty, providing a story which moves between massive terrorist organisations hacking their way through the world and paranoia over who to really trust. Storyline aside, this is another first person shooter that thrives on guns, explosions and big crumbly buildings.
The fifth game in the series is certainly the most polished in terms of presentation, though it’s only an incremental step up from the last game and the graphics themselves aren’t noticeably better. It uses pre-controlled events within the gameplay to add a touch of grandeur without taxing the device too much, but even on the iPhone 5 there were times that the framerate stuttered. It’s always going to be the case that new hardware means that games are pushed to their limits and this is another example, though it’s still playable on a 4S as long as you can forgive a few more frames here and there.
While there’s a slight question mark over the fluidity on older machines, it’s the controls that let the side down a bit. Expectations are never that high when a FPS game is attempted on a touchscreen, but Modern Combat 4 got it right most of the time. The latest game seems a little bit of a backward step, though. Android owners have the choice of physical controls thanks to the myriad of gamepads that replace the standard touchscreen controls, but iOS users will need to wait for a patch before they can use a controller. In the meantime, the standard movement mapped to the left virtual stick and firing using the icon on the right of the screen works to some extent, though moving around while firing is awkward and I lost count of the times I accidentally launched a grenade during multiplayer. I only hope Gameloft will be able to jiggle the controls around or give us some more options in a future update.
Luckily the short but action-packed single player is still well worth persevering with the controls, with different missions breaking up the gameplay and some wonderful scenery creating a few really breathtaking events in different locations. Being a mobile game, Gameloft have been careful not to let the missions outstay their welcome, letting players easily finish a mission and then pick up where they left off. A Spec-ops mode provides an extra level of challenge in short bursts and is a welcome addition to the series.
But it’s multiplayer that most gamers will be itching to try out. It’s here that Modern Combat 5 excels and it’s testament to the popularity of the game that I always found well populated maps to play on. A levelling up system in the single player helps players unlock perks and weapons for multiplayer and it’s certainly advisable to get as far as you can in the single player before trying your hand in a game, which I found out pretty quickly to my detriment. However, the levelling is also prevalent in multiplayer, which may be useful if you do get stuck in single player and need the next perk or upgrade to get past a tricky level.
Progression through this perk system has one major downside, though. The game needs to be online at all times, even during single player. Even with mobile networks relaxing some of their bandwidth restrictions for mobile data, this could be an issue for some players. However, having tested the game out over 3G and 4G networks, if you do have that option it works well enough.
Modern Combat 5: Blackout is a solid mobile first person shooter which, control issues aside, promises a great deal of fun for multi-player fans who have the hardware to cope with it.