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‘Modern Combat 5: Blackout’ for iOS, Android and Windows Phone game review

Modern Combat 5: Blackout is the latest installment in Gameloft’s series of first person action games. The games have traditionally been based on warfare and very close in nature and style to the Call of Duty series of games on the PC and consoles.

The Modern Combat series has taken it up a notch with every installment, with improved visuals, more explosive action and expanded gameplay options every time. Last year’s Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour won several accolades and is heralded as one of the best games on the mobile platform. Let’s see what Gameloft has in store for us this year.

Gameplay

As with the previous games, Blackout is a first person game. Gameloft has decided not to mess around with a successful formula so in essence this is the same game as its predecessors. However, there is a lot more happening now than before.

There is a single player campaign mode and a multiplayer mode, but I’ll get to the multiplayer later. The single player campaign has a story of sorts as before but it is a flimsy excuse for all the mayhem on the screen to take place. It’s not really interesting and you honestly don’t care about anyone, not even the lead character you play as.

There are six chapters in total, with each chapter having a few main missions with several sub-missions, and a handful of spec ops missions, which are much shorter. The sub-missions aren’t particularly long either and each one has three optional objectives, such as getting a certain number of headshots, a certain number of explosion kills, melee kills, not letting your health get critical, etc. The spec ops missions have these as well and depending upon how many objectives you complete you unlock additional items, such as weapons and weapon upgrades.

In terms of gameplay, you can choose to play as one of the several classes of soldiers, such as assault, heavy, recon, and sniper. The different classes have different default weapons and different skills. For example, heavy will take 10% less damage from explosives whereas assault gets 15% faster reload speed on primary weapons.

Once you select your class, you’ll notice that the game has a wide array of weapons available. You can also customize your weapons by adding scopes, silencer, iron sight, ammo upgrade, muzzle upgrade, etc. You can carry two weapons at any given point. Other than the guns, you also have knives, grenades and a special drone that you can release in the air that scans the area and shows the position of all the enemies in the area, even through walls.

Talking about actual gameplay, Gameloft has the full array of gameplay mechanics here. You have the usual run and gun element, cover shooting, sniper sections, slow motion taking out of enemies after you enter a room, shooting explosive cylinders to take out enemies, shooting enemies from the back of a Humvee at vehicles chasing you, shooting bullet in slow motion and following the bullet and controlling it until it hits your target, quick-time events, remote controlled drone attacks, basically every first person trope you can think of. All of this may seem like a cliche had it been a desktop or console game but for a mobile game some of it is kinda cool.

The action is quite intense and over the top in this game. Bullets flying everywhere, things exploding around you, vehicles exploding and flipping several times in the air before they land, it feels less like a game and more like a Michael Bay movie. The good thing about it is that it does a good job of involving you in the game and keeping you on the edge of your seat as there rarely is a dull moment.

Unfortunately, as with game of this kind, the flaw comes from the platform rather than the game itself. Touchscreen displays still are terrible when it comes to playing a first person shooters and it takes quite a while before you get used to the controls on the screen. Thankfully, you can move the buttons around on the screen to make it easy to shoot and move around at the same time but I often hit the wrong button in the course of the game. Games like this beg for a controller and if you have one you should definitely use it while playing.

Thankfully, the game isn’t very difficult, which compensates for the controls. The AI is not terribly bright and the enemies just stand there and get shot most of the time. They are also not very quick so even if you run out of ammo you can reload your weapon while your enemy patiently waits. The enemies absorb a fair amount of bullet before dying but thankfully, so do you. Also, if you have an AI player by your side then they will heal you if you fall (and you can do the same to them) so you don’t die too often. The auto-aim mechanism also makes it easy to hit the enemies without spraying bullets everywhere.

Coming to the multiplayer aspect, each of the chapters have multiplayer maps for that chapter. Considering the game hasn’t released yet, there weren’t many people playing the multiplayer right now but with the handful of people present online I had good fun in the multiplayer mode and it will only get better when more people start playing the game.

One of the good things about this game is that there is no IAP. Everything is included in the price you pay for the game. There is one thing to note is that when you download the game you only get the first two chapters. After that the game will download the next chapter when you unlock it. You can also preload next chapters even before you unlock them so they are available to play later.

Unfortunately, the game does not work offline, which is simply absurd. You should at least be able to get access to the single player mode but you are out of luck if you are out of network or Wi-Fi coverage.

Graphics and Sound

Modern Combat 5 looks fantastic. From the waters of Venice to the urban streets, the game consistently impresses with its visual design and high resolution graphics. Best of all, all of this runs at a consistent framerate so there is no gameplay penalty for all the eye candy.

The sound is also equally amazing. The music, first of all, is excellent. From the music that plays in the menus and when the levels load to the high tension background score that further adds excitement to the gameplay. The sound effects are also great and with a pair of high quality headphones you can truly immerse yourself in the explosive world of Modern Combat 5.

My only complaint with the sound is the cheesy voice acting. From the male lead shouting into the microphone and the campy accent of the female lead to the cliched dialogues, the voice acting was consistently terrible and coupled with a weak story, turned the game into a Transformer movie, with the only good thing about it being the action and all the human aspects being unimpressive.

Verdict

Modern Combat 5: Blackout is a terrific action game. Gameloft has left no stone unturned to make the core gameplay experience highly enjoyable. The only sore points are the onscreen controls, which is more of a problem with touchscreen devices in general than the controls themselves, the weak excuse of a story and the tacky voice acting. Having to download the chapters separately and not being able to play the game offline is also not fun.

Overall, though, this is a very good game and definitely worth buying if you are into high quality shooter for your mobile device.

Rating: 8/10
Pros: Excellent gameplay, superb visuals and sound, no IAP
Cons: Weak story, poor voice acting, levels have to be downloaded separately, does not work offline, on screen controls take getting used to

Note: The game will be available for purchase on iOS, Android and Windows Phone on July 24 for $6.99.

This game was reviewed on an iPad Air.

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