Not quite super-Nova.
N.O.V.A’s Kal Warden is one unlucky guy. If there’s a fight going on anywhere in the universe, he seems to be there right at the wrong moment. However, in N.O.V.A. 3 his first task is to head back to a little planet called Earth.
As you’d expect, even though Earth has been wiped of the vicious Volterites, there’s a surprise in store for our hero and he’s soon returning to the fight, knee deep in bodies. It’s also a return to the same gameplay style which will be familiar to anyone already honed on Gameloft’s series so far.
This is standard FPS fare from a company that knows how to deal with the genre on iOS. Taking cues from both the most recent Halo episodes and from other shooters (there’s a noticeable Crysis element) it presents plenty of set-pieces and point a to point b tasks to get stuck into.
Mixing things up a little, there are also some interesting vehicle levels and, in particular, a mech-based section. The vehicle levels tend to be scripted affairs, though, and occasionally outstay their welcome. Where they do go open map, the physics of the trucks tend to spoil things a little. Aside from piloting the Mechs, I often just wanted to finish these and get back to the on-foot shooting.
Level design is often an area where Gameloft struggle, but I’m pleased to say that N.O.V.A 3 manages to provide some pretty good maps for a change and there are a nice variety of environments here. It feels more like their recent Modern Combat 3 in terms of different areas and scenery than the previous N.O.V.A. games.
Graphically, the game is on par with the last Modern Combat, and takes advantage of the Retina Display in the same way, but this can lead to the odd slowdown issue. Having tried this out on an iPod Touch 4G and an iPhone 4S, the graphical increase didn’t add anything in the way of effects, even if it did enhance the resolution somewhat. What was noticeable was that the 4S managed to keep the action going without so much slowdown. Playing on the iPad 3 confirmed the lack of extra detail in terms of shadows and particle effects, but the retina support looked impressive, all the same. It did slow down from time to time, though, on the new iPad (as with the iPod 4G) where the iPhone 4S seemed to cope better with more enemies on screen.
Controls have been changed very little between this game and the last one in the series. Support for gyroscopic sights when aiming really gives a much better sense of control, but other than this the standard Gameloft style control system does the job admirably. What is noticeable is that the iPhone’s smaller screen means that fingers often get in the way of the action, while the iPad obviously allows for more room on screen to get around this issue. Even so, it’s rarely a problem and it’s still pretty much the best control system for a shooter on the device.
It’s worth noting that the voice acting has improved dramatically for this outing. There seems to have been a lot of thought put into scripting and acting, though there are still the odd bad pieces of dialogue floating around. Going back to the last game to check, it’s an obvious improvement, especially for Kal.
The Single Player story mode should take you around 5-6 hours to complete, but multiplayer is where the long-term action takes place. With 12 players able to compete in a match from one of 6 different game styles, it should provide some pretty big thrills. ‘Should’ is probably the right word, because every other game I tried online seemed to have issues. While a Team Deathmatch game with 6 players worked fine without lag or incident, playing another game with a few more players added just made it stutter and one Capture the Flag game just became laughable with so much lag that it was soon abandoned.
The games that worked fine were pretty impressive, though. Praise is due for the maps used, though sometimes they look a little on the large size for smaller groups, but the inclusion of vehicles does counteract this issue somewhat and it’s good to see the Mechs available in multiplayer. I took the liberty of waiting a few weeks for Gameloft to fix any teething issues, but even now the lag is still sadly apparent on games where a full compliment of players are involved.
In App Payments might put many off, but for once they’re handled in a sensible way. While guns and armour can be bought for real-world cash, many are tied to skill levels and can only be used once you’ve played enough of the game to gain the required level. Even so, going up against those with a much higher level will give you a distinct disadvantage.
Overall, then, N.O.V.A. 3 is a rather mixed bag. When it works well it’s an impressive game that far outdoes any previous FPS Gameloft have put out, but there are too many bugs and issues still around to make it a consistently good experience.
- Sound: 8
- Graphics: 9
- Gameplay: 7
- Longevity: 7
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