Yesterday, as well as Tintin, we also got to play the much anticipated next installment of the Modern Combat series…
You may have already seen some info on it on IGN (who had a whole day’s exclusive on us), but now that the NDA has passed, let me share our thoughts.
We got to play a single player mission of Modern Combat 3: Fallen nation (MC3), which I believe will be the first of 13 in the game. A wry smile came across my face as I watched the cut scene with the set up for the game. Why? Well, let’s just say it bears somewhat of a close resemblance to another popular Modern war based shooter out there. Yes that’s right, this time you’ll be fighting on US turf, in what Gameloft describe as an ‘apocalyptic battle for freedom’. I don’t mind that it borrows from the big console name. It’s the next logical step in the game’s story and we don’t want another bout of firefights in a generically inspired middle-eastern environment.
I actually give props to Gameloft for taking up the challenge. MC2: Sandstorm only had the dusty, low-rise streets to present graphically, while MC3 has a far larger scale of presentation to contend with. I believe I heard Chicago mentioned in the cutscene, and to my surprise the game does a great job at presenting the scale of such a city, with tons of detail in both geometry and texture. Gameloft’s games are never ugly, but they do occasionally lack consistency with a mix of low and high quality textures. I’ve only seen this one level of MC3 but I didn’t once notice any nasty pixelated blurs when up close. Speaking of blurring, I absolutely love the motion blur feature when sprinting. As you hold the sprint icon down, the game enters a shaky cam viewpoint and everything goes a bit blurry. While not an original idea, but it looks fantastic and spookily real… like one of those gritty war movies of late. [Edit: The first mission is in Los Angeles, not Chicago. The bit I heard about Chicago was someone saying "last they heard we've lost contact with Chicago"]
Now, one thing I can confirm that other media outlets may not have covered is that this is not, I repeat NOT running on the Unreal engine. It’s a testament to Gameloft’s own engine development that they are able to pull off increasingly better looking games by pushing and developing their engine further. It still lacks some of the finer details like dynamic shadows (though I’m told they might come later in this game’s development) as well as higher details on the characters, but it’s certainly one of the best looking first person shooters so far. I too was puzzled why they hadn’t used Unreal engine like they are doing with March of heroes, but I was told that while they are actively using Unreal engine, that it is still early days and they are more confident right now with their own in-house set up.
I don’t really need to cover controls here, we all know now how Gameloft’s FPS controls are the best out there, and here they are no different, perhaps even better. I often find, as do most, that playing on the iPhone screen is easier with Gameloft’s setup, but for the first time I was able to confidently plough through the enemy minions on an iPad 2. The game will of course allow for full control customisation, allowing you to place control elements where you are most comfortable. One thing I do want to touch on though are some of the QTE (Quicktime Events). To me they slowed down the pace of the game. Dragging at the onscreen prompts to pull myself out from some rubble felt a little forced, and could better be tackled with being a simple cut-scene.
The mission I played starts with you entering the city by helicopter, from here you must infiltrate an enemy stronghold and retrieve valuable intel. The firefights were pretty intense within the office location with a mix of run and gun (my favourite thing to do) and taking cover. I noticed that ammo was not as plentiful as usual, something I hope will stay in the game. This means from time to time you will have to break cover and maybe even fight hand-to-hand to grab more ammo from the fallen foes. The AI seemed good for the most part, taking cover themselves and also not always concentrating on you and instead targeting your squad members. Some tweaking is needed though, as while they are shooting at on members of your squad they sometime fail to notice that you are standing right in front of them.
Once I had retrieved the intel it was time to get the heck out of dodge. However, on returning to the helicopter, unsurprisingly it was shot down. The rest of the level then sees you hot-footing it through the crumbling streets of LA, taking out enemy positions, including a huge bridge, and culminating with a showdown with an enemy tank and helicopter with the help of a trusty rocket launcher. So far then it was pretty paint-by-numbers FPS action. However, with the level of detail on offer and what seemed like a larger number of enemies on screen at once, it’s certainly the closest thing to a full console shooter that I have played on iOS so far. It may have been the fact that I was playing it on an iPad 2 as opposed to an iPhone 4, but never the less it looks as though we’ll be getting more bang for our few bucks than ever before.
Where MC2 really shined was with its multiplayer – which has been supported even to this day with updates. No doubt the core part of MC3 will also be the multiplayer. Alas, we were not shown any of the multiplayer, but have been told that it will feature even more frantic bouts thanks to up to 12 players being able to mix it up at the same time. We’ve been promised an invite to a multiplayer hands-on soon, and we’ll have that info up on this site as soon as humanly possible.
Look out for much more info on Modern Combat 3 as it breaks.