Gameloft’s most highly anticipated sequel to last years hit FPS arrives. So, was it worth the wait?
Well, actually I think we could have waited a little bit longer, if it meant a more balanced title. What do I mean by this, well while the first game didn’t have the high end graphics, multiple gameplay styles and overall polish that this sequel has, it was actually better paced as a solo campaign. You see, what Gameloft have done here is the curse of all sequels, and that is to try and cram in as much cool stuff as you can. However, be it with movies or games, this thinking tends to backfire. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll have a blast playing the single campaign, and as a multiplayer FPS it’s one of, if not ‘the’, best out there. But as far as the single player campaign goes, I feel the first game was a more rounded, and tighter game with a better narrative. To use a hit film franchise as an example, the first NOVA can be compared to the first Transformers film, whereas NOVA 2 is very much Transformers 2: Revenge of the fallen!
I’m sure as you are reading this you are thinking this is going to be a negative review, and while I will be picking out some of the bad points, I have to point out that this is a very good game, but I would have liked to see Gameloft take more time with their top franchise.
Let’s start with some positive feedback, which is that this game looks fantastic. The design department have done a fantastic job realising the different environments, enemies, vehicles, weapons and special effects. Texture work is highly detailed, with the indoor environments looking particularly good. The special effects need a mention too, whether it’s all the different weapons trails, from laser beams to rockets launchers, or the ripple effect when an enemy Volerite fires at you, they look great, and to be honest I didn’t think the iOS devices were capable of it. It just goes to show how far the graphical capabilities have come along in a relatively short time.
One drawback of these graphics though are the load screens. Luckily the load times are short, certainly shorter than that of Aralon reviewed last week. However, it’s the way the loading is done that I don’t like. With many moments during the action pausing and the screen turning black and white while the game loads. Instead, they could have chosen a more creative way of transitioning between environments, like using pre-rendered cut scenes or more narrative.
From a pure action perspective this sequel really ups the ante across the board. There is simply more of everything. Bigger levels, bigger bosses, more vehicle combat, more weapons, more environments and more gameplay variety. For many gamers out there this is no doubt what you want, but to me much of this extra added gameplay felt shoehorned in and used as ways to break up what should be the main focus of the game, and that is the FPS combat. Free falling down shafts, pod-race style biking and riding shotgun in a jeep is all well and good, but give me more quality FPS set pieces anytime.
The first act of the game thankfully does focus on this, as you are introduced to the new and nastier enemy types such as the new flying troopers, and the Volerite grunts and their telekinetic powers. The action in these FPS sections is intense thanks in part to the great AI on show here, where groups of enemies will gang up on you, flank you and run for cover. You’ll occasionally get an enemy standing on the spot shooting you, but nothing compared to Modern Combat 2′s AI problems. The game does feel very linear though, with most firefights confined to closed areas bookended by energy barriers that don’t open until all enemies are dead. It feels forced, like you are involved in a Running Man-esque game-show. And while the indoor environments fare better for pacing, much of the action gets a little repetitive when you begin to see the pattern emerging of kill troopers, kill mechs, and kill aliens… in that order.
Of the tacked on vehicular sections, which is mainly run of the mill filler, there is a standout, and that’s the mech that you get to control. It’s pretty darn cool to plough through the enemies, and could be standalone game in itself, and I would have liked to see more of it instead of the on rails sections.
Other gameplay elements crammed into NOVA 2 include the return of the puzzle mini games where you must hack computer systems, and there are even some tower defense-lite sections where you must strategically place gun turrets to defend areas of importance.
Of my favourite of these added gameplay tules though, are the Metroid Prime like sections where you must locate and activate multiple terminals within the alien ship, all the while fending off enemy attacks, unfortunately these are few and far between.
Overall then the single player game is fun, but as I mentioned before I would prefer it focused on being a great FPS than a jack of all gameplay styles. Yes, it’s bigger and brasher, but that doesn’t always equate to being better!
Of course a Gameloft review from me wouldn’t be complete without a good old moan about the quality of voice acting and general writing. And you’ll be happy to know that it is as terrible as always, perhaps even worse.
The computers annoying monotone voice begins to grate from the get go. Now, I understand that she is a computer, but there is no personality to her for you to care about her, when compared to Cortana from Halo (of which this game isn’t shy to emulate). She also helps you out way more than is necessary, which spoils some if the enjoyment of working it out yourself. Our hero Kal is even worse, spewing awful one liners that seem to have been retrieved from the cutting room of 80s B-movie action films. Again, you have no connect with him, and so the story fails to capture any importance for the war, the enemies motivation and the innocents caught up along the way. I think the game’s narrative would have actually benefited from Kal being a silent hero, along the lines of Link in the Zelda series.
With the first game being such a hit, I was hoping Gameloft were going to pull out all the stops, take their time and deliver a great story with quality voice work. Unfortunately this seems to be the one thing they seem to ignore from a critics perspective, instead concentrating on only the dazzling graphics in the presentation stakes, something which they know they are already good at delivering. It’s a missed opportunity in my book, to prove that they can deliver quality across the board.
Ten players can go head-to-head in all manner of modes, from capture the flag, to team death match. Which ever you choose your in for a fragging treat. Unlike modern combat’s multiplayer emulating the current trend of merging realism of war, NOVA 2 opts to go a bit retro in it’s multiplayer delivery by emulating the intense mania of games like Quake 3 Arena and Unreal tournament. Weapons, health packs and jump pads are plentiful, and the killing fields are tightly packed with multiple tiered platforms which ensure fast pace and frantic fire fights, with little downtime to catch your breath. The levelling system from Modern Combat is here too, which allows you to better your avatar with new weapons and perks to give you the edge over the competition. Gamecenter support is lacking, however I’ve never found problems with Gameloft’s live service, and for the most part successfully connecting me to a multitude of online games without lag or connection issues.
Presentation and graphics
One of the best looking games out there. Let down a little by load screens that break the experience mid-action, and some obvious poaching of visual ideas from HALO.
Great music and sound effects. But come on Gameloft, please work on the voice acting, because it really is letting the side down.
The solo campaign lacks focus, and crams in good, but ultimately shallow, filler. Moments of great FPS action at the beginning and in the closing acts redeem itself. The multiplayer action is where it’s at though!
A four to five hour solo campaign will soon be distant memory and replaced by possibly the best online multi-player action on iOS. Intense and highly addictive… Archetype and Eliminate will be running for cover.
In conclusion then, this game is very much of two parts. It has a solid, but flawed at times, single player campaign which the majority of gamers will thoroughly enjoy. But, the multi-player outweighs the solo campaign by quite a margin in quality terms and saves it for me. I feel it is here where this game has the most legs, and will be played on iOS devices for months to come. Despite the critism, leveled mainly at my a high hopes for the game, it deserves the high rating for the multi-player alone, with the single campaign earning a 4/5 if I had to score it separately.