Reviews

NOVA 2 – review

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.

Single player

nova2-1Let’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.

nova2-2The 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.

nova2-5Of 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.

nova2-4The 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.

Multi-player

nova2-3Where the single player didn’t quench my high hopes for this game, the multiplayer has the complete opposite effect. It’s awesome!

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.

4pt5-stars_sm

Sound

Great music and sound effects. But come on Gameloft, please work on the voice acting, because it really is letting the side down.

3pt5-stars_sm

Gameplay

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!

4-stars_sm

Game life

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.

4pt5-stars_sm

Overall

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.
4pt5-stars

NOVA 2 is out now for $6.99. Get it on the N.O.V.A. 2 - Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance - Gameloft

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  • Phillip Culley

    This is a great review! It is true about how they spend too much time on the graphics and not enough on the voice acting. I actually mute the iPod when they talk cause it sounds so cheesy

  • LBG

    Good review. I didn’t think the voice acting was too bad, certainly not as bad as older Gameloft games. And I was surprised at Shadow Guardian, which has great voice acting.

  • Austin

    Wow, very in depth review Nigel. I do have to agree with you that the voice acting sucks to no end, but I pretty much only play this game for the unbelievable multiplayer while occasionally going back to solo campaign for some regular fun.

  • Nigel Wood, UK

    I know I go on about the voice acting a bit, but it really is one of the only things holding back Gameloft from creating truly great games… that and the originality.

  • Daniel

    I am a hardcore Eliminate fan, but due to the lack of ios 4 support of that game I am looking for decent multiplayer alternatives. Archetype is not for me, it is a bit too shallow on the perks and personalization side. I am also a big Halo fan so most likely I will not even play with the solo campaign (I hated the solo of the first NOVA because of not being a tad original).Would you recommend NOVA 2 to someone who likes leveling up and unlocking new weapons etc like in Eliminate? I mean I know it is there, but comparing to Eliminate’s really sophisticated weapons/armors/perks system is NOVA 2 good enough?

  • Nigel Wood, UK

    @Daniel. Yep I’d say it is.. that and Modern Combat 2.

  • Pintos-n-cheese

    Hmmm…more Metroid Prime lime is good. At least as far as maze like worlds letting you explore and figure out with a map.

    Is there another game more like that?

    Thx!

  • Austin

    @Nigel – How in the he’ll do you beat the centaur boss thingy in the last level? So confused!

  • xstra

    That thing is soo hard!!!

  • http://blog.ontheedgeapps.com Austin

    I found out how. After going throughthe mind maze or whatever go back and battle him. While doing this you have to throw a bunch of mines into the recharging chambers and after you beat him up and he goes to recharge, blow up the mines! He dies instantly and then it goes to a (SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT!) cut scene where Kal shoots the leaders head right after he says “we are just the beggining!”

    Can’t wait for NOVA 3!

  • David

    NOVA2 multi player modes suck, its full of cheating, you have players with hundreds of thousands of kills and only a handfull of deaths, others have double damge full time and unlimited health, I run Fios and have lighning speed but it doesnt help at all. it would be great if the cheating was stopped, 

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