Modern Combat returns this fall with Modern Combat 3: Fallen Nation, and based on our early hands-on time with the title, we think the game has the potential to become Gameloft's best mobile FPS yet.
We had the opportunity to play through the game's first stage, playing as new protagonist Corporal James Walker. Gameloft became curiously cagey when asked if players would control other soldiers in later levels, perhaps to leave the door open for previous Modern Combat characters to return. The game opens with a bang, with an attack on downtown Los Angeles by KPR (North Korea, Pakistan, and Russia– natch) troops. The opening in-engine cutscene mentions that numerous US cities are under assault, and that Chicago has been lost. Gameloft has promised a "globe-spanning" single player experience across 13 stages. Later missions will take players to Alaska, Pakistan and into North Korea itself.
The gunplay in Modern Combat 3 feels fast and fluid. Gamers move their character via a left virtual thumbstick, and aim with a right virtual thumbstick. Firing, lobbing grenades, sprinting, crouching, and aiming down your weapon's sights each have their own virtual buttons. At first this control setup felt awkward. Transitioning from sprinting to aiming or going from firing our weapon to throwing a grenade wasn't easy. But like Modern Combat 2, Gameloft has implemented a very slick customization setup. Virtually every single touchpad button can be repositioned anywhere that the player wants. So after a little fiddling I moved my buttons into more comfortable positions, and felt much better prepared to shoot fools in the face. It's still not the same as having a controller in-hand, but a fully customizable interface does fix many of the problems inherent to virtual buttons.
The sprint button is new to Modern Combat 3, and gives gamers a means of quickly escaping behind cover if they take too much damage. Radar has also been added to the Modern Combat HUD for the first time.
The Los Angeles level was lengthy, and incorporated several large set pieces and scripted sequences. The game aggressively pushes players through the stage at a breakneck pace – shouting at Walker to fire an RPG at concrete support pillars, or sprint for cover to avoid a roving attack helicopter, or to neutralize another immediate threat. Midway through, I experienced the level's most memorable moment: my helicopter crashed, and I had to dig myself out using contextual touch-screen controls.
Overall, the experience wasn't perfect. Combat dialogue from my allies repeated over and over (and over). The aim assist also felt a bit on the heavy side. In a linear mobile FPS, a little aim assist is quite welcome – these single player adventures are essentially roller coaster rides, after all. But a little goes a long way, and right now Modern Combat 3's aiming reticle feels a bit too sticky. Luckily both of these issues shouldn't be too tough for Gameloft to iron out prior to release.
We didn't get a chance to test out Modern Combat 3's multiplayer, but Gameloft did reveal a few details. The game will support 12 player multiplayer (up from MC2's 10), across 6 maps and 6 unique modes of play. A Call of Duty-style EXP system has also been included, providing players with 90 ranks to climb through. Multiplayer matchmaking is once again being handled through Gameloft's proprietary Gameloft Live system. Gameloft also told us to expect frequent updates, so players can likely look forward to fresh multiplayer maps and modes post-launch.
Modern Combat 3: Fallen Nation won't win any awards for originality. But that's not the point. When it sees release later this fall, gamers looking for the latest mobile FPS fix will likely find a lot to enjoy in Gameloft's shooter.