First person shooters aren’t exactly a gaming genre optimised for smartphones but Gameloft intends to prove otherwise with Modern Combat Versus, a competitive FPS designed solely for smartphones.
Recently announced as the official game for the Modern Combat Versus honor International Series, MCV is, chronologically speaking, the latest addition to the Modern Combat series of mobile FPS games.
Prior to this, Modern Combat has primarily consisted of single player campaigns akin to the Call of Duty series. Modern Combat Versus differs as it ditches any form of single player campaign, is online-only, and is optimised solely for multiplayer gaming.
The app is free to download with freemium mechanics on the Google Play Store, the Apple App store and the Steam Play store for PCs. Cross platform play is currently limited to mobile devices only. The PC version looks aesthetically similar to the mobile version though the controls and the game balancing are different enough to warrant a separate review. This review was tested on a Galaxy Note8.
Controls and Starting Up
The game has a fairly large install footprint and needs significant amounts of pixel crunching power so a current-gen phone with hefty amounts of RAM, storage and a decent processor are needed along the lines of the honor View 10 or in our case, a Galaxy Note8.
Once you boot up the game, you are introduced to a fairly comprehensive tutorial that covers all the fundamentals from the primary game modes on offer to how the controls work.
Getting about is similar to many other mobile shooters – the left side of the touchscreen controls movement while the right controls aim. Double tapping gets you to aim down sights for your weapon.
The initial tutorials run you through the various modes with lobotomised bots and gives you a general idea of how the game works, which primarily revolves around fighting and winning multiplayer matches to score loot chests.
There’s a modicum of narrative locked in each character’s background biography but it’s unnecessary to the game. Once you’ve gone through the tutorial, the game unlocks two starter characters or agents, as the game calls them, for you to use and leaves you to your own devices.
Modern Combat Versus Gameplay
In keeping with its competitive aspirations as a mobile-optimised FPS, the game streamlines quite a few things which may ruffle the feathers of more traditionalist players. For starters, there’s no firing button for the mobile version – all you have to do is point your gun in the right direction with a live target in the crosshairs and you start firing. Once they stop moving, you stop shooting. That or you run out of ammo.
The game also has a modicum of aim assist on by default for the mobile version; it doesn’t do all the work for you though and you’ll still have to keep your reticles on a target for maximum effect.
There’s significant recoil and to MCV’s credit the array (albeit limited) of weaponry they have on offer all possess unique handling in terms of barrel climb, reload speeds and damage. Quite a bit of skill is still needed – most of the game’s weapons require you to maintain your aim on a target for best effect.
You can aim down sights for most guns though doing so for some weapons are superfluous – you really don’t need to aim down the sights for a buckshot-firing pump-action shotgun after all as it doesn’t seem to affect spread as much. Weapons are still magazine fed though ammunition is essentially infinite for the duration of a match.
Reloading has to be managed as going dry in the middle of a firefight means a quick death. Movement has been simplified as well with wall climbing, mantling obstacles and the like simplified to simply pressing forwards so your focus is primarily on taking down the enemy.
Unfortunately, there’s no means to go prone, jump or to crouch in the game so all you have available is a fast sprint which makes matches akin to early generations of Quake in a sense of it focusing on run-and-gun with an emphasis on the shooting experience. On the bright side, at least there’s none of the bunny hopping nonsense seen in other older FPS games.
All in-game characters have fairly large health pools which leads to drawn out firefights. Unless you’re using a sniper-class character that can one-shot kill targets, most of your work will be at medium to close range where you have to sustain fire for a good few seconds to actually take anything down.
Those used to the lethality of FPS shooters where targets drop with a three round burst or a magazine will need some adjustment to the lead-hose mechanics. Hit detection seems fairly forgiving with tight round spreads through centre of mass even with sustained fire. Headshots do have a damage multiplier so accuracy does matter somewhat.
Modern Combat Versus Gameplay
After the tutorial is done, you’re granted access to two basic characters, or agents as the game calls them for you to play with – Lock and Kan – with the rest locked behind paywalls that you can unlock over time or pay cash up front as a shortcut. Both are well balanced and will hold you in good stead until you eventually unlock the other characters in the game which will take awhile.
Unlike Call of Duty or other FPS games, MCV agents don’t have selectable perks or radically different loadouts. The 13 agents available are broadly divided into four different general classes – generalist Assault characters who are jacks of all trades but masters of none; Assassin class units who are designed for flanking maneuvers and ambushes; Defenders are slow, heavily armoured and are designed to take and hold ground; Specialists are able to engage with unique weaponry to temporarily alter battlefield conditions.
Every agent has only one fixed weapon and one fixed special ability with no side arms or any way to alter their loadout. These special abilities all have a cooldown timer and run the gamut from a temporary buff to increase damage, the ability to sprint faster for a few seconds or even temporary invulnerability.
Agent Lock, for example can temporarily paint all targets on a map and do increased damage to them for a few seconds. Kan is able to fire up a defensive shield that comes in handy for defending spots on the map.
Barring aesthetic skins, the only way you can tweak things in a meaningful way in the game is to attain experience points from time-locked loot chests to level up your agents with higher levels adding more hit points and damage.
The differences between levels are subtle but significant enough that emptying a full magazine into an agent a few levels higher, even of the same class, at point blank range will simply have them shrugging off the hits like summer rain. This is where teamwork comes into play as well as your special abilities to even the odds in your favour.
Matches are four-on-four across five maps and two major game types – a team deathmatch mode where you have to kill hostiles and recover their dog tags to score and another one which has you controlling a particular spot on the map long enough to win.
Once a match is over, which takes a few minutes, you’ll get doled a few coins if you lose or a loot chest if you win which rewards more coins and some experience points at random for your agents.
Graphics and Replayability
Aesthetically, the game on a Galaxy Note8 was a delight with smooth frame rates, luscious graphics and decent audio. Explosions and combat were visceral experiences on account of the 18.5:9 aspect ratio display and even with a full-on fire fight happening the game ran at a steady pace without dropping frames. Finding matches was a doddle as well though waiting for a match took a minute on average.
Like many freemium games, MCV has an easy learning curve that graduates into a difficulty spike and paywall later on. Most agents can be eventually purchased by grinding though the best ones are inordinately expensive or are hidden behind paywalls.
Add in the time-locked chests, limited maps and pay walls and you have a significant grinding experience waiting for you that you can shortcut by paying real world cash.
The game is entertaining in short spurts by your lonesome on account of the limited play modes available though you will get best results when you team up or form a clan, which is the intended outcome of the Modern Combat Versus honor International tournament which is happening right now.
If you are keen on playing a free, very accessible shooter that’s fun in short spurts, Modern Combat Versus is well worth the download though you’ll need a phone with beefy specs to ensure a smooth gameplay experience.
What we liked Mobile-optimised controls, good graphics, smooth gameplay
What we didn’t Significant paywalls to get new characters, characters have no secondary sidearms or customisable weapons, few maps or game modes
We say An accessible mobile-optimised first person shooter that is enjoyable in short spurts though you’ll need a solid flagship phone for the best gameplay experience.
Developer Gameloft Montreal
Platform PC, Android, iOS
Price Free with ingame purchases
Reviewed version: Android