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Dec
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Gameloft has carved out a nice little niche for itself by taking popular console games, and tweaking the formula (and title) just enough to get away with it. The Modern Combat series has been presented as the mobile equivalent of Modern Warfare, and it's just reached its 4th incarnation with Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour. Does this formula of console-style play still work on Android?

Gameplay And Story

Modern Combat 4 is a first person shooter that makes heavy use of cinematic elements to tell what we can only hope is a good story. The game is split up into missions with a few auto-saving checkpoints along the way. MC4 gives you waypoint markers to follow, which I'm happy to see. The actual shooting part of this title is great. There's plenty of action and the weapon selection is good. You have to learn to take cover, flank, and watch where your squad mates are.

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Some missions you play as the "good guys" and some have you take on the role of the villain, one Edward Page. This piqued my interest, but I'm feeling a little less enthusiastic having met Page. The problem I have with Page is just the most prominent example of a wide ranging issue with Modern Combat 4 – it talks too much. Heavy dialog in a game can be good, as long as it's well-written. I could do without a lot of the voice acting in Modern Combat 4, though. Your squad mates seem to shout the same four phrases over and over.

Let's get back to Page for a second. I understand that he's the bad guy, Gameloft. I do not – I repeat – not need a ten minute monolog from Page over the course of a mission regarding how much he loves killing Americans. Listening to this character pontificate, threaten, and curse got old really fast. He sounds like a more pompous version of Duke Nukem (if you can imagine such a thing). The concept of the rogue green beret turned terrorist is not a bad one, though a little predictable. It's the execution that needs work.

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There is also a multiplyer mode where you can face off against other players. Winning matches can add to your stockpile of in-game currency. Oh, did I mention there are in-app purchases? Yes, you can buy upgrades to make your character better in combat. These upgrades are not featured prominently, and I don't think you need to use them, but this is a $7 title, Gameloft. Why the upsell?

Controls

Gameloft sorted out how to make a first-person shooter work on a touchscreen a long time ago, and MC4 is still solid in that respect. Drag on the left side of the screen to get a virtual thumbstick that controls forward/backward walking, as well as side to side strafing. Use the right side of the screen to aim and look. This area is also where you'll find your buttons to fire, lob grenades, and use the scope.

I like that you can hit the attack button and continue to drag your thumb around to sweep your field of fire. This makes it possible to take out multiple enemies rather than painstakingly target and shoot each one. The game defaults to use aggressive auto aim, which is a little unsportsmanlike, but it's very hard to aim without it. All these buttons work fairly well, with the exception of the grenade trigger. It feels like the hitbox is too large, causing me to waste grenades when I'm just trying to take aim.

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Modern Combat 4 also adds some touchscreen gestures to spice things up. You'll happen into a risky situation and a series of arrows tell you which way to swipe to get out of it. So for example, an enemy pops out from behind a box, you swipe down, and your character disarms the attacker and breaks his neck. Neat, right? The weird thing is that sometimes the game just doesn't register the swipe, meaning you have to reload and try again.

Graphics And Sound

Modern Combat 4 comes with a 1.9GB data download. Gameloft has thankfully decided to use Google's data hosting service to serve up those bits. All that data gets you some awesome graphics. The environments are huge and open. You can take different paths to the goal, and it's plain to see that a lot of work went into the details.

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Texture resolution is great in most places. There were some surfaces that seem a little blurry up close, but that's the exception rather than the rule. The lines are clean with virtually no aliasing to speak of. There is definitely a robust game engine running behind the scenes, but performance was very good overall. I played this on the Nexus 7 and only experienced a few random spots of lag. MC4 makes the mistake of not knowing the limits of its engine, though. The cinematics with tight shots of character models show Gameloft has not achieved true console-quality graphics, despite its assertions to the contrary.

The audio effects are realistic and immersive. However, as I mentioned above, the voice acting is overdone. The quality of the voices is fine, but I don't need my squad screaming at me to take out the hostiles every 5 seconds. I know what to do! Leave me be!

Is All This Really Necessary?

I don't want to give you the impression that Modern Combat 4 is a bad game – it's not. I think it's a very solid shooter. The controls work well, the graphics are great for the main run-and-gun portions of the experience, and you can tweak the difficulty to fit your level of interest. My only issue with the title is that it is a little too big for its boots, so to speak. Modern Combat 4 is not a console game, but it wants desperately to be one. I just want to roll my eyes when it tries too hard with awkward cinematics, long monologs, and ham-handed writing.

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Should you drop $6.99 on this title? Sure, if you dig FPS games on touchscreens. It does that part of things right, but I think you could get away with skipping most of the cut scenes. The storytelling issues are not so bad that they distract from the good gameplay.

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play. http://goo.gl/WQIXBM

  • http://twitter.com/Szondikapitany Ádám

    Another overpriced gameloft fart app with shitty controls. Seriously, innovation is dying in mobil gaming too

    • Adam

      Overpriced? It's 6.99 you cheap ass. Shitty controls? It's a f'cking touch screen game yeah it's not going to be perfect.

      • DCMAKER

        yea just ignore him....he just sucks at life -_- and just bitching to bitch

    • http://twitter.com/TheTehk17 Jeremy Nelson

      Where's your game, then? I don't see it anywhere.
      Anyway, if you actually knew how to play MC on a touchscreen, you'd find out it's perfectly playable.

  • http://profiles.google.com/peter.farac Peter Farac

    I'm guessing it doesn't support gamepads natively?

    • http://www.androidcommunity.com Cory Gunther

      It was built from the ground up with the MOGA game controller in mind. So yes

      • http://twitter.com/misterE33 Mr E

        Any idea if it supports generic gamepad profiles, or just the Moga? In any case, Sixaxis should work just fine.

        • DCMAKER

          i don't think so. I think its made for the mogo only as a business agreement to help both of their sales

        • RaviShah

          I used this profile for the sixaxis app: http://www.sixaxisofpower.com/profiles/114 . Its made for the gs3 but i tweaked it a bit and it works fine on my htc one x. can't figure out how to sprint though

  • http://twitter.com/misterE33 Mr E

    I'm looking forward to this (with my free Moga pad!). MC2 and 3 were really quite fun. I agree that Gameloft's FPS games seem very good technically and gameplay-wise, but the "story" part often leaves a lot to be desired. Oh well.

    • DCMAKER

      i thought they were decent.....i wasn't expecting even half of what they delivered so i got no complaints. I personally thing 7 bucks is over priced since i only buy games on steam for 5 bucks or less (average is $2.8 right now) so i think 1 dollar is "fair" but i realize i am at least a cheap ass :P bargin shopper. Anyways they are far better than i ever expected. The only real good games on phones for now. (minus the new ports) You got to figure competition is going to get tough for gameloft since main stream publishers are being cheap and just porting 10 year old classics over, which costs virtually no money.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Daniel-Waldrip/620162274 Daniel Waldrip

    Cant wait to try this on my new free game and moga controller.

  • Matti

    You say Gameloft sorted FPS touchscreen controls a long time ago? Sorry, I played MC3 for 30 minutes before I uninstalled, just because of the twitchy controls. Only consolation was that I didn't spend any money thanks to the free credit that came with my Nexus 7 at the time.

    • http://twitter.com/misterE33 Mr E

      I have to admit I've been very impressed with Gameloft's and Madfinger's FPS games. Sure, they're not perfect, but they're much better than I expected, and are quite playable. Of course, that's not to say a controller isn't preferable.

      • DCMAKER

        give me keyboard and mouse...i almost felt i was better with touch screen than with controllers.....i am horrible at console shooters. Only play PC

        • strider_mt2k

          I'm a PC gamer from way back and have sucked with console controllers for years, but it's not stopping me from trying to be good with BOTH.
          All it took was for me to decide that I wanted to get better with controllers and to start using them more.
          I still prefer a KB and mouse though and it would be an awesome option.

      • Matti

        I think Madfinger's sensitivity levels and control scheme for Dead Trigger is great, fyi. I just couldn't get the same feel with MC3.

    • DCMAKER

      MC3 was amazing since you could adjust button placement. I played it on my EVO 3D and just spaced buttons out a little more and was having a great time with it. After a few hours adjusting to touch screen game play i thought the auto aim was way to easy so i switched to no auto aim and it was super easy. I played it ~ a year ago and jumped in 6 months later to give it a try again and it was easy still with auto aim off. I don't know what your smoking but i was thoroughly amazed at how easy the controls were and was very satisfied with game play

  • http://twitter.com/videomap videomap

    we can wait for other controller...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O58MqMhog7g

    • atlouiedog

      That's very cool, but if I'm playing a game on my TV it isn't likely to be made by Gameloft or use touch controls where buttons would be better.

  • nsnsmj

    Nice Review!

    I played this game (and other "big" games) on a Nexus 7 and iPad and it made me realize how far away these mobile games are from console/PC games in terms of visuals and complexity. I see people claim all the time how close the best looking games on mobile are to console games, and I have to wonder, are these people high?

    Even in the best looking and more complex games, the best I see are PS2/Xbox level assets, but rendered at higher resolutions. AI is usually non-existent too, and there's still a lot of hand holding. Then there's the usually awkward touch screen controls. I don't see mobile games catching up to console/PC games any time soon. At least for the foreseeable future.

    Then there's the fact that developers most likely won't put a lot of dev time into making "big" games for mobiles, and if they did, I don't see anyone paying for what would be console-like prices.

    Sorry for the rant.

    • Drew M

      The problem is that these titles cost millions to make, so developers are forced to target a wide range of hardware to make enough revenue. For MC4, the denominator is the iphone 4, not the 4s. That's pretty slow hardware. If you consider how powerful the S4Pro is, and even the Apple A6 and Exynos 4 series, I think we're closer than we realize to console quality games. Of course the question becomes, will you pay console prices for console quality games?

      • http://twitter.com/TheTehk17 Jeremy Nelson

        In addition to that, I am fairly certain phones are not the same size as consoles or PCs.

        • F*** dan

          My gs4 scores 4013 on geekbench and that is more powerful than my i3 laptop running at 1.7gGHz. Plus my laptop is not even 1 year old. And it scores 3961

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=500019603 Nathan Bell

    You know you can move the trigger buttons around, right? I always move my grenade button to the top of the screen, slightly to the right of center for the same reason you have: Accidentally hitting it when I'm trying to shoot.

    • http://www.facebook.com/paul.ekwere Paul Ekwere

      Wow thanks. This is gonna be a very useful tip.

  • jay

    Messed up how the google store says I can't play this on my asus transformer infinity tf700t

    • http://twitter.com/TheTehk17 Jeremy Nelson

      Tegra 3 on a 1080p display isn't good enough. The N7, which also has a T3 but with a 1280x800 display, can run MC4 fine- at the lowest graphics.

  • iqii

    I currently have a rank 50 with over 1000 knife kills. Sadly the reason I got my 1000 melee kills isdue to the guns taking forever to kill people. To upgrade your weapons in this game its much more expensive than in mc3. There's a convenient glitch in the game that only awards you partial amounts of what you win after matches, I have 60k gold for example, leave after the match is over, then return to 45k gold in the lobby. I say this is a convenient glitch because its persisted since mc3 across serveral devices and I'm sure it's not hurting those in app purchases gameloft receives. I've contacted gameloft customer support about it 3 days ago and have yet to see a reply. Good graphics and gameplay ruined by a broken reward system.

    • pac0naut

      Seriously...I'm not a big fan of this gameplay. I'm in the same boat as you....My K/D ratio is now under 1 (!!!) and I'm getting knifed all the freaking time. I upgraded my gun and what not and it takes almost a whole mag while ADS'd to kill someone. And it took me what seems like FOREVER to upgrade the gun!

      • iqii

        I think I'm at 1.6, was 3.4 in mc3. I've got better weapons now, but nothing like my roar 3000 in mc3. Easier for me just to stack mobility and get all speed buffs to dodge bullets and knife a person in this game than it is to shoot them dead. You figure, since their gun sucks too you're usually able to survive long enough to sprint for kills.

        • jin

          My kde is 2.46 i use the x6 sniper the 60k one and i dont got any of these problems maybe bad internet or bad phone

      • iqii

        We can wait for gameloft to fix the match rewards, or the hackers... Who do you think works quicker?

        • defred34

          Put your aim sensitivity to the max if you wanna be competitive in MP.

          • iqii

            I'm competitive and have done that, the game is just buggy. Yesterday I bought a shotgun for 25k, did 3 matches with it, came back to the multiplayer lobby, it shows as never being purchased and I'm stuck with lvl 1 assault rifle lol. Looking at the lower reviews and forums it's happening to quite a few people.

  • VoiceofSky

    This game is dope on my N10 ,super awesome Gameplay and kickass graphics for a mobile game.. Definitely a COD rip-off (which isn't a bad thing by all means) .. only thing is in-app purchases blow with company's like gameloft.. too expensive imo,but i guess for some its not too bad :)-

  • http://www.facebook.com/krzysztof.gicala Krzysztof Gicala

    When i connect my ps3 controller everuthing works fine, i just cant aim at all, right stick doesnt work. Does any one know how to make it work?

  • GraveUypo

    yeah, that page level had me rolling my eyes the entire time. felt like a cheap kids cartoon

  • http://twitter.com/TheTehk17 Jeremy Nelson

    I'm not sure if the author has played any Modern Combat games before but there's a few downgrades from MC3, like...

    -In MC4, if you're crouched, facing an object you're using for cover (like a crate) and you go to aim, your character stands up. Automatically. New players won't notice it but anyone that's played MC before can understand how annoying this is.
    -I don't know if anyone else has this, but there's no more footstep sounds? Only in the Antarctica levels walking on snow do I hear footsteps.
    -no large, open MP maps. MCS had Back Stab; MC2 had Avalanche, Battlefield, and Shanty Town; MC3 had Divide, Backup, and Rapture; while MC4 has... nothing.
    -knife button replaces fire button close to an enemy
    -removal of the Shooting Range

    I'm not sure why Gameloft chose to downgrade these things, but there's no real reason.

    And the huge list of features STILL missing:
    -no jump
    -no prone
    -no MP drivable vehicles (NOVA 3 had them)
    -no MP voice chat (NOVA 3 had it)
    -boxed in and perimeter'd maps
    -no open external controller support
    -poor optimization for Android devices
    -poor campaign enemy AI

    These things- all of them- should have been fixed in MC4. I think #1, 2, 6, and 7 should have been due for MC3, and they are all certainly way overdue now. The rest should have been implemented into MC4. This is the first year the MC series has fallen below NOVA in terms of features- usually a new MC game comes out, then a NOVA which improves upon it, then a new MC which improves upon that. Not this year.

    So anyway. MC4 has better graphics and multiplayer than MC3... and that's it. The smaller functional things that make or break a game have either been downgraded from MC3, or are still missing.

    Don't get me wrong- I love MC! But MC4 was a definite swing and a miss. I'll be showing it off to friends for the graphics and MP customization, but otherwise, I'll be going back to MC3.

  • jay

    i have an asus tf700t transformer infinity with stock rom and everything updated and this shows as not compatible in the play store...my resolution is 1920x1280p

  • clouds5

    With the moga pro controller this is actually pretty nice^^ Feels like a console game. And it's a good thing you can skip the cutscenes!