Back in March Activision and Tencent officially announced Call of Duty: Mobile at the 2019 Game Developers Conference, and in the middle of last month we learned that the mobile shooter would be officially released on the Google Play Store on October 1st, which means the game is now available on Android. As expected, this is a free-to-play release. In-app purchases, loot boxes, and a premium pass are included, not to mention a plethora of cosmetic items and an expensive in-game currency. Still, the amount of nostalgia offered in the title is hard to ignore, and the gameplay luckily holds up, which is why the game is definitely worth a look.

As you can see in the trailer above, many of the fan-favorite locations in the series have made a return in Call of Duty: Mobile, and having already played through more than a few of them, I can confidently say each level feels just as good as ever while you run and gun your way to victory. And really that's Call of Duty: Mobile's biggest selling point, the fact that it's a total nostalgia trip.

When you start out, you'll have to work your way through a short tutorial that explains the game's different touch-control setups while also diving into the title's many menus. Things such as changing your loadout and upgrading your weapons are touched on briefly, which is appreciated as a seasoned gamer. There's nothing I hate more than forced tutorials that drag on forever, so it's refreshing to see a free-to-play game that does not fall into this trap. Of course, you are still forced to open a loot box during this tutorial, something I gave Mario Kart Tour trouble over, and is still just as distasteful in this release when blatantly conditioning players to gamble.

Here's a few of the loadout screens

From the outset you'll only be able to play through four separate multiplayer modes (Frontline, Team Deathmatch, Domination, and Search & Destroy), as well as a practice mode, but once you reach level seven you'll unlock the PUBG-like Battle Royale mode. Ranked matches are also offered, but you'll have to reach level ten to unlock them. Of course, new modes are planned for the future, much like every other mobile shooter of this nature.

Core modes available when you first start the game

Before I jump into the gameplay, I'd like to discuss the controls. I've tested the game with both a USB corded controller as well as a bluetooth controller, and it's clear physical controller support is not included. You're going to have to play with the touch controls, but the good thing is that they are customizable. You'll have a choice between a Simple Mode and an Advanced Mode. The Simple Mode allows for automatic fire as long as your gun is pointed at an enemy, which works well enough, and the Advanced Mode allows for manual shooting as well as an option for manual hipfire and a custom setting. Aim assist is on by default in both modes, though there is an option to turn it off. So despite what you may be thinking, these controls work rather well for a mobile shooter, and I dare say the game controls just as good as PUBG Mobile and Fortnite.

Touchscreen control options

When it comes to the gameplay, I have to say I'm actually satisfied for the most part. Often free-to-play games offer a shallow experience where the gameplay hardly matters, but in Call of Duty: Mobile this could not be further from the truth. Each match feels just like I'm playing the game on a console, with heated exchanges that often come down to the last bullet. Each of the multiplayer modes offers exactly what you would expect from a console release, and really my only issue is that the matchmaking so far feels a little off. Starting out I was winning matches with an excessive amount of kills, and some of those kills were extremely easy, to the point that I have to wonder if I was playing against a mix of bots and live players. While this is the same approach PUBG Mobile used when it first started out, where you'd often face off against bots to keep matchmaking quick, I can't say I'm a fan. I'd rather wait longer for matchmaking to take place than play against a bunch of bots mixed with players well above my level. While I have no doubt things will even out as more players jump into the game, faking competitive play never feels good.

Gameplay footage courtesy of Yanrique

So now that I've covered the controls and gameplay, it's time to jump into the monetization. More or less most of the in-store items in the title are cosmetic, consisting mainly of gun skins, though loot boxes are also in the mix, and yes, you can purchase them with in-game currency that is itself purchasable through the store. Weapon experience cards are also sold in the store, as well as vehicle and player skins. You can also expect a two-tiered Premium Pass that awards extra items to subscribers as they level up. So while I'm not a fan of loot boxes or subscriptions, it would seem you can still enjoy the game without plunking down any cash, though you'll surely level your weapons faster if you do. So yes, there are slight pay-to-win elements, though I've definitely seen worse.

Premium Pass, skins, and premium currency

All in all, I have to say that I'm pleasantly surprised by the release of Call of Duty: Mobile. The controls feel great, the gameplay is just as challenging as ever (if you can get a fair match), and there's a ton of content to explore as well as a lengthy upgrade path that should keep players busy. Sure, grinding is still expected, but I hardly see how that differs from the current crop of Call of Duty console releases. So if you're a fan of the series, there's actually a lot to like here, and while the monetization could be better, it's easily one of the more honest systems out there, even when the store prices are a little outrageous. So if you're the sort that loves first-person shooters and doesn't mind inconvenient monetization, Call of Duty: Mobile is definitely a game worth checking out.