As the year winds down, you can always count on several things: holiday music everywhere, Oscar-bait movies hitting theaters, and a new Modern Combat game on the App Store. This year’s model is Zero Hour, the fourth installment in the series, and the closest they’ve come to cloning a console Call of Duty game yet.
Just as we’ve come to expect from the series, the game is split neatly into two modes: campaign and multiplayer. As in previous installments, the campaign mode in Zero Hour seems designed specifically for people with ADD. You hop between locations and characters as the story unfolds, completing various combat missions and mowing down hundreds of enemy soldiers. The plot, about a deranged mercenary leader who wants to destroy the American government, is over-the-top enough to provide a framework for the outlandish action.
Your roof is on fire.
Each mission is a series of action set-pieces worthy of a Michael Bay movie. You’re never doing the same thing for more than a couple of minutes at a time, so you’ll storm a beach, take out some enemies, hop in the back of a jeep, shoot down a helicopter, call in an airstrike, pilot a drone, and use an RPG missile to blow up a tank. And that’s just in the first level. As a bonus for Call of Duty fans, several of the environments are dead ringers for levels in last year’s Modern Warfare 3.
As you play through the campaign, you earn credits that you can spend on upgrades, boosts, and attachments. Just about every aspect of your gear can be improved in some way. You can increase your clip size, reduce recoil, speed up healing, pad out your armor, and purchase additional turrets and grenades.
These things make a big difference, because Zero Hour is the toughest Modern Combat yet. The game is riddled with brutally difficult choke points that, unfortunately, seem more like sloppy game design than purposeful tests of skill. We couldn’t help but question whether the surge in difficulty is meant to nudge players to buy upgrades through in-app purchase. Either way, if you value your sanity, you might want to put the game on Easy for your first play-through. And even then, expect to see the “continue” screen often.
Blood on the dance floor.
But you can only spend so much time battling AI in the campaign mode before you start to crave some human interaction. Multiplayer mode is what keeps players coming back for weeks or months. The multiplayer package they’ve put together for Zero Hour is also the best one yet.
Multiplayer matches are intense affairs that will rev the pulse of even the most laid-back gamers. The matches come in eight varieties, like death match, capture-the-flag, and zone control, along with modified versions of familiar game types. The maps are all nicely complex and detailed, and big enough to keep things interesting with up to 12 players populating the level at a time.
As you level up your rank, you have deep control over your character and weapon load out. You can spend credits on new guns, or you can upgrade each weapon’s muzzle, grip, magazine, sight, and stock. There are four class specializations to choose from, and each one gives you bonus experience points for playing in a particular way. In other words, the more you play, the more you can customize your character in ways that are both useful and fun.
Rise of the machines.
We don’t have many complaints about the multiplayer component of the game. Sure, you’ll occasionally respawn near enemies, and higher level players will wipe the floor with you from time to time, but that stuff comes with the territory. We’ll say this: even if all you want to do is play the multiplayer mode, the game is well worth its premium price tag.
In addition, Zero Hour has all the usual trappings of a big-name Gameloft title. It plays great, with complex controls that are as tight as can be expected on touch screen devices. It looks fantastic, but occasionally the game will push your graphical processor too far and become choppy– people with older devices, beware. We were even pleasantly surprised by the quality of the acting, although the script could use some work.
Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour is yet another solid addition to the mobile FPS franchise. It sports a lengthy single-player campaign, top-notch multiplayer content, and enough changes and tweaks to make it a worthy purchase even to people who played last year’s model. It’s clear that the developers set out to create the most Call of Duty-like title available on the App Store. Mission accomplished.