Modern Combat: Sandstorm


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Modern Combat: Sandstorm Review

Gameloft continues to pump out high-budget games on the iPhone and iPod Touch that showcase the impressive graphics the devices are capable of producing. On the heels of big-name powerhouses like Gangstar and NFL 2010, Modern Combat: Sandstorm looks and feels equal to or better than anything available on the platform. And while none of these games are based on original concepts, they certainly fulfill gamers’ needs by giving them low-priced versions of smash hits on other systems.

Modern Combat is a clone of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and it plays very similarly to the Nintendo DS version of that game. By default, an onscreen analog stick controls strafing and forward and backward movement. Looking around is handled by sliding your finger anywhere else on the screen. There are also well-placed buttons to fire, crouch, and zoom with your weapon, as well as context-sensitive buttons that appear as necessary. Other control methods are available, but we saw no reason to stray from the default. Finally, someone has gotten FPS controls on the iDevice right.

Say cheese.

The stories behind the missions are composed of your average war videogame tropes: defend the outpost, destroy the communications towers, man the turret, etc. These missions are explained to you by a female voice while the levels are loading. The result is that you pay less attention to the load time and more attention to your objective. This is a great idea, and we hope other developers borrow it. The level design is linear, but there’s usually an arrow directing you to your destination.

The controls for fighting are superb. By default, aiming is assisted by a snap-to mechanic that centers on enemies near your crosshair. We found this feature extremely helpful, but hardcore players can switch it off. Changing weapons, reloading, and ducking behind cover are a cinch.

Our chief complaint is with the enemy AI. First of all, the bad guys follow linear paths that never change. You can play a section a million times, coming at it with various strategies, but the same terrorist will run the same line to his firing position and plant himself there every time like clockwork.

This is the other kind of RPG.

The other problem is that the terrorists are all expert marksmen. If you have six enemies all firing at you from any distance, you’ll be dead very quickly unless you can totally conceal yourself behind something in the environment. If any part of you is visible, they will hit it every time. By the same token, if you are concealed, enemies will not come to you to get a better shot. These are not game-breaking flaws; in fact, you might not even notice until a few levels in.

Another issue is saving. Each of the ten missions takes between ten and twenty minutes to complete and is peppered with helpful checkpoints along the way. However, if your game is interrupted in the middle of a level, you’re not sent back to the nearest checkpoint when you boot the game back up– you have to restart the whole level. This can set you back a good deal of time, and it seems pointless when the checkpoint saves are already being recorded.

The gaming experience in Modern Combat: Sandstorm is a great one. The controls are the best we’ve seen in an iPhone FPS, the graphics are beautiful, and there’s plenty of level variety. Sure, we’ve seen it all before, but not on the iDevice, and never for such a small price. If you like first-person shooters, buy this game. Now do us a favor, Gameloft, and give us the icing everyone wants: multiplayer.

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Modern Combat: Sandstorm Hands-On and Exclusive Trailer

We’ve played about five different levels from Gameloft’s upcoming first-person shooter Modern Combat: Sandstorm, and we can’t wait to tell you all about it. We also have an exclusive trailer for the game that you won’t find anywhere else, and it’s got a nice explosive surprise at the end.

The two main conventions of modern warfare, according to games like Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare on the home consoles and the upcoming Modern Combat: Sandstorm on the iPhone, are such: Enemies are of no specific country or political alignment, they’re simply terrorists from the Middle East. And, as in the adage “time heals all wounds”, bullets and explosions can be quickly overcome with a little “me time” outside the free-fire zone.

OK, so it’s not a realistic combat simulation, but who wants to drop dead at the first sniper’s bullet? Modern Combat is a first person shooter with fast-paced gameplay that should be instantly recognizable to console gamers. You’ll line up bad guys through your iron sights or sniper rifle crosshairs, toss grenades, and follow a floating arrow to your objective (which just might involve hitting a button to automatically set C4 explosives). Some missions have you fighting with a squad, while others send you in solo.

So far, this is nothing new to console gamers. What really stood out in our time playing Modern Combat is the level of graphical quality for an iPhone shooter. At a glance, the environments are pretty close to their console cousins, but with a bit of a markdown in detail. More importantly, the game runs at a smooth 30 frames per second, even with a half-dozen baddies firing at you on the screen.

We played parts of five missions in our time with Modern Combat. The first mission, “Back in Business”, introduces your character, squad, and the basic gameplay mechanics. The playable hero of Modern Combat, known simply as Chief, is recognized as a skilled veteran by his fellow soldiers right off the bat. But in case you’re not a veteran commander yourself, you’ll still have to run through an obstacle course in the first mission to get the hang of the controls.

If you’ve played Call of Duty on a console, these controls will be instantly familiar. In the default configuration, you move your character with a left analog stick, and can look freely by dragging your finger anywhere else on the screen. In addition to fire, crouch, and zoom commands, you also have access to two grenades (regular and flash) and up to two weapons, which you can switch between by tapping on their respective icons.

After basic training, we moved on to the second level, Operation Sandstorm, which throws bad guys into the mix. Here you have to plant C4 to blow up communications towers in the middle of a firefight. In later missions, we had to defend a palace from attack, sneak in under the cover of darkness with a sniper rifle, and crawl through sewers with our squad to get to a hospital. Hopefully, mission variety will be the key to an exciting single-player campaign.

Modern Combat also features full voice acting for the mission briefings and your squad’s banter, a nice touch that might serve to add some additional personality to the core shooting gameplay. Beyond the single-player mode, Modern Combat will be updated by the end of the year to include online multiplayer, which is a feature we’re definitely excited to see.

We’ve got high expectations for a game that wants to be the iPhone’s answer to our favorite console shooters. Look for Modern Combat on the App Store in September.