Gameloft’s Modern Combat series lets you chart the evolution of the iOS platform over the years. From our first encounter with Modern Combat: Sandstorm in 2009, to the sequels Black Pegasus and Fallen Nation in 2010 and 2011, we’ve watched the series add more features and graphical fidelity to bring it closer to its console inspiration, Call of Duty. Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour feels largely identical in terms of gameplay, but as our run through the first level demonstrates, there’s a lot more going on in the periphery.
Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour opens with a D-Day style invasion of Hawaii. Once again, a terrorist cabal is threatening the free world, this time by kidnapping the President of the United States. Obama himself is not named, so don’t expect to find him surfing or sunbathing in a preliminary cutscene.
As you disembark, the chaos all around you is stunning. It’s a far more active battlefield than we’re used to in previous Modern Combat games, which often made you feel like a lone soldier who single-handedly wins the war. In MC4, you have AI teammates who will shout out orders and provide cover fire, while explosions and rolling tanks fill every vantage point.
The smoke effects and debris create a startling juxtaposition to the palm trees and mountainous scenery. It reminds us of the opening levels of NOVA 3, where you have to battle flying aliens around the devastated ruins of San Francisco.
After you storm through a devastated beachside resort, you’ll get a chance to handle a remote-controlled drone, which looks like a miniature tank with a mounted machine gun. Your character pulls out an iPad-like tablet, which you can then use to send the drone into the next area without risking harm to yourself or your squad.
We only got to play the first of 12 levels in the single-player campaign, but there’s a lot more to Modern Combat 4. The multiplayer mode should be a big draw, with up to 12 players online and a variety of gameplay types. These include typical capture the flag and team deathmatch modes, but also VIP escort missions and something called “Manhunt”, where all players try to kill one solo player. There are also barebones matches, which take away specializations, and warfare matches, where you can call in airstrikes and perform radar sweeps if you earn enough kills.
Gameloft is one of the few companies that provides both single-player and multiplayer modes in their big new games, something that is common on consoles but lacking in the App Store. All this content comes at a premium price of around $7, but from what we played, it’ll be worth it if you enjoyed the first three games or have a competitive streak. Modern Combat 4 will be available soon, before the end of the year.