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.