N.O.V.A. 2 Hands-On Preview

Now that Microsoft has its own mobile gaming platform, Windows Mobile 7, it’s unrealistic to ever expect that we’ll ever play Halo on an iPhone. That’s why the N.O.V.A. series is so exciting to us– it’s Halo in everything but name. N.O.V.A. 2 offers a host of improvements like more weapons, bigger battles, and 10-person online multiplayer.

The new weapons include heavier guns like a rail gun, lightning gun, and throwing disc. In the first few levels, we only had an assault rifle and dual pistols for most of the time, until a giant mech burst into the room and turned its guns on us. That’s when we had to run through a blasted-out wall, grab a rocket launcher from the back of a jeep, and let loose on the mech.

Another early detail we liked was an enemy alien with a Predator-like cloaking device, which shimmered and distorted the background as it circled us. Even your heads-up display looks more realistic, with a curve to give the impression that it’s being beamed to the inside of your character’s helmet.

We didn’t get to try out the multiplayer, but we are told that it will have five gameplay modes, including the unique-sounding freeze tag and insta-gib modes. Up to ten players will get to duke it out online, definitely through Gameloft Live, and possibly through Game Center, too.

The multiplayer mode alone sounds great, but we really can’t wait for the 12 level single-player campaign. It gets off to an incredible start in the CG intro when your hero launches himself out of a ship’s airlock, guns blazing, and falls to the planet’s surface, his armor glowing red on re-entry. If you like the idea of wearing a sci-fi suit of armor that can double as an escape pod, you won’t want to miss N.O.V.A. 2 when it comes out for $6.99 on the App Store this month.