Modern Combat 3: Fallen Nation Review

Modern Combat 3: Fallen Nation (v1.0.1) (Android/iOS)
Players: 1-12
Genre: FPS
Developer: Gameloft
Marketplace/Apple Store Price: $6.99
[Apple] Release Date: October 27, 2011
[Android] Release Date: December 19, 2011

Game played on HTC Thunderbolt running Android 2.3.4 (Gingerbread)

Parent Talk: Modern Combat 3 is the third entry in Gameloft’s popular shooter series on smartphones and tablets. Like Sandstorm and Black Pegasus before it, Fallen Nation brings plenty of war, blood, profanity, and utter chaos.

Review Basis: Finished campaign on Normal; achieved rank 12 within online competitive community as of this writing.

Modern Combat 3: Fallen Nation continues the franchise’s trend of not attempting in the slightest to differentiate from the Call of Duty or Battlefield experience. You wouldn’t be crazy to call it Modern Warfare 3 or Battlefield 3-lite, because FN resembles Activision/Infinity Ward’s and EA’s products in basically every way. War has reached the United States in the campaign, and the online multiplayer might as well be Call of Duty or Battlefield sans a standard controller.

The Great:

Gets better with age. Gameloft arguably produces the best first-person shooter experience for smartphones and tablets. Other great experiences exist, but I don’t think any come as close to reproducing console franchises as Modern Combat does. The series has also crazy improved since Sandstorm, which released almost 2.5 years ago. If you played every Modern Combat in succession over the next 30 days, you might wonder if the same company was responsible for each. Fallen Nation is great, and only those who refuse to play a shooter with touch controls should avoid it.

The Good:

+ An in-your-face campaign. The KPR (Korean/Pakistani/Russian) Allianceis fed up with the United States’ supposed imperialism. In retaliation, they cripple the country’s cyber and communications grid, and go to town on various major cities (sorry Chicago!). As a member of Phantom Unit, it’s fun to respond across a number of domestic and international destinations. The cinematic presentation also doesn’t disappoint. Either way, MC3 doesn’t skimp on throwing you into one gunfight after another.

+ Sprinting. Modern Combat’s addition of a sprint concept is welcome. Players likely felt like they were moving at a snail’s pace in Fallen Nation’s predecessors. But does the function improve or hinder things? That probably depends on how you’ve customized the inputs. It can be challenging to change your direction while holding the sprint icon, as the other finger occupies the virtual joystick. Then take further into account the pain of tapping the crouch icon, which sends you sliding [into what’s hopefully cover], and there’s a lot of potential multi-tasking to do here.

+ Visuals. I thought the disparity between Sandstorm and Black Pegasus was substantial, and it’s even greater between BP and Fallen Nation. It’s all thanks to the massive 1.37gb package you must download prior to playing. What comes in it are graphics and artwork that might make you wonder if you’re playing an Xbox 360 or PS3 game. I kid you not. The weapons look amazing, and reloading them equally so. The chaos is very convincing. The soldiers enjoy more attention to detail and higher poly-counts, and the environments look unbelievably real for being in a game that you play on a mobile device.

+ Online play. There are a few things I unimpressed with about Modern Combat 3’s online support, which I’ll cover later, but there’s more to be happy with. The modes FPS lovers know and enjoy are present; six appropriately-sized maps provide settings for battle, and there’s much more customization offered. You can have six custom weapon/equipment/skill load-outs over time, and just about everything you do in a match nets experience points. Of course, you won’t bulldoze opponents if you’re hopping online for the first time, but most view the growing pains as worth it.

+ Mission variety. There’s plenty of on-foot fighting, but you man the guns of an AC-130 (definitely not familiar), blast a helicopter turret, breach and clear the buildings of a Korean village, and much more.

+ Realism. It’s refreshing to play a shooter, especially one depicting modern war, that doesn’t feel like an arcade game. Enemies usually don’t require more than three bullets to fall. Often one or two does the trick, and I appreciate that, even on Normal difficulty.

The So-So:

+- Music. I didn’t know that various forms of rock turned into the latest and greatest audio motif for a war first-person shooter. There are other genres, and I wouldn’t have minded hearing them.

The Bad:

–  Shut up! I think the cursing is pitifully excessive, and it annoyed me especially that your fellow soldiers never shut up! They’re a bunch of drama queens because they shout about absolutely everything, and then some. Yes, I know we’re under fire for the fifteenth time. You wouldn’t need cover-fire if you were with me! I understand that there’s a lot of shouting in the heat of battle, but this war took it to ridiculous levels.

– Online multiplayer. First of all, why can’t I play online through my 4G data connection? Plenty of other Android titles allow that, but not a multiplayer-intensive shooter? Being restricted to a wi-fi signal is plain dumb. Two, it doesn’t bode well for those who don’t mindlessly unload their cash that all the unlockables can be bought with real money. Furthermore, you don’t have immediate access to a new toy you unlock; it must be subsequently purchased with in-game currency. That I think prolongs unnecessarily the sense of accomplishment, seeing as how challenging it can be to compete to begin with. It’s also pretty lame that occasionally the server fails to record your actions in a given match or two, thus things reset when you leave the game to what they had been previously. Well, talk about a waste of time!

The Ugly:

1.37gb of required extra data?! Why Gameloft didn’t support 3G/4G connections for this is beyond my comprehension. Acquiring that much data using a wi-fi signal, and from a server that proves unreliable, is a real hassle. It took not just a few hours for the package to come down the pipeline for me, but several restarts of the download process altogether. You can’t even restart a download from where it previously left off. Not good.

The Lowdown:

I believe Modern Combat 3: Fallen Nation is Gameloft’s most impressive product to date. You can tell they worked very hard on the project, and especially listened to fan feedback. While this won’t convince naysayers of playing a FPS with touch controls to hop on board, everyone else can enjoy what is an excellent game. Fallen Nation also proves that mobile gaming is inching ever closer to supplying the same quality of experience currently only available on consoles and PC. To play a game like this for $6.99 was unheard of just a few years ago. If you love shooters, Modern Combat 3 won’t disappoint.

Average Score Scale: 8.5 (+/- 0.5) out of 10

Personal Final Score: 9/10 (Inflated)

Reason for +0.5 Inflation: It’s not original, but one of the best mobile FPS titles.

Reason for -0.5 Deflation: You angrily struggle with the touch screen-only controls.