N.O.V.A. 2 Review

N.O.V.A. 2 (Android/iOS)
Players: 1-8
Genre: FPS
Developer: Gameloft
Marketplace/Apple Store Price: $6.99 ($4.99 through Gameloft’s website)
Release Date: December 16, 2010

Game played on HTC Thunderbolt running Android 2.3.4 (Gingerbread)

Parent Talk: If your child plays Halo, there’s no reason he/she can’t play N.O.V.A. as well. The violence and content overall is much milder.

Review Basis: Finished campaign onNormal; participated in an online (wi-fi) competitive match.

N.O.V.A. 2 is a sequel to N.O.V.A., or Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance. Six years have passed since Kal Wardin faced off with the Xenos aliens and encountered the Judges, and now humanity is at each other’s throats in a bloody civil war. You have the Terran Orbitals on one side, and the Human-Volterite Alliance on the other. Wardin tried to leave his N.O.V.A. service [again], but is thrust into the middle of this conflict when the peaceful planet of Scorpius that he retired to is attacked by the Volterites.

The Great:

Combat variety. Wardin of course fights most of this war on-foot, but also mans a jeep turret, pilots a giant mech, drives a speed bike (a la Star Wars), and has access to much more weaponry than the original N.O.V.A. provided. Kal has dual-wield pistols, a submachine gun, pump-action and auto-shotguns, grenade and rocket launchers, a slew of Volterite weapons, and explosives. You really can’t be bored using N.O.V.A. 2’s toys. Of course I’m partial to the auto-shotgun and always will be, and Kal’s didn’t disappoint.

The Good:

+ Much-improved visuals. Like the transition from Modern Combat: Sandstorm to Black Pegasus, N2’s improvement over N.O.V.A. is striking with its jump in polygons and overall greater detail.

+ The cast. I appreciated Kal’s personality much more than last time. His lines before sounded awkward, as though his voice actor was altogether uninterested. He offers more emotion and substance here, and it helps his relationship with Yelena. Neither is perfect, but the communication isn’t ever really annoying.

+ Upgrades. It’s pitiful how few hidden credits I found in the campaign, but I enjoyed using them nonetheless to improve Kal’s abilities and weapon attributes.

+ More skills. The freeze ability returns, but the same icon on the touch screen eventually can be switched to a disc attack. It’s fun to get up-close-and-personal to your enemies and issue an insta-kill. You simply have to be careful the opposite doesn’t happen.

+ Piloting a mech. (I wanted to offer more detail.) One mission places you in the body of a metal beast, sort of like an AT-AT. You get to fire a chain gun, let rockets loose, and cause a mess of chaos. Destroy the environment, other mechs, and a bunch of hostile ground troops. Very enjoyable!

+ Enemy AI. It’s fascinating, and somewhat sad, that N.O.V.A. offers fairly intelligent enemies. This is a mobile game with much more limited technology mind you. They try to dodge when it makes sense, band together, and use cover in a moderately wise fashion. I’m quite impressed.

The So-So:

+-  Music. It does the job, but is forgettable. The main menu theme is catchy though.

+- Multiplayer. Accuse me of not experiencing it enough by participating in only one match, but I could do nothing more. Just a few people were online, as obviously fans are playing N.O.V.A. 3 now, and I was lucky to even do that. It was a decent match. Nothing exciting, but I managed to land some kills.

The Bad:

–  Poor optimization. N.O.V.A 2 never played smoothly for me. I’m again sure iDevice users don’t experience this, and I still don’t know if other Android gamers do, but the game lagged and stuttered considerably across the board. It wasn’t enough to ruin the experience, but it certainly doesn’t add to it.

– Driving a speed bike. (I wanted to offer more detail.) A number of times you drive a speed bike. That’s not so bad; you tilt your mobile device to steer, and it works well enough. What I hated was shooting a gun at the same time. Why they decided to place the fire icon squarely in front of your view is beyond me. Plus, it’s not automatic, so you have to tap a million times. I died quite a bit. Not enjoyable…

– No level select? It’s not unreasonable to expect access to each level individually as you finish them, right? Apparently N.O.V.A. 2 thinks it is. After I finished the campaign, only starting a new game altogether was available.

– Too much! A virtual stick, fire icon, reload, weapon-switch, special ability, grenade, jump, pause; all these inputs are on your screen simultaneously. I don’t care if you’re playing on a smartphone or tablet; that’s a little much to keep track of all at once.

The Ugly:

Kill that b******! You hear this line over and over from the enemy. I was tired of it after a handful of times, and it didn’t stop there. Videogame dialogue overkill, to say the least.

The Lowdown:

It’s nice to see N.O.V.A. take on more of its own personality with this sequel, despite how obvious the franchise mimics Halo. Kal and Yelena are more enjoyable, and the offensive arsenal is exquisite. The story isn’t exactly riveting, but Gameloft has quite the above average shooter here. That’s impressive considering their AAA Modern Combat series. Maintaining two quality 3D FPS properties at once can’t be easy.

Final Score: 8/10


And while you wait for Justin to finish N.O.V.A. 3 on his Android tablet, please enjoy the trailers below for the game, straight from Gameloft!

5 thoughts on “N.O.V.A. 2 Review”

  1. Nice review Justin. You going to cover the next one I assume? I completely suck at playing games like this on my phone or tablet. For some reason I just can’t grasp the touch controls on such a detailed and precise game as this. I’m ok with typical touch controls, but the level of precision required for this just blows my mind. Really curious to hear what you have to say about the third iteration.

  2. Thanks man :) I will indeed cover the next, and hopefully not in 2014 ;) I finished the first mission on my spiffy new Transformer Pad, and intend to work through it in the coming days. It’s a sick-looking game that could easily pass for a first-generation 360 or PS3 game. I’m with you on having difficulty playing this kinds of games though. It definitely isn’t easy. You can’t really train your mind to use controls that your fingers aren’t physically touching. It doesn’t matter how big the real estate is on your device because it’s all about the placement of the inputs. I’m decent enough to enjoy these games, but you’d see me fumble with the controls basically every time I sit down with one of these shooters :) Who knows how badly I’ll get owned when I hop online haha. I actually think third-person titles like Dead Space and Shadowgun are easier to control, but we haven’t seen as many of those. Oh well. It’ll be the day when Call of Duty comes to the mobile scene XD

  3. I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who had difficulties lol. You know, I really wonder if we’ll ever see sales data for these games. I’m super curious to know how well a game like NOVA actually sells. They must be doing something right for them to have three parts out already, and we know that certain titles have sold multiple millions of units, but without hearing concrete info on everything there’s always this feeling that these games just are as big as their physical counterparts, at least in certain people’s minds.

    I think we’ll see a Call of Duty on a mobile device before too long. The technology is exploding and as you said, NOVA 3 could pass off as a first-gen 360/PS3 game, so imagine what will happen in another 3 years. It’s not hard to imagine our tablets and phones being on par with the next-gen consoles before too long.

  4. I continue to pay attention to the mobile community, trying to discover if anyone is having consistent experience with using a bluetooth controller, or something of that sort. By the sound of things, the PS3 controller is used by a number of people, but it requires rooting your device, and I’m simply not bold enough to attempt that. It’s OK though, I think within the next few years we’ll see more support for actual gamepads.

    As for sales, yeah I don’t have a clue. I know the Play store shows 10,000+ downloads for N.O.V.A. 3, though that doesn’t say anything of course. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but I think these titles take some time to take off on the Android market. So many people whine and moan about incompatibilities and difficulty downloading the extra data (N3 is a 2gb beast!) it’s incredible. I mean, the game isn’t optimized for my device, but that’s OK. There’ll be plenty of apps down the line that take advantage of Tegra 3. Plus Gameloft can always issue updates, and they usually roll out at least one or two for their bigger games. I’m just happy N3 is on the Transformer Pad, because it wasn’t initially, nor was Modern Combat 3. This is what you get for being an Android user I suppose. But that’s fine. They can’t spend all their time and resources making their content available to everyone.

    I’m very curious as to what other companies will do for mobile. EA has been pretty impressive, with Need for Speed, Madden, and Dead Space is great fun. I even have a Captain America 3D game, which I’ll get to at some point in the future. I think Activision and Ubisoft will come along eventually. So, I think it’s exciting to be a mobile gamer. Plus, I remember from CES that some company was preparing a tablet-esque PC with joysticks, buttons and the whole package. I think that’s where we’re headed. Tablets will eventually ship with physical inputs, and then mobile gaming will be unparalleled :D Of course Nintendo and Sony will probably manage for a good while longer to put out portables…but I think they grossly underestimate tablets and smartphones.

  5. Yeah that’s the only hurdle these mobile offerings have right now, the lack of physical input. Once that barrier is overcome, dedicated gaming portables will be an endangered species. Heck, they are an endangered species right now. They also continue to get refreshed each and every year, and that keeps pushing the technology barrier forward at an unprecedented level. There’s just no way a dedicated portable gaming system can keep up when each year the bar is raised so high. I’m sure Nintendo and Sony will find success, but I know sooner or later the mobile market will become virtually unstoppable.

    Im already extremely impressed by the inroads made. These platforms have seen tremendous support from unexpected places. Sure the app stores are flooded with mediocre garbage, but that just goes to show how popular they are with the indies out there. I think in another few years the mobile market will be on parity with the console market in terms of high quality offerings they receive.

    In terms of actual money, we know that Apple has paid $2.5 billion to developers in 2011, which is already a staggering market because that number doesn’t include the 30% cut Apple takes. Now the entire videogame industry in 2010 was worth $25.1 billion so there’s a lot more room for Apple, not including Android, Windows Phones, etc to gain more traction. I really won’t be surprised to see Apple pull in more than $5 billion this year, and Android much the same. While not only games, we both know games make up the bulk of the sales from these stores. Once each company starts generating $10 billion in sales, there won’t be a need for the traditional videogame market anymore, and that’s what some of these huge game companies fail to realize right now. The same goes for gamers. It’s all about the Benjamins and if these App stores continue to grow as fast as they have been, they’ll dominate the market with or without the publishers approval.

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