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N.O.V.A. 3 - Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance, the latest entry in Gameloft’s sci-fi first person shooter epic, has finally been released. The meat of the game, the shooting itself, is more polished than ever before, and graphics seek to match that polish. There are some experimental new sections that seem out of place or under-developed, but all in all this is the best title in the series.
The multiplayer mode has also been polished up, although it isn’t without some tarnish itself. Any fans of iPhone shooters should definitely pick this one up A.S.A.P. The story is more epic than ever, involving a galaxy wide hunt for ancient Judger artifacts, a.k.a. the McGuffins of this title. The campaign will have you battling on various planets, including a war-torn Earth, and epic locales like a derelict ship that’s drifting directly into a star. The plot even takes a few cues from Halo 3, and there are a few surprises. The only flaw with the campaign is in certain awkward segments, such as the on-rails sections involving a hard to aim turret and barely visible targets. The whole thing resolves itself thanks to auto-aim.
The campaign is the longest and most fleshed out one yet. Levels will take anywhere between twenty and thirty minutes to complete. The lengthy levels are punctuated by some very randomly placed yet forgivable loading breaks that kind of ruin the immersion. An interesting inclusion is the presence of an in-game upgrade store, in which you use in-game credits to buy new weapons and armor abilities. The controls come in three varieties plus a gyroscope aiming feature, all with movable virtual buttons. After so many touch screen FPS’s, it’s clear that Gameloft has the controls pegged, and I’m one of those people who usually says FPS games don’t work on touch screens.
The multiplayer is solid, offering a nice variety of game-modes, great connectivity over Wi-Fi, and an experience based progression system allowing you to unlock new guns and perks as you go. The way matches are hosted can be rather irritating as people often drop out of the lobby while waiting for the host to make changes. The spawning is also just plain ridiculous and broken, with you constantly spawning in the same room as the enemy that just killed you. Then again, many maps are generally very big and not well suited for such small groups, so it would take forever to find anyone without such broken spawning. Even with its many flaws, the multiplayer was very engaging and even a little addictive, for an iPhone shooter anyway.
The visuals are better than ever, and probably the best ever seen on an iPhone screen. Still, with all that increased detail and realism, they’ve managed to keep it aesthetically interesting, and it’s not just a festival of drab browns and greys. It has its fair share of flaws and really weird bugs and glitches in the campaign. Still, I had tons of fun playing it, even if it is just a little bit too ambitious for its own good. It’s not perfect, but amazing in several ways. N.O.V.A. 3 is iOS Universal and available for seven dollars at the time of this review.