N.O.V.A. 3 Is The Most Ambitious Mobile First-Person Shooter I've Seen

Illustration for article titled N.O.V.A. 3 Is The Most Ambitious Mobile First-Person Shooter I've Seen

First-person shooters suck on a mobile device, don't they? They're inaccurate, fidgety, uncomfortable...and just downright rage-worthy. Why would you even want to play Call of Duty on your iPhone anyway, right?

Though N.O.V.A. 3 doesn't escape the flaws of mobile first-person shooting entirely, it does a damn good job of making you forget about them. What are those flaws? If you've never played an FPS on your phone, allow me to tell you. You know how PC gamers boast that keyboard and mouse gives them faster, sharper control over console gamers? Well, even console gamers laugh in the face of the virtual joysticks you use on a mobile device.

But N.O.V.A. 3's touch interface button mapping is actually not that bad. You can sprint, jump, and you even have a special ability like a force push or jetpack. You can drop mines and throw grenades. You fingers will eventually remember the placement of each. My favorite innovation, though? That'd be the fact that you can aim and shoot, simultaneously, with one button. It reduces the nuisance of carefully moving your finger across the screen to aim, just to have the target scurry away immediately afterwards. It's not the best way to conserve ammunition, but what the hell.

This is pretty much a fully amped first-person shooter on your iPad (if you play it like I do), graphics and all. Gameloft's latest N.O.V.A. title looks absolutely phenomenal. You can even jump into multiplayer matches, where the options are plentiful. If you feel like shooting at everything, there's free-for-all. There's an insta-kill mode (which I find suits a mobile device particularly well), and capture modes, too.

If you're a regular FPS player as I am, you'll soon be lost in round after round of battles just as you would on a console or PC. The "just one more round" mentality is just as pervasive in N.O.V.A. 3, especially if you want to get anywhere near a fighting-chance level. As you level, you'll unlock new weapons and perks, which really diversifies how you'll play.

Multiplayer is a bit unkind to new players, though, because unlocks and purchases are quite expensive. You'll have to embrace embarrassment as you hear players' kill signatures over and over. The worst is, "Stick to single player, noob!" I mean, come on, man. Did you have to go there?

I've never played the previous titles, so I don't care much for the storyline. But it's there, in the singleplayer campaign, if you're into that kind of thing. For me, I just had way too much fun wasting my sleep hours trying to gain vengeance on rival players.

But was it $7 fun? Are the dark circles around my eyes worth the $7? If you're sitting at home, PC to your left and 360 to your right, no. Probably not. But if you're on the train, or bored at the dentist's office, or waiting for your damn PS3 to download yet another software update, then yes, it is. It's quick entertainment on the go, and it's the closest to a bigger platform game as you'll get on your tablet, or other device.

Oh, and, sorry Android players. You'll have to wait for your version to release.

N.O.V.A. 3 - Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance [$6.99, iTunes]

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I've said it before and I'll say it again, but we're increasingly getting to the point where "good enough" versions of console-style games are being released on mobile/tablet devices. I genuinely think we're going to hit a point in the next five years where big franchises like Call of Duty and Madden will release feature-comparable versions of their big releases on tablet/mobile devices. When they do that, I think we'll start seeing a large number of mainstream gamers stop buying dedicated gaming consoles for these games and instead just pick them up on the device they already use every single day for games.