A few years back, when the iPhone’s gaming market was starting to become a true contender in the gaming world, Gameloft took everyone by surprise with an incredibly solid FPS called Modern Combat: Sandstorm. Few people thought that anyone would be able to faithfully bring the FPS experience to the iOs device(s), let alone a company who specialized purely in mobile games. If anyone was going to be the first to do it, surely it would be one of the industry’s powerhouse companies such as Activision or EA. Sure enough, Gameloft’s Modern Combat became the first quality FPS on a mobile device and set the standard for many games that would follow including NOVA and a port of Call of Duty: Zombies. Now, almost two years later, Gameloft is hoping that they can bring that same magic to home consoles as well with Modern Combat: Domination for the PlayStation Network.
In making the shift to home consoles, Gameloft knows that they have to do something special in order to get noticed in what is arguably the most over-crowded genre in gaming. The x-factor / selling point for Domination is undoubtedly it’s price; with a price point set at only $7.99, well below most of the competition, Domination looks to catch the market of gamers looking for a cheap thrill on the PlayStation Network. That much is easy to see just by looking at the title’s product listing; what you may not know is that for a measly eight bucks, you are getting an incredibly solid package with more content and quality than it has any right to have for that price.
For those readers that like to quantify things, let’s address exactly what you get for $7.99. Modern Combat features six different gametypes that are all playable across five different maps. Yes, the numbers themselves sound unimpressive but the quality of those included maps and games combined with the discount price provide a great value. In terms of gametypes, you will have your choice of deathmatch, team deathmatch, Domination, Boom and Bust, Escort, and Extraction. The deathmatch variations are exactly what you would expect. The rest of the games are all team-based variations that involve capturing and controlling various points on the map (Domination), planting and diffusing bombs (Boom and Bust), protecting a designated team member (Escort), and a variation on capture the flag (Extraction). Whatever your taste, there is a mode included to satisfy your appetite. Although there are only five maps included in the game they are all designed to work well with all of the included game types. There is no doubt that they all do their job in the context of the game, but there are some complaints to be had, but we will touch on that later.
There aren’t any surprises in store for anyone who jumps into Modern Combat, “it is what it is" and it doesn’t try to hide that fact. The game is modeled heavily off of Activision’s Modern Warfare series in both design and execution; even though it visually mimics the Modern Warfare games it blends in a lot of elements from the Counter Strike games as well. All of the gametypes require more than just running and gunning down your opponents; Domination requires a bit of strategy and money management throughout the experience in order to succeed. Each time a player spawns in a match, they are given $2,400 to spend equipping their character for the pending battle. There are five categories of items that you can purchase and equip in categories such as primary weapon, sidearm, lethal grenade(s), tactical grenade(s), and armor. The only item that is provided to you is a basic, though effective, handgun; you will have to spend your money on other items if you want to arm yourself as a true war machine. As you kill opponents and perform different objectives within the match, you will earn additional cash that goes toward your account. You will have to earn back any money that you have spent at the start of a round before you see the effects of your performance and start off with more than the base $2,400. You will never start a round with less than that base amount so if you want to really gear up and take control of a match; you will have to earn the funds to do so by getting you starting balance well above those stock funds. As you earn money throughout the matches, you will also earn experience points which go toward leveling your character. There are 72 levels in the game and different weapons and attachments are awarded as you progress through the ranks. There are no “perks" or “kill streaks", it’s as basic as they come but completely effective and a whole lot of fun. A nice feature of the game is the fact that there is no cost to add attachments to your arsenal; you won’t have to spend money to tweak your guns but the more effective guns themselves will be priced according to their effectiveness. You won’t be able to grab the best gun in the game right out of the starting gate(s) and run down the competition; you will have to perform well enough using the base weapons within a match to earn the funds to access the more effective guns such as the heavy machine guns and sniper rifles. This provides a nice change of pace from most competitive FPS games as every match starts everyone out on even ground. It is up to you to make something of yourself after that.
If you have played one FPS, you have played them all in terms of control schemes and Modern Combat is no different. The only problem that I found with the controls is that the default sensitivity is incredibly slow / sluggish. The button layout is exactly as you would expect in a modern first-person shooter but the look sensitivity, at its default setting, is ridiculously slow. I even consider the sensitivity at the highest setting to be slow for my personal preferences, but it does the job. Everything works as well as you would expect in terms of moving to the sights of your gun, reloading, cooking grenades, and mounting obstacles in the environment. Once again, there is no new ground broken here but the players’ needs are more than met. I do have to say that the melee combat of the game, both in terms of its controls and its effectiveness, leaves a lot to be desired. The melee attacks are slow and ineffective; you have to pretty much score a perfect hot on an enemy in order to kill them. If you are not square on with your enemy when launching a melee strike, you will miss and be left in the open for your intended target to turn the tables on you.
It is also worth noting that the game includes full PlayStation Move support. Unfortunately, I don’t own the Move peripheral and was unable to test the included features for myself. Everything that I have heard though from other gamers is that it works quite well and provides a nice change of pace from the usual controller-based FPS gameplay.
The game has solid audio and visual presentation(s). The character models and animations are as detailed and fluid as anyone could ask for but, unfortunately, that same quality doesn’t carry over to the levels and backgrounds. While the level design(s) and layouts are great, the details and content within those levels are devoid of any personality. The levels, despite working great in terms of their functionality for all of the included gametypes, are nothing more than open spaces. Then again, I have to step back and realize that this is an eight dollar game, not a $60 big-budget title; that they do their job but definitely don’t impress in terms of creating an “atmosphere” for the game. My complaints with the maps are based purely on their visual aspect(s); all of the maps are backed by solid design and more than did their job in creating various choke points and strategic bases throughout which really created a great gameplay experience.
Modern Combat: Domination does have some technical drawbacks. First off, the load times involved with the game are incredibly long, even between the rounds of s given match. Most disc based titles don’t have load times this bad so it surprises me that a game installed directly to my hard drive takes as long to load up as it does. The other issue that I have with the game is how players are marked during gameplay. This could be partly because I am so accustomed to the Call of Duty franchise where it is blatantly clear who is your friend and who is your foe; when playing team based game modes in Domination, the only difference between the players is a small icon next to their name. All of the names are written in the same colored font, unlike other games where this is differentiated by color. All of the names look the same, especially at a distance, and you are expected to pay attention to a small red or blue symbol next to their name. I found this hard to do when you are in the heat of battle and under pressure; this is an issue that could be easily fixed by simply coloring in the names above the characters. Personally, I think this would make a world of difference.
I really like Modern Combat: Domination and find it more than satisfying my FPS needs these days. It is important to know that this is an eight dollar game though and I feel it should be looked at as such which is how I am judging the game. If you are looking for something to replace the Call of Duty or Battlefield series than you should keep looking for that won’t happen here. Then again, that isn’t Gameloft’s intention with the game. What they do intend though is to provide you with a solid FPS experience at a very low price and in that respect, they more than succeed.