Gameloft is a funny company. If you've heard of "mockbuster" films like "Snakes on a Train" and "Transmorphers", then you've got a good grasp of what Gameloft does; they take big name games and turn them into mobile titles. Thing is, while they started with rather generic and dull affairs, their games slowly gained their own identity and became quality (if unoriginal) games in their own right. Modern Combat 5: Blackout is just one of those games, generously taking pointers from the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare franchise.
The words "mobile" and "FPS" should be an instant red alarm to most people. You'd be right to think so; the idea of controlling a first person shooter with a touch screen (oh lord, all the virtual buttons) sounds like a nightmare. In Modern Combat 5: Blackout, that's definitely one of the many issues the game has. While there are plenty of ways to circumvent the restrictive controls (such as automatically firing when you aim over an enemy or snapping to a target when you aim down your sights), the rigid handling of the game's controls never really fades. It's just an issue that can't really be worked around, so hopefully the game will receive a future update supporting MFI controllers.
It's the year blankety-blank and soldiers with guns are shooting other soldiers with guns. If that doesn't sound like a very detailed plot, that's because the game doesn't have much of a story to speak of. There is a campaign, but it's about as nonsensical as possible. You won't care about anyone, just shooting other people and trying to get all 3 stars in each extremely short level, Angry Birds style. Each mission consists of several different sections: Campaign, where small story missions that last 3-5 minutes apiece (in groups of four or more) reside, Spec-Ops, where generic shooting galleries are the status quo, and Multiplayer, where you're put into a specific map and mode to complete certain objectives. There's a lot of content here, so while it may take you little time to beat it all, you are encouraged to replay and 3-star missions.
Multiplayer is another staple of Modern Combat 5. While it's an obvious lift from Call of Duty, the novelty of shooting baddies and calling in killstreaks is a luxury no other mobile title offers. Thus, while I clamored for a controller I still enjoyed blasting away at my virtual opponents. It's just a shame that there's only four maps, and that grenades are so overpowered. Balance issues aside, the progression system awards persistence rather than a fat wallet (aside from the price of the game, there are no in-app purchases), meaning the one with the advantage is the person with the most time and practice in the game.
Another thing of note is the game's amazing graphics. Long have developers boasted about "console quality" graphics on mobile games. While they've all been wrong, Modern Combat 5 is one of the closest to breach into the territory where I'd shrug and say, "I guess this looks like it could be running on an Xbox 360″. Beautifully decorated levels make environments feel alive, rather than an emotionless hallway with soldiers running up its corridors. More intensive graphical effects like SSAO provide ambient shading to corners and areas where objects meet the ground. While it's not as expansive or detailed as it wants you to think, Modern Combat 5 is far from ugly.
Most mobile efforts we see nowadays are piss-poor. Boring 99-cent games that offer little more than a few minutes of gratification at a time. While you can get a few minutes of gratification out of Modern Combat 5, there's a lot to be had here that takes a little more than that. However you feel you should approach it is up to you, but the $6.99 price tag isn't asking much for such an expansive mobile offering.
Rhys Egner is a writer for Front Towards Gamer from Seattle. He likes comics, hates crowds, and loves gaming of all kinds.