I never thought a day would come when shooter games would produce nothing more than a forced sigh of banality. Shooters are a dime a dozen in our gaming world, yes, and I would almost overlook that detail of Modern Combat 5: Blackout if it wasn’t so closely resembling the latest Call of Duty game, just on a smaller scale.
As a matter of fact, that actually becomes its most impressive quality given the customizable depth, multiplayer support, and impressive graphics (for a mobile device). Smartphones these days actually can pack a colossal amount of gameplay into very small spaces in an already crowded market, but Modern Combat 5 does an impressive job at offering a lot of gameplay value for only a few quick dollars.
While this was my first foray into Gameloft’s storied franchise, the narrative is anything but complicated and run-of-the-mill. There’s a once-shadowy terror organization enacting a deeply-planned global assault to take out key players and bring every major nation back into the third world, and your organization is the only one with the credentials to stop them. There isn’t anything lasting you’ll walk away with in regards to story, but it is a means to an end to set up some decently designed missions.
Controls are as best as they can be, given the limited options of a smartphone surface. Movement and fire buttons can be moved for a more suitable fit to your play style, and if you’re anything like me you’ll be moving the fire button well away from the grenade button as soon as you’re able. The one analog sliding interface responds quickly but never achieves anything like a real, controller-guiding response. Even in the most intense firefights, you’ll always feel like you’re just shambling along from one set piece to another, and for the most part you are.
The tried-and-true shooter RPG elements are also in full force, as many of them mimic their older Call of Duty brethren. Experience points and kill streaks grant points to be spent on new skills, more advanced classes open up at later levels as an incentive to replay older missions, and weapons gain access to customizable parts to better find your sweet spot.
I was rather surprised to see the breadth of multiplayer modes available to me for a mobile game, but the majority of them are stripped-down versions of the classic death match or king-of-the-hill play modes most shooters are required to come packaged with. I highly recommend being near a stable wifi connection if considering playing with other people, as even my LTE network could barely keep up with the choppy lag throughout my first match. Lesson learned.
Ultimately, Modern Combat 5: Blackout brings almost nothing new to the table already brimming with bigger, louder shooting games, but I will give Gameloft due credit for committing to their game and doing much more than most mobile game developers tend to accomplish. If you’re the person who finds themselves dreaming about their next headshot and just can’t wait to get home to do it, you might find this to be a perfect substitute, because that’s all it really is.