The following review is by guest reviewer Will O’Briant.
N.O.V.A: Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance is Gameloft’s new Halo-esque first person shooter. After having the game previewed at an Apple Conference the anticipation built very high for the game. The game was released about a month ago and enjoyed quite a stay in the top grossing apps.
The game’s storyline is pretty cliché, but it does enough to keep you intrigued about what will happen next. You play as Kal Wardin, an ex-marine who has been reinstated due to a clause that states marines may be reinstated without their consent in a time of trouble. Alien attacks are the reason Kal has been reinstated. I don’t want to spoil the game for you, so you’ll have to figure out the rest yourself.
Anyways, onto the gameplay. N.O.V.A. includes both a single player campaign and online deathmatch multiplayer. It controls similar to the other FPSes on the platform such as Modern Combat: Sandstorm and Eliminate Pro. There is a joystick in the bottom left corner to control your character’s movement, dragging your finger on the screen controls your aiming reticule, and a fire button on the bottom right of the screen lets you fire. The controls work flawlessly, but I think the game should have offered a scheme like Eliminate in which you just have to double tap to fire.
In my opinion, the campaign is very average. It consists of 12 levels (not counting the tutorial level), which do not have much variety in terms of gameplay, and are extremely linear. You will never be wondering which way to go, as the whole game is pretty much on a set path. For the most part your whole goal is to just reach the end of the level without dying. Sometimes you’ll be tasked with turning on consoles or defending an area for a set amount of the time, but generally the objectives tend to be very repetitive. However, one mission I really enjoyed put you in the back of 4×4 with a machine gun and rocket lauching turret, riding through a jungle and slaughtering all the enemies in your path, which was awesome. More variety like that could have made the single-player campaign really great. The scenery is very different level to level though. You can also find several “side-quests” throughout the game that will have you saving fellow marines; these are optional and have only a slight effect on the ending dialogue of the game based on whether you perform them or not.
I completed the hard campaign in just over 2 hours only dying two or three times. The shotgun seemed a bit unbalanced, almost unfairly good, as I never struggled with having enough ammo and it was a one shot, one kill on every enemy up close. During the campaign you are also tasked with solving puzzles in order to get ammo when you approach an ammo crate. Hacking an alien computer also requires the completion of a puzzle. If you’re solely looking for a good FPS campaign, you might want to consider waiting for a sale, as the campaign is not anything special at this point. It is enjoyable, but slightly repetitive.
The game really shines in the multiplayer department. It has local Bluetooth and wifi, as well as full online multiplayer (and achievements) through Gameloft Live. Currently there is only one play mode available, a free-for-all deathmatch between 4 players. There are 5 different maps (I particularly like the jungle map), which are bigger than the ones in Eliminate. By default, you start out with an assault rifle and a pistol (which sucks) but additional weapons can be found throughout the map. You can pick up shotguns, rocket launchers, and sniper rifles. I really like the sniping in the game, however I do wish Gameloft had incorporated the plasma gun from the single-player campaign into the multiplayer. There are also high damage and high jump powerups to be found. So far my experiences have been lag free and there have always been other people online for matchups. My only gripe with the multiplayer is that there is no automatic matchmaking system, you must go start a game or go into the lobby and join a game. Not really a problem, it is just kind of annoying (or I’ve just been spoiled by other games). If you love online multiplayer FPS’s and/or did not like Eliminate N.O.V.A. is definitely worth checking out.
The game’s graphics hold their own with the other graphical giants on the platform. They really are fantastic and add a lot to the game. Gameloft really went all out in this department and their work shows. Sounds and music are adequate. There isn’t much to the soundtrack and the weapons sound good. The game offers iPod connectivity, which is a nice feature to have as the stock music does get annoying after a while.
Overall N.O.V.A is a good, not great, FPS. A slightly repetitive and linear single-player campaign really keeps the game from achieving all that it could be. The graphics and multiplayer a superb, but if you’re not a multiplayer person and just want the game for the campaign, you might want to think twice.