A while back I requested to do a review of N.O.V.A. as I saw that the last update added optional gyroscopic controls to the game. That means that if you move your phone around, your character will look where you move. As someone who sucks at first-person shooters due to dual stick controls, this intrigued me. Gameloft, the game’s developer, never added this control option to the Lite version, though. When I emailed them, they said it should be added next week. This was several months ago. I finally gave up on waiting and dove into the full version.
The last first person shooter I could play was Golden Eye 007 on the N64. The game didn’t use any controls to look up or down, you just had a joystick to move forward and back and to rotate your view horizontally. This was the norm for these games going back to the classic titles like Doom and Wolfenstein. I’ve tried games like Halo more recently, and I just can’t deal with the dual stick controls. No matter how much practice I put in, I just have no luck. This also extends to games like iDracula and Geometry Wars. Put two joysticks in front of me and I’m completely lost.
Now that you see why this control scheme appealed to me so much, I can get into the actual review. Please bear in mind, this is from the perspective of someone that hasn’t played ANY recent first person shooters.
From what I’ve played of N.O.V.A., it is very similar to Halo (I’ve heard the sequel, N.O.V.A. 2 is even closer). You play as a retired general in the space marines that has been forced back into active combat. There’s a computer AI woman that guides you around, and all the voices are voice-acted pretty well. Also, the Retina display graphics look really nice and the animations are very smooth.
The first level is a tutorial, mostly based on moving around, looking around, jumping, using your weapon and the like. The computer guides you through everything fairly well. This is where I finally got to try the gyroscope controls. I expected them to move differently than they actually do, but the first problem I had is that I couldn’t play while seated. I wasn’t able to fully turn around without actually turning around. This severely limits my ability to play the game in public, which is a huge problem for a portable game, especially one that’s on a phone. When I reached the final area in the tutorial, several enemies appeared out of flashes and started shooting at me. I took tons of damage, even from this minor assault, due to all the difficulty I was having spinning around in place to move and making myself dizzy. I also found that something as simple as firing was also difficult when it came to adjusting my hands from holding, to reaching for the fire trigger. This minor movement took my aim at a distance slightly off target. Regardless of these issues, I was able to successfully complete the tutorial.
The first real level is inside a space station. As you move from room to room, you see aliens attacking marines and killing them. Your job? Stop the aliens. My initial problem was, once again, moving and looking around. The corridors are quite twisty, meaning I was spinning in circles just to look where I was going. As I progressed deeper, I began taking on more and more damage from the aliens. While you do regain health by standing still, this does you no good in a fire fight. No matter how many times I played through this level, I always died at just about the same spot.
As a gamer of more than 25 years, I pride myself on being able to grind my way through any game. Heck, I’ve even beaten most of the Mega Man titles. Still, there’s just something about FPS games that I guess I’ll never grasp. If you’re in that same boat with me, I can’t recommend N.O.V.A. for you. While the gyroscopic controls are a neat idea, they just aren’t very functional in their actual use. In contrast, if you’re an FPS fan, I do recommend this game as it’s quite polished and well done in all other respects.