This is a massive release for Gameloft. Much like the previous Modern Combat games, this is their answer to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Battlefield, with similar themes, gameplay and graphical style to the ‘big two’ FPS games of the moment.

The release is timed to perfection, with Battlefield 3 just released and Modern Warfare 3 about to launch, sandwiching this iOS release in between the two console giants is marketing genius, particularly when neither of those two franchises are making their way to the platform any time soon. An iOS version of Battlefield 3 is coming, but it clearly isn’t a focus for EA.

So, it is part of an already established iOS franchise and it’s timing is spot on, but how does the actual game hold up?

Very well, as it turns out, as MC3 is the most spectacular FPS game on the App Store, and deserves attention for its pulse pounding single player story and in-depth, deep multiplayer offering. The game sees you in the shoes of several different soldiers over the course of a story that charts the invasion of the USA by a coalition of countries from the so-called axis of evil.

The story is a blast, helped along by the excellent controls, honed to perfection by the Gameloft Montreal team. Ok, so you are never going to be able react as quickly as you can with a joypad when using a touchscreen to play games like this, but Gameloft have done a great job here.

The fact that there are very few times that you will find enemies spawning behind you is a deliberate choice by the developer to help account for the limitations of the touchscreen. Twitch based shooting is difficult to pull off on an iPhone, but with practice you can do it with this title.

The graphics on display are excellent, particularly on your gun and the backdrops and incidental details. I did find some of the characters, when viewed outside a cut scene, lacking in detail but it is a small price to pay when the rest of the game looks so good. I really like the fact that you see a lot of your characters hands when playing, not only when reloading, but when performing all manner of actions. Too many games just put a gun in front of you with little regard for immersion.

There are a wide variety of missions, a favorite has to be targeting enemies from the guns of a plane thousands of feet in the air with night vision, Call of Duty style. It is great fun, and executed really well on the small screen. There are a lot more vehicle based missions, but I won’t spoil the surprises in store…

Overall, the single player campaign is exciting and a real roller coaster ride which is probably worth the price of entry on its own, but we also have a full online multiplayer suite here.

It is all integrated into Gameloft Live, as expected and offers 12 player action over 6 maps with an impressive 7 modes to play with. The gameplay is smooth online, and I only ever experienced a couple of occasions of lag, and I was connected to games very quickly with no problems in the 100 or so matches I played in.

The best compliment I can give the online here is that it really does feel like you are playing Call of Duty on your phone. I would recommend playing through the campaign before stepping online as there are a lot of good players out there, weaned on the previous games in the series who will show little mercy to you, so getting the controls mastered offline is a must.

The game has special abilities that are unlocked by amassing killchains, so get three kills in a row and you get a radar that pinpoints enemy player positions, with turrets, helicopters and even nuclear strikes available to the best players.

Much like many online FPS games these days, the multiplayer is all XP based, so as you rank up you get access to better weapon packs and abilities. You can shortcut a lot of this via IAP’s, but the fact that you can still achieve through good old-fashioned man hours is welcome. You are always going to come up against players that rank above you in these games, so it really is a learning process to be able to deal with players with better weapons than you.

Leaderboards, local play, Apple TV features, achievements and challenges round out a robust package.

In Conclusion

So, this is a game that is worth every penny of the asking price for FPS fans wanting some COD action on their phone. With a superb online element and action packed single player campaign, this is one of the top shooters on the App Store and should be considered essential by iron sight specialists everywhere.

This review originally appeared on The Smartphone App Review (November 01, 2011).