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Hands-on with N.O.V.A. 3 for iOS and Android

Crysis averted?
Product: N.O.V.A. 3 | Publisher: Gameloft | Format: Android, iPhone, iPad | Genre: Shooter
N.O.V.A. 3 Multiformat, thumbnail 1
Whereas the original N.O.V.A., with its regenerating shield and blue AI companion, was Gameloft's attempt at mugging Halo, N.O.V.A. 3 is firmly targeting graphical powerhouse Crysis.

From the redesigned look of series star Kal Warden right through to the wavy organic-meets-metal design of your primary foes, there's no escaping the fact that the developer has looked once again to a hot console property for inspiration.

It even displays hexagons in the corners of the screen when you get shot, calling to mind the nanosuit of the console game.

But let's push aside the cloning debate for a second, because, while it may bear a strong resemblance to Crytek's opus during the early stages of the game, N.O.V.A. 3 looks like another solid step forward for the company's premium first-person shooters.

Press 'fire' to fire

The tutorial, for instance, is very clever, starting with you crashing down into the ruins of San Francisco and murdering a few aliens as you attempt to meet up with some fellow soldiers.

Rather than a dull 'now look up' series of dry instructions, the controls are gradually unlocked as you blast the Volterites (the principal enemies) with your assault rifle. It starts off as an on-rails shooter ("press this to fire") and slowly expands out your controls as it progresses.

Adding to the repertoire from earlier titles is the ability to aim down sights - something that helps mitigate the slightly inaccurate nature of touchscreen FPS controls - as well as new weapons and abilities to master.

During my play-through I had a chance to savour some series favourites like the thumping power of the rocket launcher and a very Quake-like grenade launcher, as well as the sneaky bullet time-esque slowdown power and massive boss-disabling shock.

Other items promised in the full game include a flamethrower for an impromptu barbecue, as well as freeze gun (for keeping meals for later, I'm guessing).

Mech my day

Also new to the series is the ability to pilot mechs and buggies, with the former bearing a passing resemblance to the one in Killzone 3 - the screen shuddering as you stomp through the city streets.

These vehicles are present on some of the larger multiplayer maps (of six in total), with the buggy allowing up to two people to roll around. Up to 12 players can now take part in the carnage, and a Modern Combat/Call of Duty progression system has been added to encourage you to stick around.

What may prove controversial with players is the addition of IAPs to both the single-player and multiplayer, with the former essentially acting as cheats for impatient/casual players and the latter working along similar lines to those in Modern Combat 3.

You can't just buy your way to better results, though, as bought weapons still require you to level-up before you can use them.

Alas, I was only able to see the menus and a small section of an Earth-based map during my hands-on: the meat of the multiplayer game is still off-limits to previews.

Back to the action

What I was able to play was a good hour's worth of the single-player campaign, which is expected to take around five hours to complete.

Those fearing Gameloft will take the Crysis template a little too literally can breathe a sigh of relief - while the action may start on Earth, Kal is soon dashing across the galaxy and visiting more N.O.V.A.-like locations like a dusty penal planet (complete with rampaging inmates).

The game runs on an upgraded version of the Modern Combat 3 engine, this time optimised for dual-core machines - and it isn't half a looker.

Gone are the 'square heads' of earlier Gameloft titles, and in their place comes proper physics and highly detailed textures.

The build I played wasn't yet iPad Retina display-optimised, but Gameloft tells me this will be in place when the game launches.

That date is just a fairly vague "May" for both iOS and Android. Gameloft didn't say whether this means a simultaneous release on both platforms.

Reviewer photo
Will Wilson 30 April 2012
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