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Modern Command

For: iPhone   Also on: iPad

Shot down

Product: Modern Command | Publisher: Chillingo | Format: iPhone | Genre: Arcade, Strategy, Tower defence | Players: 1 | Networking: wireless (network) | Version: Europe | App version: 1.1
Modern Command iPhone, thumbnail 1
Tower defence needs a break. Once the darling genre for mobile and browser gaming, it's grown so tired that it needs to go away for a bit, or at least adopt some radically new ideas to get excited about turrets and bad guys for the thousandth time.

Modern Command is a tower defence game of sorts - at least, that's what the App Store description and accompanying screenshots would suggest. But there are hints that it's more action-oriented than other entries in the genre.

In which case, perhaps there's something to get truly excited about in Modern Command - a much needed shot of variety. Join me as a play it over the next week to find out.

First impressions

Modern Command successfully fulfils the two claims it makes in its title: it's modern, and it involves commanding things.

It's also visually and aurally impressive. The UI is smooth to navigate through, the command centre in which you buy and upgrade weapons has some very snazzy polygonal 3D, and in battles the meaty explosions tear down nearby trees, deforming the lush landscape.

The basic gameplay is that you have a base in the centre of a map, suurrounded by groups of baddies sauntering toward your position, and you must command high-end military hardware to kill all enemies.

You have rockets and machine guns at your disposal. Machine guns will hit any target you select and track it until death. However, when using rockets you need to skilfully judge where your enemy is, and where it will be by the time you've sent projectile explosives in its direction, and whether its splash damage will envelop your foes.

If this gameplay sounds familiar then you've probably played arcade classic Missile Command before. At the moment this feels a lot like that, but with a CSR Racing lilt to its progression - the Missile Command that would be made today.

Day 3: Terrorism

Rodrigo Cobos is a terrorist, apparently. What he's done and how he's done it has not been explained, but he's a target, and you must eliminate him.

In order to achieve this you jump into the Research Lab to create more powerful weapons and forge new munitions, working your way through a large tech tree towards the best hardware.

IAPs explained
Stars are the premium currency of Modern Command, and will cost you £1.49 / $1.99 for 15 of the blighters. You can use this currency to skip all the timers in the game, as well as to purchase more Credits.

The exchange runs at about 50,000 Credits for 15 Stars, and a very bog-standard new weapon will eat up most of that cash.

There are various packs you can purchase too, and they include bundles of items at a discount. On top of this you can make an instant purchase after being defeated in the game which will revive your team fully for a “mere” 69p / 99c.

If you want your playing time to last longer, you can also Go Premium for a minimum of ten Stars, and this increases the amount of rewards you receive from missions, work times, Supply capacity and so on for a finite amount of time.

If you're adamant about not spending any money, then you can earn free Service Stars by watching video ads.
Researching these elements of your defences takes time, the amount of which depending on the number of scientists you have - or you can use a Service Star to speed things up.

You'll need these upgrades, too, as Cobos has Elite Units at his command, and isn't afraid to use them. These are much tougher dudes than the standard trucks and militia, and require multiple hits from rockets to take down.

Happily, you can also call on limited use ordnance weapons to assist your defensive strategy and thin their numbers. A powerful airstrike obliterates anything foolish enough to womble into its fiery path, for example.

Apart from having to wait for ages while upgrades finish, I'm still very much enjoying the game after a few days of play.

Day 7: The difference

Modern Command's missions are becoming a slog, and I've run out of patience with its implementation of the freemium payment model.

The biggest difference between Missile Command and Modern Command is that the former was immediately forthcoming with its action and you were only as good as your abilities.

Modern Command, by contrast, doles out upgrades at a miserly pace, and your ability in battle is usually based on the weapons you have.

As in CSR Racing, it's impossible to win increasingly challenging battles without improving your hardware, but unlike in that game it's not immediately obvious that you're outclassed by the opposition.

In CSR you can tell you don't have a fast enough car straight away, but in Modern Command there's the illusion that you can always win if you're skilled enough. But of course, you can't.

Every upgrade costs a fair chunk of currency, and a staggering amount of time. Want the next tier of rocket launcher? That'll be a 24-hour wait to research the thing, a wedge of currency to begin building it, and another couple of hours of waiting for it to be created.

You can only do one bit of research at a time, and it's all achingly lengthy. The more scientists you earn from missions and the more friends you have, the shorter the wait, but it's never what you might call rapid.

There area few more gameplay quibbles too. You can't zoom out on the map as much as you'd like, and keeping track of enemy units can be tricky because of this. You also can't hang about and watch the cool explosions, because if you do it's likely that another squad of baddies is already wreaking havoc at your base.

Difficulty also spikes suddenly, and it's very disheartening when you run into one of these progress walls. Training missions offer some reprieve - with increasing rewards for completing their puzzle-like challenges - but pretty soon it's back to the uphill battle.

Then you run out of Supplies (the game's energy system) and have to wait for them to replinish before you can continue grinding for currency.

What started out as a solid take on an old style of gameplay has turned into a grab for your money through cumbersome implementation of decrepit free-to-play mechanics. And it started off so well.

How are you getting on with the game? You can tell us and the rest of the PG community about your experiences by leaving a comment in the box below. Click here to learn about our free-to-play review policy.
Modern Command
Reviewer photo
Peter Willington | 20 February 2014
A fine take on a classic style of fast-paced gameplay, made slow and dull by a clumsy use of free-to-play
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