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For: iPhone   Also on: Android, Mobile, PSP


Product: N.O.V.A. | Developer: In-house | Publisher: Gameloft | Format: iPhone | Genre: Shooter | Players: 1-4 | Version: US | App version: 1.1.0
N.O.V.A. iPhone, thumbnail 1
The Big Bang theory says that the universe was created in an instantaneous flash, an explosion that continues to reverberate today.

That such a momentous event is debatable demonstrates the breadth of interpretation possible from one set of facts.

N.O.V.A. isn't as powerful a genesis, instead drawing upon the energy of other shooters for its brilliance. It is nevertheless an explosive experience, one that sends a shock wave through the genre and platform as a whole. Regardless of whether you agree with our criticisms or not, this is fact: N.O.V.A. is a blast.


Kal Wardin's easy retirement on the colony of New Ceres comes to an abrupt end when he's called back into the service of the intergalactic marine corps. A starship orbiting the colony, the Colonial Pride, has ceased communications and fears of an alien attack have military command on edge. Unwilling to risk their own men, they send in macho marine Wardin to investigate.

Through the course of 13-mission campaign, you discover that there's a lot more going on than a simple alien raid - humanity's very future is threatened by a sinister plan. The only thing scarier is the voice acting.

Fortunately, you're got a stockpile of weapons with which you can use to obliterate any alien mug that crosses your path. N.O.V.A. hits the action hard, with aggressive enemies and intense combat scenarios.

Whether you're scurrying through the hallways of a capital ship in pursuit of self-destruct codes or cutting a path through a jungle to rescue stranded marines, the action is nothing short of gripping.

Combat evolved

Such high intensity gameplay comes not from fresh ideas, but borrowed designs. Halo, Resistance, Dead Space - these games' most memorable moments have been adopted in stunning fashion. To be inspired by the brilliance of another game is advisable, yet the unabashed co-opting in N.O.V.A. is unsettling.

Zero gravity jaunts on the exterior of a spaceship in the midst of travelling through an asteroid field - Dead Space pioneered it and N.O.V.A. has it. Suspenseful mission on an orbiting starship as the clock counts down to its destruction - it was an iconic scene in Halo: Combat Evolved that N.O.V.A. replicates.

It's difficult to understand why more liberties weren't taken with the design given the superbly crafted mechanics. This is unquestionably the best first-person shooter on the platform to date with spot-on controls and astounding visuals, yet it fails to utilise these tools for something unique.

Exemplary production values and familiar design cement the game's appeal, but without its own original approach to the genre it can't secure the greatness it comes so close to achieving.


There's another reason why the experience comes up just short: shallow multiplayer. In an area where much could be gleaned from the games that are so influential to the campaign, N.O.V.A. provides bare bones competition. Without a system of rewards to entice a long term investment, the game fails to realise actualise its full potential.

Having multiplayer isn't enough - it has to be a compelling complement to single player. You're required to establish a Gameloft Live account, yet unable to customise your character with unlocked goodies, earn weapons, or even receive badges for multiplayer achievements. Deathmatch is the only game type supported, though five maps are provided.

Three are quite nicely laid out - Cargo Ship, Jungle, and Bunker - with plenty of weapons, ammo, and power-ups strewn about the battlefield. The other two maps, listed as Frozen and Void, are less compelling - particularly Void, where moving between suspended platforms via acceleration ramps is disorienting. These open air maps also aren't ideal with a small four-player headcount.

For all that N.O.V.A. does to earn criticism, it's important to recognise that potential lost isn't a flaw born. Despite objections to how multiplayer is set up and the derivative basis of the campaign, there's no denying the bombastic action. In other words, enjoy.
N.O.V.A.: Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance
Reviewer photo
Tracy Erickson | 17 December 2009
Extraordinarily polished gameplay and high production values guarantee a blast, even if N.O.V.A. lacks the originality necessary to be an all-time classic
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