One of the iPhone's best first person shooters.
N.O.V.A. is the closest you'll get to playing Halo on the iPhone. Gameloft's stunning first person shooter comes loaded with 13 levels full of aliens, along with a small handful of cool weapons to kill them with and plenty of eye candy. It's both impressive looking and fun to play, a real showpiece for Apple's device. Just don't expect much from the story.
Set in the distant future, N.O.V.A. revolves around a bunch of artificial satellites (called the Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance) attacked by extraterrestrials known as the Judges. In typical action movie/game fashion, a retired marine (his name's Kal Wardin) returns for one more tour of duty. A bunch of cut scenes explain the narrative in greater detail, but unless you're hard up for some science fiction, we suggest skipping most of the dialogue, which is average at best.
Storytelling, however, isn't the game's best feature. N.O.V.A. is without question the coolest looking FPS on the iPhone, thanks to a smooth running engine and razor sharp visuals. Everything about this app, including the weapons (assault rifle, pistol, shotgun, rocket launcher), enemies (some of these guys look exactly like Halo's Brutes) and environments (spaceship, forest) screams high quality; better looking than some PlayStation 2 games. It's all standard looking stuff that we've seen in other first person shooters, but the fact that it runs on the iPhone is a joy to see.
That helps mask the game's unimpressive objectives. While Gameloft put a lot of effort into the graphics, N.O.V.A. plays like other games in the genre, as it sends you from one side of the spaceship to the other, flipping switches, hacking item boxes and killing a set number of monsters before gaining access to a new room. It's essentially a carbon copy of not just Halo, but also Doom 3, Prey and Duke Nukem.
Thankfully, that doesn't hurt the game, especially because it plays wonderfully. Gameloft did the best it could with the technology, with an on screen d-pad for movement, fire button and aiming by dragging a finger across the screen. You'll die plenty of times and think, "if only I had dual analog sticks", but for the most part, N.O.V.A.'s compelling single player campaign will keep you shooting for several hours.
When you beat it, we strongly suggest hopping online and fragging other iPhone users via multiplayer. The game has both Wi-Fi and Internet settings, and we had no trouble connecting to a four-person deathmatch (two players via Bluetooth). The game never lags, and when one person drops, another one joins almost immediately. On top of that, the game tracks your stats and posts them to an online leaderboard. There are only five maps, but we expect Gameloft to release more in the coming months.
Considering it costs $6.99, selling it shouldn't be a problem. N.O.V.A. lacks originality, but its designers made up for that with a technically sound and enjoyable shooter that is one of the best games on the iPhone and worthy of a sequel. If you're one of those people who thinks the iPhone can't compete with the DS and PSP, give this app a try, and save mankind while you're at it.
What's Hot: Superb visuals and weapon noises, excellent controls given the platform, enjoyable shooting.
What's Not: Drab storytelling, average voice acting.