N.O.V.A. 2: Near Orbital Vanguard Alliance
Master Chief...we mean Kal Wardin, returns to make living things dead in this futuristic FPS.
Gameloft delivered a Halo like experience to iPhone owners with N.O.V.A., a sci-fi themed first person shooter with tons of aliens and a handful of cool guns to kill them with. Now the publisher's back with the aptly titled sequel, N.O.V.A. 2, which bests its predecessor with snazzier graphics, vehicles and significantly improved multiplayer.
Once again, you step into the space boots of hero Kal Wardin, who grabs his assault rifle and charges through a small army of soldiers, aliens and robots to save colonists from death. That's about as deep as the story gets and that's fine by us, because the narrative easily takes a backseat to the action.
For the most part, there's little that Gameloft does that we haven't experienced before. Over the course of the adventure, we laid waste to bad guys with dual pistols, an assault rifle, shotgun, rocket launcher, sniper rifle and alien plasma gun. Later, we hopped onto a gun turret to shred enemies, jumped off a cliff and even piloted a futuristic bike and giant mech, which is by far one of the game's coolest highlights. The developers also spiced things up by introducing an ability that lets us temporarily freeze the opposition and hit them with a melee attack.
The controls, though, take some getting used to, but this has more to do with the iPhone and iPad's limitations than the developers' technical wizardry. In typical fashion, you move with a virtual stick, aim by dragging a finger on the opposite side of the screen and fire by hitting the assigned button; other functions, like weapon switching and reloading, are easy to do.
On the downside, it's tough to move and shoot with pinpoint precision, since the same finger can't be in two places at once. We also think there are too many icons, which makes pressing them on the iPhone's tiny screen a bit difficult. It's much easier on the iPad, but since Gameloft neglected to release an HD version, the game loses a bit of its visual luster when magnified 2X.
On that note, N.O.V.A. 2 is quite a looker, with realistically flowing water, lush forests (complete with man eating plants), mountains in the distance, detailed characters and plenty of cool little touches that make this title one of the premier show pieces for the iPhone 4.
That said, the most impressive feature is without question the ten-person multiplayer, which runs silky smooth. We had no problem jumping into a match, and the handful of different modes (Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Freeze Tag, InstaGib) adds plenty of variety. In addition, you earn experience the more you play, and the game keeps track of your kills and deaths, which automatically post to an online leaderboard. Plus, if you downloaded the original N.O.V.A., you'll automatically earn bonus XP and gain access to advanced weapons. Nice touch.
All of this makes N.O.V.A. 2 enjoyable. It may not be the most original first person shooter, but Gameloft did a great job delivering an action packed and fun frag fest bolstered by a sweet MP mode.
Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. Requires iOS 3.1.3 or later.
What's Hot: Ten-person multiplayer matches, lengthy single player campaign, a ton of weapons, upgrades, vehicles, gyroscope controls, perks if you downloaded the original N.O.V.A.
What's Not: Cluttered screen is difficult to navigate on the iPhone, no HD version.