I've been playing first-person shooter games on the PC since the days of Wolfenstein 3D. I love how they immerse you into their world and you feel like you're right there on the battlefield. Whether you're fighting against Nazis or outer space aliens, first-person shooters were always fun to play. Can an iOS FPS like N.O.V.A. 3 be just as awesome on the new iPad or iPhone?
I'll start by saying I suck at playing first-person shooters with a controller. I'll go online with my 360 and just get owned by little kids with much better controller skills than me. The closest I ever came to actually being decent at a FPS with a controller was Goldeneye multiplayer back in the day. And that was with the map turned off and cardboard taped down the middle of the TV so we couldn't cheat and see where our opponents were. I'm no better on at them on the iPhone and iPad, though with N.O.V.A. 3 I quickly got the hang of it, and I was even doing pretty good in the game's multiplayer. But I'll get to that in a minute.
Continuing the storyline from the previous N.O.V.A. entries by Gameloft, you play as Kal Wardin trying to retrieve artifacts, fight the Volterite, stare at an android built like a Victoria's Secret model and save the day. Typical storyline stuff that you don't really care about once the game begins. Gameloft seems to know what they're doing with this franchise because N.O.V.A. 3 looked incredible on the new iPad. This looks like something I would play on my gaming rig at home. The graphics are awesome, the light and shading was really well done and the character models looked great. Ragdoll physics as well? Why bother playing on my PC when I've got PC-like quality graphics on my mobile device? Oh, that right ... because I aim like I'm playing in Bizarro world.
Controls are the usual FPS kind for mobile devices. Move with your left thumb, aim and shoot with your right. You can also sprint, jump, reload, switch weapons, etc. Nothing groundbreaking here. Controls felt very tight. If you aim like you've just snorted 75 bags of cocaine like I do when playing shooters on tablets, then the auto-aim assist was a nice feature. It won't do everything for you, but it will lock on when your crosshairs are near an enemy. You will always be more accurate when you zoom in using the gun's scope instead of spraying and praying. You have regenerative health, just don't get hit too many times or you'll die and have to start over from the last checkpoint.
You have the typical assortment of weapons -- regular gun, assault rifle, shotgun, rocket launcher, lightning gun, grenades, etc. At certain points in the game you'll get to pilot machines like giant mechs or man the turret on the back of a military vehicle. Fun stuff but sometimes it's hard to lock on to an enemy when you're manning the gun turrets. Trying to aim with your finger was hit-and-miss but blowing away other mechs while in your mech was pretty cool.
As the game progresses so does the storyline. You'll meet various characters along the way, and the game really picks up once you learn what your real goal is and you're teleported into outer space. If you thought the graphics on Earth looked cool, wait until you see the stuff later on in the game. New enemies, weapons and goals turn N.O.V.A. 3 into a whole new game once you leave Earth. It was great because it felt like I was getting so much game for the $6.99 price I paid.
Loading times took a while. One time I thought the game had froze, but it was actually loading. The next time it did it, the game decided to crash on me, so that sucked. I didn't even have any apps running in the background. The bigger the games are, the more likely they seem to crash on iPhones and iPads. It's just like playing on the PC! This sucker clocks in at a whopping 1.44 GB, so don't download unless you're using wi-fi; otherwise you'll be waiting a while.
Multiplayer was a lot of fun. Create an account (which was quick and painless) and jump into one of the many game modes available. Free-for-All was always my cup of tea, even though I got my ass handed to me multiple times. No lag or connectivity issues playing online, and you upgrade your character as you play, earning trophies and completing achievements. Once you finish the single-player experience, multiplayer will keep your attention for hours and hours.
N.O.V.A. 3 is a pretty awesome action game. I was constantly playing it and despite some minor hiccups, it was enjoyable the entire time. The graphics are fantastic, the gameplay is very smooth, the music and sound effects rock and it's so polished they could probably get $30 if they released this thing over Steam for PC players. The only bad thing is now I have to wait for N.O.V.A. 4 to come out. Hurry up Gameloft!