PSN Review: Modern Combat: Domination



If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Gameloft are perhaps the most complimentary games developer around. Alongside putting together excellent video game translations of popular board games and mobile Ubisoft spin-offs, Gameloft have carved a niche for themselves similar to Asylum Entertainment’s range of “mockbuster” films – titles that so closely and blatantly resemble well-known franchises that it’s baffling that nobody meets the blunt end of a lawsuit. But while Asylum’s biggest concern is with cranking out cheap knock-offs to coincide with their big-budget doppleganger, letting little things like quality fall far by the wayside, they could learn a hell of a lot from their gaming counterpart.

Strangely, Gameloft’s overt mobile platform homages to big-name games (like Halo-aping N.O.V.A. or GTA clone Gangstar) are surprisingly well-crafted, incredibly enjoyable games in their own right – budget titles in price, but certainly not quality. With Modern Combat: Domination, a PSN version of their Call of Duty-inspired mobile first-person shooter series, they set their sights even higher, and though there’s no danger of it toppling Activision’s cash cow, it’s certainly a polished, high-quality and immensely fun low-cost alternative.
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Taking hefty inspiration from Modern Warfare and Counter-Strike, the FPS gameplay and map design will be incredibly familiar to anyone accustomed to playing the incestuously derivative pool of online shooters around nowadays. With a choice of six gameplay modes, ranging from escort missions to good old-fashioned free-for-all deathmatches, you’ll assemble an arsenal from a primary rifle or shotgun, a secondary pistol, some grenades (and maybe some armour if you’re having an especially bullet-attracting day – health doesn’t recover here) and set about killing your enemies in one of the five-strong selection of varied maps, from desert bunkers to office buildings. Successful kills nets you cash to replenish, exchange or upgrade your weapon selection with every respawn, along with XP which unlocks a wider selection of weapons as you level up.

Modern Combat offers a just-the-essentials game design, tossing out a lot of the added bells, whistles and perks that many similar FPS games incorporate, but the core necessities of this no-frills game are as smooth, sharp and addictive as you could hope for. Graphically, Modern Combat isn’t any system strainer, but it plays smoothly, and looks surprisingly great, especially for a downloadable title. The selection of five maps will certainly feel like familiar, almost obligatory landscape choices, but they’re diverse, expansive and well-designed enough to offer a fun and varied play experience. Likewise, the choice of play modes (Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Escort, Boom-and-Bust, Extraction and Domination) offer a suitably wide assortment of styles to provide even more bang for your thrifty buck.
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The inclusion of PlayStation Move compatibility is a nice idea to help set Modern Combat apart from the pack, but in practice, the wand controls are little more than an unwieldy gimmick that prove a distant second to the precision of the trusty DualShock, which offers an infinitely more exact, intuitive and comfortable experience. The addition of AI bots to help fill out the numbers until more flesh-and-blood players join the game is handy, too, and though they aren’t the brightest pixel-people bulbs in the drawer, they do a solid enough job of dodging bullets and providing a minor challenge (you can opt to not allow computer-controlled players in custom games, too). On the whole, Modern Combat’s gameplay experience is often fast, frantic and addictive, with the XP system and selection of weapons and upgrades – though not as complex and varied as some games – a well implemented and fun addition.

A minor collection of quibbles keep Modern Combat from contending fully with the big-leaguers, though. Sadly, there’s no breakdown of the game’s six modes on the menu – the only real way to know what mode entails is by selecting and jumping into them, and while you’ll naturally do that at some point anyway, it feels like an oversight not to offer even a brief description of each mode. There’s no option to save your custom game set-up, either, so if you fine-tune a game style to your suiting – a 10 minute deathmatch without bots on the ‘Factory’ level, for instance – and the game fails to connect to a lobby, as often happens, you’ll be bumped back to the main menu and will have to retune your set-up again. There’s also the occasionally problematic issue of in-game accuracy; emptying a full magazine into someone at close range can sometimes have all the impact of tossing a wet towel in the direction of your opponent, even on a well-connected game with zero lag issues (though, in fairness, it’s an issue endemic to the FPS genre at large and your mileage may vary).
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The one major complaint sure to be levelled at the game will undoubtedly be that it isn’t much different from the wide flock of military shooters around, but by the same token, that’s just as much a compliment: For £6.29, Gameloft have put together a bargain game experience that offers much of the fast-paced, explosive thrills of Modern Warfare 2 at a mere fraction of the price without ever actively feeling like a cheap title in the process.

The jump from mobile platforms – where their budget homages to big-name games filled a void on a system that didn’t offer the “real” counterpart – to home consoles for which everyone and their grandmothers own a Call of Duty game puts the big, valid question of whether you’d need to buy this if you own that in the crosshairs. But if you’ve been holding off on the comparatively pricey franchise shooters or just want more FPS action, Modern Combat: Domination is a solid, shockingly well made title that’s astoundingly great value for money to boot.

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Modern Combat: Domination is available to buy on the PlayStation Network Store now priced £6.29/$7.99.