Macworld - The protagonist of the N.O.V.A. series tells his AI sidekick that this time, really, he's through. He's going to quit. But like any good Space Marine, he reloads his rifle and jumps back into the fray anyway. Such a moment fairly well encapsulates the N.O.V.A. series: It's a tired and clichA(c)d sci-fi shooter franchise but hey, why stop now?
Like many of Gameloft's titles, N.O.V.A 3 resembles a knock-off carnival prize version of a major console title: in this case, Halo. And while the comparisons are obvious--faceless Space Marine with a blue female AI sidekick, alien enemies and allies--Gameloft seems to take the core game aspects of the first-person shooter genre and not appreciate what people actually enjoy about them.
N.O.V.A. 3 sees series protagonist (and world-weary, sarcastic Space Marine) Kal Wardin back in action as he crash lands on Earth before being sent to retrieve several artifacts throughout the galaxy to atone for humanity's sins. The character seems exhausted by every encounter, waving off instructions from his AI sidekick and other characters like a man who has seen it all before. No, he doesn't need the alien to tell him where the engine room is or that he needs to find two keys--this is all old hat for him.
And even if you haven't played the other games in the series, you've pretty much seen it all before, too: There aren't many breaks in your constant slogging through sci-fi hallway after sci-fi hallway looking for a key, only to backtrack and do it all again after mowing down a new crop of the same three enemy types you keep confronting.
There's a dearth of cinematic moments, boss fights, or breaks in the repetitious gunplay. The nods to Halo seem to go as far as "look, N.O.V.A. also has an ancient space ship to explore," and "we have evil space aliens and rebel aliens too," and "our blue female AI sidekick is just as sassy." Unfortunately, the character development and wide-open levels of the source material are nowhere to be found here.
But really, plot, level design and character are trappings to an FPS. The main course is the shooting mechanic.
Thankfully, Gameloft largely nails the control scheme. Moving and shooting is still a clunky enterprise on the iPhone and iPad, but the auto-aim function with the iron sight makes it a breeze to quickly dispatch enemies. Firing grenades, mines, missile launchers and rifles is fluid, a welcome reprieve from the usual stiff affair of most iOS shooters. The online multiplayer and in-game upgrade system speak to how much this series has evolved. After several years of developing games for the platform, it seems Gameloft has finally figured out how to create an enjoyable control setup for first-person shooter.
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