The shooter series is preparing to deploy on mobile, and we got to try it out during E3.
Call of Duty isn't really a franchise associated with the mobile platform. In a world where FPS games on PC are championed as the greatest, Call of Duty has stood as a bastion for console gamers, with the esports scene even opting for controller over mouse and keyboard. It's the crème de la crème of console shooters, you might argue, but now it's making its way to touchscreens with the aptly titled Call of Duty: Mobile.
We had a brief hands-on session with this new entry in the franchise during E3 last week (devices included iPhone 7, Samsung S10+, and Pixel 3 phones, with cross-play across both ecosystems), and it certainly does feel like Call of Duty in a lot of ways. The developers on hand made it clear that this is taking some of the best features from across the Modern Warfare and Black Ops franchises and putting them into mobile form, which you won't be surprised to hear includes the likes of the Nuketown and Hijacked maps.
There's one thing we should make clear, however, and that's the transition from console to mobile is not smooth, but then again it's no more confusing than any switch from console to mobile. Going from controller to touchscreen is always tough, and this has many of the same features as other titles in the space, meaning you touch a button to shoot and another to toggle aiming down sights (ADS), with movement assigned to one on-screen stick and your sight being adjusted by dragging around the screen.
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We were also given two different comfort options regarding the shooting. The first one was marketed as the one for beginners, where you shoot whenever someone is in your line of sight (we actually found this harder since we couldn't dictate the rate of fire or exactly when we fired) or one with manual shooting, for those who like a bit more control. These two options should hopefully make the jump a bit less frightening for newbies, at least.
As we played everything felt familiar, which is a very good sign. Playing through Nuketown and Hijacked felt just as we remembered, with the same lines and tactics coming to the fore once again, and with the game running at a smooth 60 FPS it's definitely not a shoddy port by any means. That said, we found it hard to use the many controls on the screen at once, especially keeping tabs of scorestreaks down the bottom and other elements of the UI. We can't say exactly how this will fare in the long-term, but those coming directly from console should definitely expect an adjustment period.
If you enjoy classic Call of Duty multiplayer you'll be pleased to hear that the core modes are all there, including clans from day one, voice chat, a ping system, cosmetics, and ranks, all of which we've come to expect from the veteran franchise. There will be plenty to aim for and keep you coming back, it seems, and this will apply to the various weapons at your disposal as well.
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With regards to battle royale, which was first introduced to the series with 2018's Black Ops 4, we can expect that here too, and the map we're going to drop into is actually comprised of various locations from across the franchise, like Firing Range, for example. Here, however, there will be different classes like the Ninja with its grappling hook, another with EMP drones, one with deployable cover, and a clown that has a zombie-spawning robot.
You can play in solo, pairs, or in squads, and there's also the choice between third-person and first-person, which is interesting considering that Call of Duty is known for its FPS action. Presumably, this has been done to align with competitors like Fortnite and PUBG, and players will be matched with others who have chosen the same perspective.
We're promised more "surprises" when it comes to the battle royale map, since we didn't see a whole lot of it, and there are other quality of life features such as automatically picking up better loot when you come across it, meaning less time fiddling in the menus. We also saw an icon for something we're almost certain was Zombies in the main menu, but Activision was coy about confirming that.
It may be the most obvious and unhelpful statement to say that Call of Duty: Mobile is just Call of Duty on mobile, but it's true, because it feels like it has the same fluid gameplay, mechanics, format, and maps that we've been playing on since the series became a smash hit over 10 years ago, just this time complete with all the features you'd expect on mobile, for better and for worse. It seems like a good translation of the shooter into mobile form, but it might not be enough to get those on board who don't fancy controlling such an intense FPS game with their thumbs alone.