Granted, the graphics hardly blew anyone away, but it was hard not to be inspired at seeing such a title played out on a phone.
Since then Gameloft has honed its engine and taken the lead in the not-quite-a-genre of "games that look remarkably similar to others". Modern Combat has become the company's flagship series. With Modern Combat 2 Gameloft expanded the boundaries of what one would expect on phone or tablet. It was solid package; strong Multiplayer, if a weak and emaciated main story.
With Modern Combat 3: The Fallen Nation, the publisher is once more cuing its take on the FPS genre alongside the bigger console releases. Here then is the obviously borrowed inspiration from the Battlefield and Modern Warfare titles. So close is the latter source for inspiration, that's its difficult to distinguish the two.
After a logo reminiscent of Battlefield 3's art style, we're thrown into a story about [country A], who has teamed with [B] and [C], and now presents a huge threat to [X].
KPR is the name of the terrorist group, which consists of Russia, Korea and Pakistan, and while the plot of FPS titles rarely are Nobel Prize material, it quickly (and surprisingly) becomes apparent that Gameloft Montreal has really tried here to craft something decent here.
Virtually all the criticisms from the developer's previous releases have been blown away. Voices are in sync with character movement, there are plenty of in-game cutscenes, even a few QTEs that fit the situation, and there's a on/off toggle option for blood. The sound effects are punchy, though the music is typically uninspired dramatic orchestral pieces. But it's impressive to see how far Modern Combat 3 is ahead of nearest rivals.
Gameloft has also added in a good selection of customisation options for the controls. Move the buttons as you want, resize them. Alter the sensitivity of the vertical and horizontal movements. In short: adjust to how you prefer to play. The amount of choice must be applauded.
Over thirteen missions (with four difficulty levels) you'll be sent on assignment across the world for the game's five-hour long story mode. Whether it's barren mountains of Pakistan, desolate locations in Siberia or tight city streets, or the good mix of weaponry on offer, Modern Combat 3 delivers.
But it also provides much needed variety, like when you take the role of a AC-130 gunner and in the best Modern Warfare style protect your allies from the air. It's good quality - and not in an iPhone or iPad way, but in that at times its closer to a console experience, thanks to the quality of textures and the detailing.
Trying to find some to criticise with the campaign, we could knock that there aren't any particular stand-out set pieces or truly memorable locales, and that occasionally NPCs halt due to us not following the scripted - and expected - routes.
The iPad 2 version really shows off the finer details. Sparks from torn wires, surroundings bathed in colourful lights from neon tubes. The frame-rate was constantly smooth, while fog, smoke, lens-flares, shadows and even blowing snow ensures the mood is retained. We cannot recall having enjoyed so much diversity in a mobile title's environments before. And it's quite an achievement when you consider what Gameloft has already worked on the platform.
Yet the real meat of the game exists in the multiplayer, as Gameloft shifts the perception of what you'd expect from a mobile multiplayer. There's Perks, multiple game modes, a good range of settings and options to tweak. You can play local or online multiplayer - the latter allowing you to create games for just you and your friends.
Money and XP are earned through combat. The latter gives you your standard Perk increases, the former is divided into two bands - blue and yellow. Blue cash purchases can add some slightly unfair improvements to your character, but these upgrades can only be used in single player and local multiplayer.
The latter gives you access to everything from new guns, better reload speeds to profile pictures and kill comments ("is your device low on batteries?" a early highlight). And everything can be earned in game. You've the option to buy improvements via real-world cash, but since these are just weapon load-outs and fun avatar-stuff you cannot purchase yourself unfair advantage.
There's also Achievements and extra challenges rolled into combat, so there's plenty to do once the single player portion is completed.
Muliplayer offers up to twelve players per match, and with six maps with seven different and varied game modes, that's a lot of bang for your buck. Fans of Counter-Strike, Battlefield and Modern Warfare will quite likely be able to find their favourite multiplayer mode in the collection. There's even killstreaks, and everything is adjustable. If you haven't the time to set up your own game, there's the option of random battles.
Battle delivers classic every player for themselves. Team Battle is, well...you know. same with Capture the Flag. And Zone Control. Destruction leaves one team protect any hacking devices, while the other team must destroy them. Bomb Squad has one team setting explosives, the other dismantling them.
As you can see, its a good range of game modes. Yet the biggest surprise this time is the maps' quality and size. Where Modern Combat 2 had somewhat shrunk layouts, here we've got massive areas with plenty of thoughtful design decisions, and cut across mountainous areas, compact residential areas, warehouses, missile silos and snow-covered bases.
This is a lot of words for a iOS game review, yet its delivered with a great degree of excitement. Even if you'd dismissed Gameloft's catalogue before, this will easily reverse your decision. This is simply the best game from Gameloft for a long, long time and the best shooter on iOS.
Version 1.0 has been tested on iPad 2 and iPhone 4S. File size 1.05 GB. Published for Android in late 2011.