The most impressive Call of Duty game yet has landed on the iPhone, and it’s not even a Call of Duty game– It’s Modern Combat 2: Black Pegasus. Topping Modern Combat: Sandstorm in just about every way, this sequel hews closely to the CoD template to offer a robust campaign, plus the best online multiplayer mode we’ve seen from Gameloft yet. In short, our high expectations have been met and exceeded once again.
The single-player campaign is made up of 12 missions that require you to mow down thousands of enemies in environments ranging from lush jungles and barren deserts to office buildings and snow-covered mountains. And unlike in Modern Combat: Sandstorm, the enemies in this game have full A.I. So rather than standing in one spot and firing at you, they’ll react to your behavior, ducking behind cover or coming at you full-on as they see fit.
Smart enemies would be nothing without interesting levels to inhabit, and once again the developers of this game have nailed it. Each level is packed with exciting elements like quicktime events, exploding walls, and unique enemies. The whole campaign feels like a playground that’s cleverly designed to match the weapons at your disposal. You get far-away enemies begging to be sniped, tanks requiring heavy explosives to take out, and groups of bad guys in small rooms that a well timed grenade or flash bang will help you nix.
The enemies are no slouches, though, so you can rarely run into a room with guns blazing and expect to survive. Success requires strategy as well as accurate shooting. However, you will run into some glitches. Even if carefully approach a room, you’ll find the occasional enemy who can shoot you through a wall, which is annoying. Also, we miss having a cover mechanic, like the one in Brothers in Arms 2: Global Front that lets you hide behind walls and barricades with the tap of a button. But since there isn’t a cover mechanic in Modern Warfare, neither is there one in Modern Combat.
Though the game is fairly challenging, it gives you plenty of assistance if you want it. Like its predecessor (and like nearly all modern first-person shooters), any damage you take heals automatically if you stay out of the line of fire for a few seconds. An aim assistance mechanism that snaps your crosshair to nearby enemies is toggled on by default, but it can be turned off in the options menu. Also, there’s always an arrow onscreen to direct you to your next objective.
As in other Gameloft FPSes, the controls are spot-on. The default set-up worked just fine for us, but you can turn on gyro aiming if you have a fourth-gen device, or you can flip, rearrange, or adjust the controls at your leisure from the options menu.
Unlike the original Modern Combat, the multiplayer mode in this one doesn’t feel like an afterthought. In fact, it’s by far the best online mode we’ve seen in a Gameloft title to date. They’ve upped the ante in a number of ways. First, you get a varied selection of five maps and four modes to to choose from. Second, the online matches now support up to 10 players at a time (up from four in previous games). This makes a world of difference, because you’ll rarely have to hunt long for someone to frag.
But what really makes the multiplayer shine is that you now have a persistent character. Just like in the Call of Duty franchise, you level up as you play, which unlocks new weapons and skills that you can pick and choose from each time you go into a match. The character-tweaking mechanic isn’t as deep as the one in Eliminate Pro, but it’s more inviting to casual players and still feels extremely rewarding.
From the rich single-player campaign to the addictive multiplayer experience, Modern Combat 2: Black Pegasus is a terrific action game through and through. It’s loaded with enough content and player progression to keep you coming back for a long time to come. At least until N.O.V.A. 2 comes out, anyway.