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N.O.V.A. 2 Review: Epic Sci-Fi Shooter

This is the best kind of sequel—one that stays true to the source material, while expanding and improving all the vital elements of the game. You have to ask yourself when we’re going to start asking more from Gameloft, but N.O.V.A. 2 doesn’t deviate from their formula: Story takes a backseat as we’re treated to impressive visuals, tons of action, and gameplay with quite a bit of replay value thanks to the new upgrade system. And, of course, it’s as near to an exact Halo-clone as the iOS platform is likely to get. That comparison, while worn out, just can’t be ignored, especially since the sequel draws even deeper similarities.

Like I said, Gameloft has proven over and over that story is not their strong point. I’m beginning to hope that by some miracle, the new year will bring an entirely new writing staff to their offices . . . In N.O.V.A. 2 (Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance, in case you forgot), six years have passed since the original, and there is a civil war raging between the Terran Orbitals and the Human-Alien Alliance. Your character gets thrown into that mess, and is given a robotic female voice to guide you through the rest of the plot’s twists and turns. Their banter is sarcastic, familiar, and in the end, annoying. Sound familiar? Yeah, yeah. I guess we should just get over it by now.

You’ll feel right at home with the controls if you’ve played the first N.O.V.A., or any other iOS FPS for that matter. The options are all variations on the dual stick theme, with the additional option of turning on the gyroscope, which is worth experimenting with as it’s pretty cool, but won’t serve you very well in the long term (too much chaos!).

One of the sequel’s strongest points is its increased variety, which comes in the shape of more weapons, new breeds of enemies, an upgrade system, and mission types. Don’t be surprised if your opponents go invisible a lot more often, or are prone to launching through the air and hovering all around you. But it’s okay, cause you’ve got a huge arsenal, including more than a dozen weapons like the Alien Plasma Gun, Grenade Launcher, Dual Hand Guns, and Alien Laser Gun. You’re also equipped with three special powers, which allow you to Freeze, Slow Time, and use a Disc for melee combat . . . The new mission types mean that you’ll be piloting mechs, driving more vehicles, and of course getting yourself in frequent turret battles. This stuff has been done before, but N.O.V.A. 2 is a very complete package that contains it all. And it does a good job of delivering on what fans of the genre should expect.

The multiplayer is expanded to accommodate up to 10 players on 10 different maps. This is a good thing; however, after getting pretty deeply involved with the multiplayer from Gameloft’s Modern Combat 2, I was left feeling like the sci-fi elements of N.O.V.A. didn’t make for a better experience. If anything, the launch pads and portals just serve to distract from the already frantic task of playing an FPS on the small screen of the phone. Plus, the multiplayer map designs don’t make it easy to avoid these sci-fi touches, which are like land mines sprinkled across the maps just waiting to spring you through the air and away from your destination . . . The absence of Game Center is also causing many to complain, and it doesn’t seem likely to show up, since Gameloft is keen to use their own Gameloft LIVE.

There is plenty to appreciate about the second installment in the N.O.V.A. franchise. It misses excellency by relying too much on themes started by Halo and faltering in terms of story. But the gameplay is all there, and it looks fantastic. You’ll get hours of action from 12 chapters in the campaign, and the multiplayer shouldn’t be missed, either. If you’re a little tired of Modern Combat 2, this is the logical next game for you. Say what you will, Gameloft still has a pretty firm grasp on the lead when it comes to first person shooters, and this is further proof.

Our Score: 4 Out of 5

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