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NOVA 3 Review: Gameloft Doesn’t Mess With Success

“Don’t mess with success.” It’s an old adage, but one Gameloft takes to heart with the release of NOVA 3 , the latest sequel in their most successful franchise. NOVA 3 is a louder, better-looking NOVA 2, and that’s all it needs to be to stand out as one of the best FPS experiences on iOS.

First of all, do note that this is a hefty download — 1.9 GB. Yeah, there’s that new iPad Retina penalty in force. In fact, it requires double that space to download and install OTA. If you’re the type who still syncs with a laptop or desktop, consider using it here.

And trust me, you’ll want to make the effort. If you enjoyed the first two NOVA games, and if you’d wished Mass Effect: Infiltrator had been a better game, then NOVA 3 will make you happy. Like the first two games, this one has you taking on the role of Kal Warden, super-soldier, as he travels the universe and once again saves humanity from the Volterites. Gameloft has improved their voice acting over the years, but their plot and scripts still leave something to be desired. Which isn’t a big deal; the plot here is just as secondary to the action as it was in the first two games. They’re like summer movies: empty calories with plenty of explosions.

The gameplay is comfortably familiar, for the most part, and the controls haven’t changed much, either. You make your way through levels, following waypoints, gathering weapons, and gunning down enemies. You’ll feel like a bit of a cheat using the auto-aim, but the game is designed assuming you’ll use it and you’ll go crazy trying to aim without it. Occasionally there’s a bit of other stuff to do — push a button, blow something up — but thankfully these moments are brief and don’t get in the way of the run-and-gun.

The worst moments of the game, for me, were the ones where the game left traditional FPS mode. For example, the jeep-driving levels are almost astonishingly bad, considering how good everything else is. Kal looks like a store mannequin posed on his turret, and aiming the gun while in this mode is hideously inaccurate. It’s a good thing these parts are over quickly!

Graphically, this game looks great. Everything is elevated a level above NOVA 2, and there have been some redesigns to the look of familiar elements (the guns, Kal’s armor) to keep it interesting. The environmental details are excellent, with plenty of little textural details and interesting environmental effects. I went back and looked at some screenshots of the original NOVA, and could immediately tell that we were in a whole other league here. It’s a good-looking game.

You would think that the level of graphical detail might hinder the game, but for the most part, during gameplay, the game runs smoothly. Not so much the cut scenes; I was playing the game in part on my iPhone 4S, and even with that device I sometimes noticed choppy lag in cinematics and moments of heavy display. That said, the game otherwise played well on the iPhone 4S. Surprisingly, it also performed admirably on my original iPad, albeit with reduced graphics. Gameloft really nailed the Universal element here. Which is good, because I much prefer playing these sorts of games on my iPad!

Like its predecessor, NOVA 3 has a solid multiplayer mode. It’s pretty standard fare compared to other Gameloft FPS and 3PS games. You’ve got deathmatches, team battles, freeze tag, and capture the flag all on tap. One thing that frustrated the heck out of me was jetpacks; they’re way OP and will hopefully be addressed in a future update. Other than that, it’s a fun romp (at least until the inevitable hackers crack the game and ruin it).

With NOVA 3, Gameloft shows that they can do console-level gaming on the iOS better than just everyone else out there. While the story is thin and the dialogue corny, this game has got it where it counts: gun in hand, running for cover and shooting bad guys. It’s worth playing.

Our Score: 4.5 out of 5

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