N.O.V.A. 3, the third iteration in Gameloft’s Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance series, is now available from the app store. Kal Wardin returns to kick butt and take names in one of the slickest FPSs we’ve ever played on a mobile device.
N.O.V.A. 3 -- Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance Pros:
- Console-quality presentation with adrenaline-fueled gameplay and immersive environments
- Clear and crisp audio
- Typical Gameloft FPS controls that are still the best available
- Lengthy single-player campaign and outstanding multiplayer mode with 12-player matches and several game styles
N.O.V.A. 3 -- Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance Cons:
- Button locations cannot be customized; crouch button is missing
- Random glitches (repeating phrases endlessly, auto-moving and getting stuck, etc.)
Picking up mere months after N.O.V.A. 2’s conclusion, the assassination of our President has led to drastic decisions meant to prevent civil war. An urgent call to action has brought Kal Wardin back into service, where his brand of justice leaves scores of enemies in its wake. The single-player Campaign spans 10 expansive levels across a variety of environments, starting in bombed-out San Francisco and moving to several intergalactic locales. Kal’s latest adventure begins when he crashes his craft and finds himself in the midst of a firefight, joining up with a small number of soldiers to beat back the opposition. He always has a number of objectives pushing him forward, giving him concrete goals to complete to further the story. A small waypoint arrow offers assistance if you ever get confused, and a distance marker even spells out how far you are from the next significant location along your journey. Reaching these points often initiates the next battle sequence, where Kal and crew will be required to “clear the room” before moving on. Heavy action is broken up with cut scenes and exposition, but the bulk of your time will be spent under fire. Gameplay is as you’d expect if you’ve played previous versions, but the level of polish and excitement continue to improve with each subsequent release.
Graphically, N.O.V.A. 3 looks terrific, leveraging every bit of its huge file size to add great detail, shading and lighting effects, etc. It’s certainly one of the small handful of games that approximate the presentation quality of its console brethren. The environments each have a unique look, and battle areas are large and full of nooks and protective barriers. The audio is of equally high quality, creating an extremely immersive experience with its crisp and clear sound. The controls are typical Gameloft, using a virtual joypad for movements, screen swipes to look/aim, and a dedicated fire button for blasting baddies. There are also small buttons for distance aiming, running, jumping, tossing grenades, and using your special power. You can swap among a variety of weapons by swiping the weapon indicator in the upper right corner, while tapping reloads so that you’re always at the ready. Frequent weapon drops by downed enemies ensure that you’ll always have a handy weapon nearby. Health is regenerative, so you’ll need to take cover to heal after taking damage. Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be a take-cover button among the several that clutter the screen, a minor but significant oversight.
Replay value is very good, as the single-player campaign is enjoyable enough to entertain us on subsequent playthroughs. The online multiplayer option, however, will be the feature that’s most likely to keep players coming back months from now. Battles support up to 12 players, with a half-dozen available modes that include Capture The Flag, Free-For-All, and the like. It can be a terrific experience provided you don’t run into the typical hacker tricks that always creep into these games. A universal app carrying a premium $6.99 price tag, N.O.V.A. 3 is an outstanding 4.5-Dimple stud.
N.O.V.A. 3 - Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance Review,