Gameloft's Modern Combat series has long been the benchmark for what is possible in bringing a fully "console-like" first-person shooter to the iOS platform. As you're probably aware, the Modern Combat games take quite a few cues from the modern military-themed Call of Duty console titles, and though that can make them feel a bit uninspired at times, they're still stellar mobile experiences that offer fairly satisfying single-player campaigns and robust online multiplayer options.

Their latest entry in the series, Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour, continues in the footsteps of its predecessors with an intense single-player campaign and a suite of full-featured multiplayer modes, both with big improvements over previous entries. I was able to sit down for a good solid hour with Modern Combat 4 at Gameloft's San Francisco office last month, and although things felt rough around the edges, I definitely enjoyed the hell out of my time with this highly-anticipated upcoming title.

If you've played other Modern Combat games, you'll be familiar with the basics of Zero Hour. The default control setup was pretty standard. A floating virtual joystick handles your movement, and dragging on the right side of the screen takes care of aiming. Virtual buttons for firing, crouching, running, and throwing grenades reside along the edges of the screen. There's also a button for ADS, or aiming down sights, which gives you a slightly more zoomed in and steady aim with your weapon as opposed to when firing from the hip.

The usual variations of virtual control options should be available when the game ships, too, though I was quite adept with the default setup. There's also support for gyroscope aiming, though I've never been able to get very comfortable with that sort of thing, and I'd imagine support for Gameloft's sort of strange Duo Gamer controller will be in there as well.

As is typical with games like this, the opening scene of Modern Combat 4 is incredibly intense and wastes no time throwing you right into the thick of things. Reminiscent of storming the beaches at Normandy in the famous scene from 'Saving Private Ryan', you and your squad will arrive via boat to the beaches of Hawaii with all manner of hell breaking loose around you. You'll then follow your squad commander as he leads you inland and through both indoor and outdoor environments picking off enemies as they come. There are various objectives to complete along the way before finally arriving at an extraction point which signals the end of the level.

The gunplay in Modern Combat 4 is satisfying. Enemies displayed intelligence as they utilized cover, split up to try and flank your group, and were generally aware of when it's a bad time to be out in the open. The combat scenarios still had that kind of mechanical feel which is typical of these games – progress a bit through the level, wipe out a group of baddies, progress a bit further, run into more baddies, and so on – but a smarter enemy AI and the use of the Havok physics engine for enemy death animations creates more of a natural vibe. Enemies will instantly go ragdoll once killed, creating some interesting death animations, and they appear to utilize their skills in different ways each time you play. I ran through the same section of the first mission twice, and it felt different enough each time that it helped eliminate the cookie-cutter feeling that these scripted sort of events can sometimes create.

Another welcome aspect of the game, and one that's often used in previous Modern Combat games and other similar titles, is breaking up the gunplay in various interesting ways. For example, at one point I encountered a quick-time event where I had to defend a knife attack with swipes. Another time I was able to remotely control a miniature tank as it forged its way ahead of our squad, allowing me to lay waste to as many bad guys as I could using its turret in order to clear the path ahead. Similarly, at one point I hopped in the back of a military jeep and manned its turret, being speedily swept through an on-rails section where I got to – you guessed it – blast away at more bad guys. These sections were fun and definitely offer a nice change of pace from the regular shooting.

While the Campaign should offer roughly 12 levels and about 10-15 hours of play (it took me a good 45 minutes just to beat the first level), that's really only half of the package in Modern Combat 4. Gameloft already offers arguably the best online first-person shooter experience on iOS, and they're looking to improve upon it further. Expanded player classes, the ability to call in more support vehicles and items, and more match types are all in the cards, though sadly I wasn't able to see any of this in the build I was shown. There will also be 6 slots for different weapon load outs, along with unlockable perks and items to customize your weapons with. This part is actually very cool, giving you a fully 3D model of your weapon that you're able to rotate around and inspect as you choose where and what you want to change on it directly with a touch.

One sore spot in regards to the online multiplayer in practically all of Gameloft's games is hacking. There are some bad apples that will go online and use various glitches and hacks to get a leg up in competition, and Gameloft is very aware how this can sour the experience for others. It's a hard problem to manage, though, but they did assure me that they're taking additional steps with Modern Combat 4 in terms of how they monitor and deal with this problem from their end, as well as giving players the ability to report abuse themselves from within the game. It's a constantly evolving problem, and it'll be interesting to see how well it can be managed this time around.

I mentioned earlier that the game felt rough around the edges, and that was readily apparent with just at a casual glance at the graphics. Jagged edges and blurry textures were everywhere, but I was assured that was normal for the state the game was in and that the visuals would be getting massive improvements before the game actually ships. Don't get me wrong, it still looked impressive, but those tiny details definitely stood out.

Gameloft wasn't playing around, though, as the footage below was taken from a newer version of Modern Combat 4 and just like they said it's a night and day difference from the version I played. You can definitely tell they flipped the switch on all the graphical bells and whistles. A few gameplay glitches and hiccups occurred in my preview build, like sections of a level not loading properly or new events not triggering, and these should be taken care of before Modern Combat 4 hits the App Store as well. However, visually it's rather breathtaking at this point in its development, and if your'e able to I'd suggest watching this trailer in full screen 1080p, because it looks insane.

I was impressed with my time with Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour, but then again I've been impressed with every Modern Combat game on iOS the past 3 years. They really are just remarkable titles for a mobile platform. This new entry feels extremely similar to its older siblings, but with marked improvements in several key areas. Basically, just what a sequel should do. It's not reinventing the series in any way, but looks to offer another solid single-player campaign to play through and a full-fledged online multiplayer suite that should last gamers for months and possibly years to come, hopefully with less hacking problems.

Gameloft is still planning on launching Modern Combat 4 before the end of the year, and we'll be sure to let you know when a firm release date has been set. Until that time give our forums a look for further discussion and point your browser to Modern-Combat.net for more information and developer diary videos as the release of the next big iOS first-person shooter draws near.

  • http://twitter.com/ezonecom Simon Edis

    Hard to believe this is on a mobile device. We've come a long way in a short time!

    • http://www.facebook.com/deonaldi.v Deonaldi Vargas

      True It just fascinating how technology has came in such a long way. Not only we have such wonderful console and pc games, yet we have mobile games that are just as good and have the upper benefit of taking it where ever we go.

    • Greyskull

      Unfortunately, unlike consoles and PCs, our storage space has not caught up with the file size requirements of these games.

      • ihd1234567890

        Highest we are at is the iPad 4 128g.

  • http://www.facebook.com/deonaldi.v Deonaldi Vargas

    Ohh I am so so exited for this game. I'm just praying so badly it comes before December hits. Aim just a fan when it comes to the story line and the multiplayer. I just hope they don't experience the same problems they had last year, when the multiplay part was spammed with tons of hackers. I am elitephantomx and I will be your first customer and your biggest fan.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000532273286 Nasser Kandari

      When will it come for iPad and does it work with iPad 1 I wish it does because I have iPad 1 and 3 but mostly I use my iPad 1 so help

      • Deonaldi

        Well the answer to that is a no. I have started to notice that high powered games like this are no longer supporting (iPad 1) or (iPod and iPhones 3rd generation). If the do support it I guarantee you it will be super lagish or the game might crash to much.

  • http://www.facebook.com/deonaldi.v Deonaldi Vargas

    The big question here is with just a great game like this what is going to be the price and are they going to make a SD version than a HD version. Price is not my concern but to other it surely is.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/42YS2N67LP6IDUKBZUUCMSZW7M Pray For Death

      Gameloft's premium titles tend to start out at $6.99

  • evilsearch

    just......fascinating. thank you gameloft for all the effort you put in making this game. i just can't  imagine how nova 4 will look like when it release next year.

    • B3nlok

      Nova 4? You know what this reminds me of?
      "Roads? Where we're going we don't need...roads."

  • jeffyg3

    All the previous Modern Combat single player campaigns have been pretty mediocre, but this one looks like it might actually be good this time.  Can't wait to try

  • Himmat Singh

    Wow....impressive. Water simulation seems to be good. There's a lot of particle effects. Graphics look super clear and sharp. Might just redefine our definition of "great graphics" for a mobile game. 

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/H2ZEESLCD62COAZ4N7WQ6XJ2EA Lazar

      Water simulation are simple tricks(normal and opacity map),particle effects still look cheap(fire particles flying through,aww come on...),and unrealistic(like those smoke trails)Color scheme is just horrible(too saturated and vivid),animation is still avrage,triangle counts are avrage,and everyting is baked(from lighting to normal maps),only specular calculations look real time.Not to mention those BF3-alike full screen effects fail...And that is talking only about graphicsOverall game still look very unrealistic,and except for graphics nothing is quite much changed(this still looks like the same engine as original NOVA/BIA 2,only with load on new shaders),and even those "improvements" in graphics look like something A4 could push in decent(25-30 fps) framerate,if well optimized.If someone wants to reply on this/prove me wrong,only 3d artists and programers are wellcome.Rest of you stfu and be fascinated with "amazing" graphics.

      • Firetruck94

        But the graphics DO look good,
        Try to find a mobile game with better graphics that isn't made by madfinger.

      • Guillaume Merle

        Looks like someone is pretty jealous.
        I'm waiting for your game to be released dude, as I'm sure it'll take full advantage of the A5 chip, with fully dynamic lighting, real time shadows, volumetric particle effects, and everything... (omg I just used some fancy technical words, surely that makes me superior...)

        Seriously, this game is designed to run on a phone, and you want it to have all the latest effects ? Maybe I would agree with you if only the A6 was supported, but it's not the case, it'll probably run on the iphone 4 too, so don't be stupid please.
        And I'm no game programer but I perfectly understand what you said, so get off your high horse ffs.

      • ihd1234567890

        Sadly the iPad 4 probably would not be optimized due to the sheer size of the screen and its superior resolution.

      • http://twitter.com/FlacoNY23 Flaco Boy

        you should work for them n fix it

      • bobcorrigan

        I don't know, it looks really nice for a mobile game.  Reading Lazar's comment is a little like listening to an audiophile talk about how much better a stereo sounds with $1,000 cables and custom wood knobs.  Besides, to make $, they can't release for iPad4 alone.  Maybe in a few years they'll work out the. . .opacity. . .and saturated. . .triangle counts. . .specular. . .whatevers.

      • http://twitter.com/JamesMobot james

        Would love to see dude's work!
        :D

      • 1Fcm

        To be honest, I have yet to see a game that looks 'realistic'. Realistic or photo-real are terms that people like to use with games but lets face it... Not one game has ever come out that looks exactly like real life (excluding FMV). They all mimic realism to an extent but always fail to fool anyone.

        I have such fond memories of running AW-Power Animator (long before it became Maya) on a UNIX based SGI Octane. Now animation and CGI have turned into such a nightmarishly complex process. Thankfully, it will only continue to look better and better and games will definitely benefit from it.

      • Jeremy Nelson

        If you're going to deny that MC4 has better graphics than MC3, MC2, or even MCS, please do your research- and on the Apple A4, while you're at it.
        Since you seem to only consider realistic games good, I guess you don't play any games, then.
        Graphics look great to me, especially considering this is running on a phone. It's amazing how fast technology is advancing. Go run MC4 on your Nokia brick, instead of attemping to troll articles.

  • B3nlok

    The visual upgrade is undeniable, but it still looks/feels like a mobile game and to me this the real problem here. The more Gameloft goes in the direction of trying to make a $7 mobile game to look like a $60 game the harder it is to avoid comparisons between the two. This is a battle they cant win.

    • HelperMonkey

      Mobile games don't look like $60 console games. But those $60 console games aren't very mobile. It's a conundrum.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/TGOKBBNRRKWJSWN2SXP44XTJVE Lamar(USC)

    I don't care what the haters and critics say...Modern Combat games are fun to play. Since we don't have Call of Duty on mobile phones, this is a great substitute.

    I wish people would lighten up and accept these games for what they are...entertainment on the go. This isn't meant to replace your PC or PS3 and if you don't want to carry a Vita or DS around and a cell phone...at least you can still play mobile games. I hate kiddie games, don't want to play Tetris, or Angry Birds so these games are perfect for my taste.

    • paulkolin86

      Ur right man. I bought the latest iPad not to play Angry Birds... If I wanted to play latest Call of Duty I would buy Xbox360 or PS3.

    • Onikage725

      Hey now...don't hate on Tetris.

  • NPeart

    Good to hear about gyro...of course this is the one thing, that Gameloft has done very well, so I don't think they would stop including that option, even if it isn't very fashionable right now. 

    I'm not a fan of Gameloft, but they have done very good job with their gyro controls. So good, that I almost have to buy all of their FPS games, even when I don't like the games them selves(out side of controls they suck)! They just feel good, and controls that feel good is one of the most important things in games; for me, the basic fundamental reason to play video games in the first place, and much more important than graphics. 

    It has just very slightly too much latency, but I'm not sure if it is possible to fix in iPhone, and its not necessarily a problem to most people, and even the present state of gyro controls is essential to iPhone games, and once you get accustomed to it, its "even" better, than dual analog controllers. Of course it is. Its range of movement and immediacy are far superior, not to mention immersion; its just not the regular old and  restrictive way of doing things, and in addition its also the curse word of "HC"-gamers; the motion controls. Gyro controls with screen before your eyes is (practically) virtual reality, and thats the ultimate goal of gamer before we get our hands on any UFO technology, holo decks and such. 

    If only these devices could have even one button... Apple, please, allow the developers to use volume buttons in games. It would be very helpful, if we could clear the screen just a bit, and reduce the need to memorize the placement of virtual buttons and controllers into muscle memory, and it would also increase the functions that player could control simultaneously, which would also help to enrich the games. I know, that the home button is too much to ask, but I would sacrifice it too to games.

    • Arash Bazrafshan

       i dont think
      using the volume buttons in game is an option; the buttons simply
      werent made to take the never ending pounding of your index finger while
      youre playing.

      sure
      they might feel sturdy enough when u press them, and you get the
      feeling of hard feedback beneath your finger. but that doesnt make
      them heavy-duty

  • Jensen_G

    Previous Modern Combat games that I've played had a more lighthearted "arcade" feel to them vs Modern Warfare, which goes for a more realistic/dark atmosphere. Which direction is Modern Combat 4 going in?

    • Cpt.Gagarin

      Seattle gets nuked in MC3 and LA was invaded, pretty dark stuff :p

      • Jensen_G

        I admit that I have only played MC 1 and 2

      • ihd1234567890

        If u go to the website for MC4 they actually talk about u going to Seattle.

  • ansin11HDx

    I love the game yet ^.^

  • xepiczx

    Mc4 is out on the App Store it's great quick get it !!!!!!

    • Oscar

      I'm downloading right now at about 0 MBs :-P

  • Decaf Table

    Where are the crosshairs for hip firing???

    • seong123

      Its just that everything was removed. Thegangsta3256's youtube channel probably has some gameplay with all of the controls showing.

  • http://twitter.com/josuemoralesc josue morales

    MC4 is going to be the best first person shooter on mobile this year. Cheers to the developers at Gameloft who definitely brought their A-game to Modern Combat 4.

  • Rodriguez

    I would like a tip. Do most MC players uses their thumb when they play like me. I just can't happen to improve at it. I consider my self in between noobs and pros. (:

  • toblerone117

    i noticed that they still seem to ignore that android is also a viable option for gaming. gameloft is terrible with android support

  • MaximumVelocity

    OH MY GOD!! I can't freaking wait! You'd better support the 5th gen iPod!

  • yaroslavscooter

    When will it be available on App Store and how much will it cost

  • Joshua Paul

    I bought coins in mc3 online, will I keep/be able to restore them in mc4?

  • http://twitter.com/D4GAM3R D4GAM3R

    Will this game work on ipad 2??

  • http://twitter.com/YamanKaytaz iYaman

    Gyro controls are messed up with Modern Combat 4. The camera keeps panning up for me on iPhone 5 even if I don't move the phone. My friend has the problem where he can't look right or left just up and down... tried on iPhone 4S and seemed to work perfectly... but I want to play on my iPhone 5!! :(

  • ihd1234567890

    I use my index and middle and i think sometimes my ring for playing. Left index for walking, right index for sprinting, right middle for shooting, and left middle or ring for reloading. That all depends on u since i have a different layout. Idk if u would call me good but im starting to frequently getting past 20 kills. My current record is 30 kills and 9 deaths i think.