Considering it’s been nearly two years since we’ve seen a Call of Duty game hit iOS, we were pretty surprised when the folks at Activision seemed to conjure up Call of Duty: Strike Team ($6.99) out of thin air. Even more interesting was Strike Team being billed as a whole new Call of Duty adventure, and not just a port of a gameplay mode from a console game. While this alone would make most gamers hyped to check it out, I’m happy to report that Strike Team is simply an incredible game in its own right. Successfully taking the essence of Call of Duty and infusing it into a mobile package, Strike Team is a must-own.
Set in the Black Ops II universe, Strike Team follows a squad of troops as they look to battle Cordis Die, a pseudo-terrorist organization with ill intent. Call of Duty games of late have had stories that border on the ridiculous, and Strike Team is no exception. More importantly, I found the overall campaign narrative to be pretty enjoyable with just enough intrigue to provide encouragement to keep going. There’s also a decent amount of content simply in the campaign, something that I appreciate.
As a CoD game, Strike Team has a few elements up its sleeve that show that it really was designed for mobile. In addition to the standard first-person shooter mode, Strike Team allows players to switch to a birds-eye third-person tactical view that lets you direct your squad with simple move and attack commands. While FPS mode is what you’d expect on a touchscreen (complete with virtual buttons galore), tactical view is an excellent addition that works really well on the touch screen. Even better, both modes are always available, meaning players can easily switch between them at a moment’s notice.
This leads to a great deal of supplemental strategy that isn’t even found on console CoD games. Tactical mode lets you see all visible enemies at the same time and also provides the opportunity to initiate flanking techniques, retreat orders, and stealth commands. The fact you can instantly switch to FPS means when the going gets tough, you can start taking out enemies on your own without having to rely on the AI. The game’s relatively short missions also make the game very approachable in bite-sized chunks.
Supplementing the game’s story and gameplay is an impressive amount of depth and quality of presentation that can be found throughout Strike Team. Visuals are top-notch while preserving that fast framerate that Call of Duty games are known for. There’s also a pretty deep squad load-out system, with experience earned in-game unlocking weapons and perks that can be used to outfit your teammates. In typical series fashion, the game does a great job doling out experience for lots of different actions. Survival mode and social network hooks round out the features by supplementing the game’s campaign with additional replayability.
If you’ve managed to check out Strike Team’s App Store page, you’ll notice the appearance of IAP in the form of premium ‘Token’ currency. Tokens are primarily to unlock perks and weapons sooner than the prescribed levels, but they are also used to purchase grenades, claymores and medikits, which are used in-mission to revive allies that fall (no unlimited respawns in this game). At first glance, I thought restricting the purchase of an item as important as a medikit to premium currency was going to be a deal-breaker, especially considering the difficulty increase in later levels.
However, to my delight, Strike Team does a great job of liberally awarding Tokens based on mission completions, leveling, and excelling in survivor mode. Items and Tokens are also awarded for playing consecutive games, and the game’s ‘Challenges’ (taken straight from the console multiplayer mode) also provide another avenue to earn Tokens. After a decent amount of playtime, I think Strike Team’s IAP is actually pretty fair and pretty much unnecessary.
There’s a lot to love with Strike Team, but I think the most important thing it nails is that simple feeling of playing a Call of Duty game. Levels are filled with explosions, story cutscenes mimic the console feel, and there’s enough variety in locations to showcase the nice visual engine. Sure, the FPS controls are little tough, but a host of control options along with optional auto-aim go a long way towards assisting players when popping baddies. Otherwise, this really is a Call of Duty game miniaturized for mobile devices with a pretty awesome tactical mode included. Multiplayer is the one aspect sorely missing, but if future Call of Duty games manage to incorporate it, Gameloft’s gonna have a lot to worry about.