Review - Call of Duty: Strike Team
The Call of Duty franchise and the mobile gaming world have only crossed paths twice thus far, which seems suspiciously low. What’s more, the first two mobile CoD games were merely ports of the über-popular Zombies modes from World at War and Black Ops. And while I’m certainly a big fan of the first mobile Zombies game, an original mobile Call of Duty game has been long overdue. Then, out of nowhere, without any marketing or even an announcement, Activision released Call of Duty: Strike Team for iOS and Android. Altering the usual Call of Duty formula to become more mobile-friendly, Strike Team hopes to make a great first impression on this new device. So, can the king of console shooters conquer the mobile FPS market?
That’s a negative.
Call of Duty is not known for its storylines, and neither are mobile games, so what I’m about to say shouldn’t come as much of a shock - Strike Team doesn’t have much of a plot. Technically speaking, it does have a plot, as in a series of events following one another, but that’s basically it. The soldiers are given absolutely no character nor do they have any dialogue that isn’t mission-based, and the story itself is nothing more than a series of loosely-connected military operations. Basically, it’s exactly what every Call of Duty hater claims Call of Duty is, which isn’t good.
Also like its console counterparts, Strike Team’s graphics are fine, but quite a few aspects could use some work. Textures are decent, every particularly low-res wall or floor is balanced out by the good level of detail in your guns, which are accented by well-implemented lighting effects. Enemies move fine, but the models themselves feel a bit stiff and awkward. The locations, while they do hold a certain atmosphere to them, are all standard fare that you’ve seen before - the snowy facility at night, the Middle Eastern abandoned village, etc. The limited color palettes of these locations is Strike Team’s biggest problem visually. It occasionally becomes difficult to pick out enemies from other objects, so much so that the developers put bright red arrows above their heads for you. Even with this assistance, the fact remains that the visuals feel monotonous and therefore not very interesting.
One thing about CoD: Strike Team that nobody can deny is that its basic concept is rather ambitious. Yes, Strike Team is a linear FPS, just like all Call of Duty titles, but at almost any point, you can alternate to an over-head strategy view. You can direct all of your troops in this view, and play practically the entire game this way. Sadly, doing so would be a terrible experience. The problem lies in the game’s core design. It is structured and programmed to be a first person shooter, a genre that absolutely demands speed and reflex. Trying to interact with that kind of game with the slow, deliberate controls of a RTS game simply does not work. The developers were clearly trying to give players a more mobile-friendly way of playing in case they couldn’t get used to the virtual controls. While this intention is honorable, it is also unnecessary, as you will always have more fun in first person mode. This means that as a gameplay mechanic, the entire second mode is worthless. The only use I got out of it was to occasionally check enemy locations.
When in first person mode, however, Strike Team is a decent enough title. Admittedly the controls need some improvement, but for the most part it plays quite well. It manages to capture the speed and satisfaction of typical Call of Duty combat, which is easier said than done. Firefights are rather intense, the guns are satisfying to shoot, and it is very clear that the developers understand what makes the FPS genre as popular as it is. If you want to experience Strike Teams at its best, play the Survival mode. In this, you fight for as long as possible against waves of AI enemies in small, multiplayer-esque maps. If the price was considerably lower, this mode on its own could be a stand-alone title. It’s the best part of the game because it is simple FPS action, allowing Strike Team’s solid foundation to take center stage.
Level design is by far Strike Team’s biggest flaw, one that it consistently suffers from. Instead of being all corridors, Strike Team’s levels frequently take place in more open areas, allowing the player to move around the battlefield a bit and take on the enemy at different angles. During the corridor segments, level design is standard, but when you get to these open areas, it starts feeling really lazy. Wave after wave of enemies is thrown at you with little to no variation of type or approach. You can be stopped in the same area for minutes on end, mowing down enemy troops with no sense of achievement or progress. The only thing breaking up these shoot-outs are sub-par stealth sections and a couple mediocre on-rails levels. All of these problems I’ve listed here support the conclusion that Strike Team is simply uninspired. The developers clearly had a lot of ideas to implement in this game, but instead of jumping right to those, they should have first focused on basic design.
The lack of a multiplayer mode in a Call of Duty game is certainly puzzling, but luckily it does have the Survival mode, which is somewhat similar. This is what will keep you occupied for a bit longer after you beat the rather brief campaign. In this campaign, you can level up to unlock new weapons, gear, and perks for your soldiers. Outside of getting better guns and refilling my grenade supply, I found this system to be rather underwhelming. I certainly looked through and selected my perks, but I never felt a significant change in gameplay like I would expect.
Call of Duty: Strike Team is, as you could imagine, rather frustrating. Surprisingly, though, it is also almost as exciting. For all my major grievances, Strike Team is still commonly quite a bit of fun to play. While this is a rather weak defense of the game itself, it does clearly show that this developer has a solid foundation. With better direction and tweaked controls, developer The Blast Furnace could easily be the team to finally give mobile gamers a great original Call of Duty title. That being said, it’s probably best to give their first attempt a pass.
4s are hurting in quality. May have instances of fun that are overshadowed by major problems, technical or otherwise. They could be fun, but the issues may not make them worthwhile.
|Sean Capdeville is the official mobile game reviewer of ScrewAttack.com. An aspiring filmmaker, his favorite games include Skyrim, Link's Awakening DX, and NOVA 3. In his spare time, he likes to reference Casablanca.|