N.O.V.A. 2 could be the best shooter iPhone has to offer

Jan 4, 2011
Games

Beautiful graphics, tight and intuitive controls, a lengthy single player campaign and a full-fledged multiplayer mode — N.O.V.A. 2 has a whole lot to offer players. The game maximizes the potential of the platform, and numbers among the best first-person shooters you can get on an iOS device. The follow-up to N.O.V.A.: Near Orbital Vanguard […]

Beautiful graphics, tight and intuitive controls, a lengthy single player campaign and a full-fledged multiplayer mode — N.O.V.A. 2 has a whole lot to offer players. The game maximizes the potential of the platform, and numbers among the best first-person shooters you can get on an iOS device.

The follow-up to N.O.V.A.: Near Orbital Vanguard Alliance jumps into the future six years from its predecessor to pick up the story of main character and Earth defense soldier Kal after this fight with hostile aliens. Those aliens are back, and they’re just as hostile, and Kal has to take to all manner of weapons and vehicles to defeat them.

N.O.V.A. 2 uses a combination of touch and gyroscope controls that’s becoming the gold standard of shooters on the iPhone. Precision aiming is done by actually moving your iPhone around in 3D space, with the gyroscope moving the reticule around the screen. When you want to look further to one side or the other, a quick swipe will turn your character’s body. The rest of the controls — firing, moving, jumping and chucking grenades — are handled by a set of virtual buttons scattered around the edge of the screen.

Once you’re used to them, N.O.V.A. 2’s controls are tight and make a lot of sense for the action. The single-player campaign stretches on for quite a while, and when you’re not just running and gunning, Gameloft has done a good job of throwing in some vehicles to drive and positions to defend. Diversity in assignments is one of the better things about N.O.V.A. 2 in general — it’s long, but it doesn’t get boring. And when you’re done manhandling computer-controlled aliens, you can take the fight online with a wifi connection against other human soldiers.

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If there’s a complaint about the game, it comes from the challenge level. N.O.V.A. 2’s hardest difficulty requires you to play all the way through to access it, and its other two difficulty settings make combat mostly pretty easy. You’ll breeze through huge swathes of the single-player campaign with nary a hair out of place. Kal has lots of health, a shield protecting him over that and a highly sticky, but adjustable, auto-aim that takes a lot of the work out of bringing down your enemies. Most of N.O.V.A. 2 is too easy, especially for an iPhone shooter veteran.

That’s quibbling, though, and if you want a harder experience, there are options to tweak to get it. The N.O.V.A. series is constantly being referred to as a rip-off of the Halo series on Microsoft’s Xbox 360, and this game is unabashedly that, much of the time — it’s meant to be pretty much the same space marine experience. The great part is, N.O.V.A. 2 comes pretty close to replicating that experience in many ways, despite being a handheld game on the iPhone that costs less than $10. That’s a commendable feat.

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Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer, editor and author living in Los Angeles, dividing his time between playing video games, playing video games on his cell phone, and writing about playing video games. He’s also the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel, which attempts to mix time travel pop culture with some semblance of science, as well as tips on the appropriate means of riding dinosaurs. Check out his profile.

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