N.O.V.A. Android Review
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N.O.V.A. Android Review

N.O.V.A. Android Review

The designers of N.O.V.A., Gameloft's first-person shooter for Android, have been playing a lot of Halo. And it's obvious that when they took a break, it was only to play Dead Space. But while its derivative nature is on full display in every pixel of N.O.V.A., so is something else: a slam-bang action game.

You are Kal Wardin, a former soldier drafted back into service to protect Earth from the fury of the alien xenos. A vanished space station has reappeared outside of Earth's orbit and it threatens the orbital platforms humanity has been forced to live on following the collapse of our planet's environment. You must explore this station to find out what happened, which in turn leads you on a chase across the galaxy that invariably ends up with you kicking in xeno teeth on their own turf.

Wardin has plenty of firepower to choose from, all standard-issue shooter fare like assault rifles, shotguns, and sniper rifles. Ammo is everywhere, but sometimes you must hack open a crate via a short puzzle to score the good stuff. In addition to normal weapons, Wardin also has special skills like the ability to freeze an enemy for just a few moments via an energy attack. The trade off, though, is shield strength. This tactic adds an enormous amount of strategy to N.O.V.A. as you really do need those shields so you aren't repeatedly staring at the sky through a blood-spattered visor. However, when you are facing down four or five xenos (all with clever AI that encourages group rushes, seeking cover, etc.), putting one on ice for just a few seconds is enormously helpful crowd control.

N.O.V.A.'s controls are great. Move via a responsive virtual stick, look by dragging a finger around the screen, and fire with a dedicated button. Things have been tightened up, such as movement sensitivity. The aim-assist feature is also quite useful when you first start playing N.O.V.A., as it snaps the crosshairs to the enemy you are looking at but without over-compensating. It's just a little nudge. It does not play the game for you but when you are trying to cross an open field with a dozen xenos on a rampage, getting a little "snap" is sometimes the difference between life and restarting from the last checkpoint.

N.O.V.A. is a run-and-gun first-person shooter at heart, but it uses big scripted moments and set pieces to create some high drama across 13 stages, such as dodging small meteors as you race across a space station exterior. However, my absolute favorite event in N.O.V.A. is small. It's when a brutish xeno gets close enough to grab you. You are hoisted into the air and have limited mobility. Able only to reach your pistol, you must shoot the monster in the face repeatedly for it to drop you. Of course, if you haven't reloaded your pistol recently, you may find yourself in real trouble. It's a great intimate moment in contrast to the large-scale mayhem you are otherwise engaged in.

If there is any shortcoming in the single-player game, it is the aforementioned lack of originality. N.O.V.A. is essentially Gameloft's Halo with touches of a handful of other shooters thrown in just for good measure, such as the ship exterior sequences of Dead Space. With such a great control system and smart pacing, it is too bad Gameloft did not carve out something with a little more originality.

Gameloft also infuses N.O.V.A. with four-player multiplayer. You can either challenge local players or wade online via WiFi (no over-the-air play). There are five maps, each taken from an environment in the single-player game. I enjoyed multiplayer quite a bit but do wish Gameloft had added some sort of character progression or customization. All you can do is switch out armor color. Where is my medal for 20 headshots? A cool helmet that players logging a certain number of matches get to wear?

N.O.V.A. is one of Gameloft's most attractive games. The game runs exceedingly well with only occasional framerate hiccups - nothing that terribly upsets the applecart.

Here's a gameplay video of N.O.V.A.

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Comments (2)

You have certainly done a great review. Will return when I have a vote.

Coming back with a well deserved vote up.

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