What's this? A new Call of Duty game, on my iPad? Activision's preternaturally popular console and PC manshoot has made yet another foray to mobile devices, albeit with surprisingly little fanfare. At $6.99, Call of Duty: Strike Team sits on the pricier side of the app spectrum, but manages to serve up an interesting take on a genre that's growing all too familiar for my tastes.
It's a Call of Duty game, so you'll be strapped to a turrent mowing down nondescript foreigners for experience points a few minutes after the first jittery, dramatic cutscene wraps up. The standard virtual joysticks shuffle your character about, though the game does offer a nifty locking system that'll pivot you toward targets--this definitely takes some of the pain out of panning around on a touchscreen and tapping the fire button. The game is also squad-based--you'll be able to hop around between the soldiers you're commanding at any time. They don't do much on their own unfortunately, and while you can shepherd them around by calling them to your location that gets kind of annoying.
So it's a first-person shooter, on a mobile device, with Call of Duty branding and the requisite intrigues wrapped up in blood-soaked intrigues. Firmly in the "meh" column, for me.
But then a funny thing happens: yet another dramatic cutscene introduces an aerial drone, and the game suddenly transforms from first-person shooter to third-person tactical shooter. Tap or drag squad members to get them into advantageous positions. Tap on an enemy to initiate a stealth takedown, then drag that lifeless corpse into a hiding spot. Or, order one team member to lay down some suppressing fire, while your sniper picks off foes at his leisure. Most of these things can be pulled off in the first-person view, and you can toggle between modes on the fly, which is all kinds of refreshing when you want to mix things up a tad. The game also offers a survival mode--Horde mode, for Gears of Wars fans--that sees you fighting increasingly tougher waves of baddies for points and leaderboard-based glory.
As a Call of Duty game, the series' perks are all but mandatory. Killing bad guys nets you experience points, which you'll spend on squad abilities like being able to carry heavy weapons with impunity, allow snipers to hold their breath for steadier shots, or simply move and reload your guns a little bit faster. Some of the perks and additional weapons are locked behind "care packages," which require spending real cash on in-game currency. None of it feels mandatory and most things can be earned with a bit of elbow grease, but if you'd like to breeze through the game with abilities unlocked immediately, Activision would love to take your money.
Call of Duty hasn't served up an especially captivating single-player narrative for some time, so I suspect you'll be playing this one for the action. There's no multiplayer (short of comparing scores on leaderboards), so you'll have to decide if a mobile-manshoot is something you're in the mood for. I'm normally on the fence about these sorts of things, but sneaking a bit of tactical strategery into the mix makes it worth seven bucks in my book. Grab it from the Apple App Store at your leisure.