Gameloft continues to pump out high-budget games on the iPhone and iPod Touch that showcase the impressive graphics the devices are capable of producing. On the heels of big-name powerhouses like Gangstar and Madden NFL 10, Modern Combat: Sandstorm looks and feels equal to or better than anything available on the platform. And while none of these games are based on original concepts, they're effectively low-priced versions of smash hits on other systems--not a bad thing by any means. Modern Combat bears a pretty obvious resemblance to 2007's outstanding Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and it plays very similarly to the Nintendo DS version of that game. By default, an onscreen analog stick controls strafing and forward and backward movement. Looking around is handled by sliding your finger anywhere else on the screen. There are also well-placed buttons to fire, crouch, and zoom with your weapon, as well as context-sensitive buttons that appear as necessary. Other control methods are available, but there's really no reason to stray from the default, because Modern Combat has finally gotten first-person shooter controls on the iDevice right.
The stories behind the missions are about what you'd expect from a modern, military-themed shooter: You get tasked with things like defending an outpost, destroying a communications tower, manning a turret, and so on. These missions are explained to you by a female announcer while the levels are loading. The result is that you pay less attention to the load time and more attention to your objective. The level design is straightforward, but there's usually an onscreen arrow directing you to your destination anyway.
The controls are superb. By default, aiming is assisted by a snap-to mechanic that centers on enemies near your crosshair. We found this feature extremely helpful, but hardcore players can switch it off. Changing weapons, reloading, and ducking behind cover are a cinch.
Unfortunately, Modern Combat has some issues with its artificial intelligence. The bad guys follow linear paths that never change. You can play a section a million times, coming at it with various strategies, but the same terrorist will run the same line to his firing position and plant himself there every time like clockwork.
The other problem is that the terrorists are all expert marksmen. If you have six enemies all firing at you from any distance, you'll be dead very quickly unless you can totally conceal yourself behind something in the environment. If any part of you is visible, you'll be hit every time. By the same token, if you are concealed, enemies will not come to you to get a better shot. Still, these aren't game-breaking flaws--in fact, you might not even notice until a few levels in.
Another issue is saving. Each of the 10 missions takes 10 to 20 minutes to complete and is peppered with helpful checkpoints along the way. However, if your game is interrupted in the middle of a level, you're not sent back to the nearest checkpoint when you boot the game back up--you have to restart the whole level. This can set you back a good deal of time, and it seems pointless when the checkpoint saves are already being recorded.
However, Modern Combat: Sandstorm still offers a great experience. The controls are outstanding, the graphics are beautiful, and there's plenty of variety in the levels.
This review was provided by GameSpot mobile content partner SlideToPlay.com.