Whether you play it or not, Call of Duty is a franchise every gamer knows about. For the last few years, the annual November release of the series — this year being Infinity Ward’s Ghosts — is one of the biggest launches of the year and sparks the regular debate on the franchise’s innovation and gameplay depth.
In between the release of 2012’s Black Ops 2 and this year’s Ghosts, Call of Duty once again hit iOS with Strike Team. Joining two iOS versions of the game’s popular Zombies survival mode, Strike Team claims to offer an enticing first and third-person action experience. Let’s see whether it lives up to that avowal.
The Year is 2020
Call of Duty: Strike Team takes place within the same universe as Black Ops 2 creating a welcoming atmosphere for long-time fans of the series. As someone who played through and enjoyed the singleplayer campaign of 2012’s Black Ops 2, the nods to some minor characters and events preceding the console game’s main storyline were appreciated and makes the game feel more like a real Call of Duty than just a generic FPS shooter branded as such.
Strike Team also shares a number of other assets with Black Ops 2, including weapons and, perhaps most notably, missions in the style of the Strike Force campaign levels from the console game. If you’re not familiar with how these played out in Black Ops 2, you take control of a squad and action their tactical movements throughout a level while the AI does all the actual boots-on-the-ground shooting. This mode is one of the best things about Strike Team as a package and is superbly set up for touch input unlike the traditional controls of an iOS shooter.
You can, however, jump back into a first-person mode at any time to fling a few bullets yourself but Strike Team fails to overcome the obstacles and limits that touch input presents. The whole first-person control set just feels clunky and left me frequently frustrated. While I found the third-person tactical view to work particularly well — perhaps even better than their equivalent on a console — first-person shooting feels as lacklustre as in any other game on the platform, although features like the in-build aim assist goes some way into pushing Strike Team ahead of the bunch.
The overarching storyline does present campaign-based missions but there’s also wave-based survival missions dotted around. These missions throw you in front of waves of enemies to gun down in first-person which is fun, but falls short when compared to Call of Duty’s own two Zombies games available on the App Store.
Bullets in Retina
Strike Team looks great. The entire visual presentation of the app looks great and is more reminiscent of the console entries of the series than of some limited mobile game. Strike Team might not win any awards just yet but a little optimisation for newer iOS devices could lead to a console equivalent in the foreseeable future. It’s a good looking app and one of the most visually pleasing on the App Store. Gameplay is combined with well-produced cinematics to break up the action and stellar audio with excellent voice acting. The whole package is incredibly immersive and can leaves you feeling like you played an AAA game, an experience many bigger developers fail to mimic on the small screen.
However, Strike Team’s UI falls short on the iPad where buttons — including ones critical to gameplay, such as toggling crouching or aiming down sights — are too small and can be accidentally triggered when you want to tap the adjacent one. Text is also incredibly small and difficult to read. These issues feel like a bug that needs to be fixed but remain a major limiting factor of the app regardless.
Alone On the Battlefield
While a large part of the campaign takes place with the assistance of AI-controlled squad members, Strike Team is only ever a singleplayer experience when it comes to real humans. There’s no traditional Call of Duty-style multiplayer which is a disappointing omission. The inclusion of multiplayer would have been appreciated given the fact that other mobile Call of Duty games have opened up games to multiple human players, although the stellar single player experience means it’s certainly not a reason to avoid buying the app.
The game left me with a slight degree of optimism for the future of Call of Duty, however. With consistently smooth gameplay and the advent of physical controller accessories for iOS 7, Strike Team left me feeling as if a future console Call of Duty instalment could reasonably make its way onto iOS, a platform where an arcade shooter with relatively short games could shine.
Call of Duty: Strike Team is one of the best shooters on iOS, period. Tactical third-person gameplay tied up in a beautiful package presents a really enticing experience that I would recommend you get stuck in to. Unfortunately, it’s let down by clunky first-person sequences but these can be avoided almost entirely so it’s not too much of an issue if you’re happy with how the third-person mode plays out. If you’ve played Call of Duty on a console, especially Black Ops 2, Strike Team is easy to immerse yourself into with a story familiar to campaign veterans of the series.
Strike Team sets the bar for mobile shooters and presents an interesting glimpse into how the FPS genre on iOS begins to move forward.