Call of Duty Mobile doesn’t have any right to be as good as it turns out to be. Naysayers were already predicting a rushed cash grab, while CoD fans surely thought that this release wouldn’t do any favors to the franchise. Oh, how wrong they were - Call of Duty Mobile is a fine shooter, a polished portable experience that is bound to please casuals and veterans alike.
It’s impossible to neglect the inherent limitations of mobile gaming, and first-person shooters are likely to be the genre that suffers the most from the lack of a mouse and keyboard combo/controller (pick your poison). However, Tencent’s subsidiary TiMi Studios did an impressive job of masking those flaws and delivering an immersive experience where any low expectations will be shattered to pieces during the first hour of playing.
Pwning Us All
Call of Duty Mobile is the kind of free-to-play game that would do extremely well even if it had a price tag attached to it. It has the quality, the polish, that addictive factor that makes it worthwhile on its own, and a very commendable piece of the Call of Duty franchise. It may lack a single-player campaign, but other than that, it brings everything that you would expect from a shooter nowadays.
Call of Duty Mobile is two games in one – you have your traditional CoD multiplayer modes, as well as a fully-fledged battle royale mode supporting up to 100 players. This mode is inspired by Black Ops 4’s Blackout, but it’s far from being an unabashed copy and will seriously make you consider if you really need any other mobile battle royale game right now. There is a third multiplayer mode in the works, likely to be the Zombies mode, but the release scheduled is yet to be determined.
Multiplayer comes with some popular modes for five-man teams including Team Deathmatch, Frontline, Domination, Search and Destroy, and Practice Vs. AI. Battle royale is set in a ridiculously large map that easily harbors 100 players and has four different vehicle types. You can tackle the challenge solo, in duos, or in a squad of four, choosing one of six classes with unique loadouts: Defender, Mechanic, Scout, Clown, Medic, and Ninja. The action is further spiced up with zombie hordes and brutal boss fights that will make you question if you are playing a battle royale or an extremely fun, inebriated mix of every shooter ever made.
Controlling your virtual soldier is a recurrent and heated topic when it comes to mobile shooters, therefore you have two options in this game. The simple mode will introduce you to the game, with no actual fire button to worry about – the gun fires as soon as the crosshair is on the enemy. This is immensely convenient for starters and for anyone who wants to become familiar with a good mobile FPS; however, it comes with a considerable downside – the bullet spray is so conspicuous that accuracy is thrown out of the window and you won’t go far if you frequently resort to hip-fire. Aim down the sights, soldier!
The simple mode remains highly enjoyable nonetheless, but the advanced control mode is where the pros are at. Now you have a fire button to properly manage that ammo and personally take care of everything related to weapon accuracy. If you fail a shot, there is no way that you get to blame the RNG anymore.
Not unlike Mario Kart Tour, Call of Duty Mobile also seems to throw a few bots here and there, hoping that you won’t notice it. Did you really think that you won the first matches fair and square, through sheer skill and agency? However, this isn’t such a serious issue as in Nintendo’s latest mobile outing, because it is obvious that you’ll be playing with and against real people soon enough. After you reach level 10 you unlock the Ranked mode, where you are bound to face other players, although it wouldn’t be surprising if the odd bot or two managed to sneak in as well.
There is a surefire way to know that Call of Duty Mobile isn’t just fooling around with bots; you’ll often hear annoying voices over the device’s microphones, usually shouting something unintelligible or vulgar.
The Fun Side of War
Perhaps the most surprising thing about Call of Duty Mobile is just how enjoyable it is to play. As you get the hang of the controls and the headshots follow, you feel compelled to play just one more match. Apart from the battle royale mode, most multiplayer matches last around ten minutes, something that is perfect for thrilling bite-sized rounds of mobile warfare.
The maps are fairly small, but rich and well-thought out, taking inspiration from various chapters of the CoD series. They were handpicked to ensure that players are kept close together, in order to maintain a fast pace that never slows down. You’ll recognize some iconic locations such as Nuketown, or the high seas Hijacked map, among others. While there are only seven maps for now, more will surely make it into the game, probably coming from other major CoD releases – it would be interesting to see a couple of original designs with mobile devices in mind right from the outset.
Monetization is always an understandable concern with Call of Duty games and mobile releases in general, and this shouldn’t be any different. There is the Battle Pass which offers you some rewards as you level up your season rank, but purchasing the premium pass grants you additional rewards and perks. It’s a feature that is found in pretty much every genre nowadays but feels largely optional.
The store offers the usual sets of weapons, skins, and boosters, but things such as the weapon XP cards verge a bit on the pay-to-win side – you can call it convenience items, but the truth is that you’re bound to face players who are better equipped for battle precisely because of the boosters. Technically, you can grind most, if not all the weapons and perks through gameplay, but this will take you many days and is never going to be on level with the convenience that comes with purchasing an item straight from the store. However, this didn’t stop me from having fun and enjoying the gameplay, with matchmaking that feels resoundingly fair.
Fun, addictive, and dare I say casual in a very competitive way, if that makes any sense at all. It’s a breeze to hop in and play a few matches, turn off the game and return in about an hour for another session. Call of Duty Mobile is extremely intuitive and enjoyable, and it doesn’t feel punishing for free players. You unlock several mods and other perks, and while you may trail behind paying players, skill still makes all the difference.
The map design is brilliant, mostly because the maps in Call of Duty Mobile are a best-of from the CoD series, with a few tweaks here and there to make the experience better suited for the portable devices.
It’s another Call of Duty, one might say, but it’s the first one on mobile. It’s a great debut for the series, but one that doesn’t break any new ground. It wasn’t really expected to, anyway.
Call of Duty Mobile was designed with multiplayer in mind, so much that there isn’t a single-player campaign in sight, and most likely never will be. There is a pleasant range of classic multiplayer game modes, and the immaculate battle royale is the cherry on top of a focused shooter. Matchmaking is fast and fair, with no lack of players to challenge, even if you may spot a few bots trying to pass off as real players during the early game.
Graphics / Sound: 8/10
There are different graphic quality settings to choose from, but every self-respecting shooter fan knows that performance always has the upper hand over visuals. However, this is a game that looks good even on medium settings, so this is a great compromise for the more competitive players. On the other hand, if you want the full package, pushing the settings to the max will deliver all the bells and whistles that you would expect from a good game, including real shadows and lighting effects.
If there is one thing that sounds like music to my ears in Call of Duty Mobile, that something is the meaty bullet effects. As your projectiles hit other players, they make this characteristic crunch sound that has a great ring to it. The battles are otherwise hectic, with bullets flying everyone, soldiers communicating, and screaming in agony. It’s a pure symphony of virtual warfare.
Value for Money: 9/10
If Activision had decided to put a price tag on Call of Duty Mobile, it would be surprising, but not shocking. As a free-to-play game, it puts most mobile shooters to shame and should be played both by die-hard CoD fans and new players. The premium Battle Pass will get you some additional rewards, but progress alone is enough to grant you the items and perks that you need to stay relevant in battle – the rest is up to your skill.
Like a finely curated greatest hits compilation, Call of Duty Mobile brings some of the best gameplay and maps from the series to your portable device. Its polished breed of shooting and addictive gameplay works amazingly well with the unexpectedly comfortable touch screen controls, eventually convincing non-believers that this is a standout game. You can pick it up and play for a few minutes or for several hours, taking a casual approach or diving in with a full competitive mindset; Call of Duty Mobile is just that good.
It’s “Call of Duty – The Greatest Hits”
Tried-and-tested multiplayer modes and maps
Fully-fledged battle royale mode
Looks great, plays even better
Doesn’t overwhelm you with microtransactions
Was that a player or a bot?
Some original maps would be welcome