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Sandstorm Modern Combat Review

Sandstorm MC review
Best FPS on iPhone ???

From the very moment that TiG started out, we have been itching to get our paws on a decent First Person Shooter. We tried out ID software's classic Wolfienstien 3D and although that was an enjoyable game the lack of 'real' control and the retro feel failed to provide adequate sustenance for our ravenous FPS appetite.

So when we heard of the release (sometime ago now!) of Gameloft's First Person Shooter, Sandstorm Modern Combat we assembled at the table and chowed down CoD style.

Graphics

Gameloft have really done something special in terms of graphical quality. Sandstorm Modern Combat is built on a solid 3D engine and the graphics render beautifully. Draw distance is good, textures are sharp and the effects are truly explosive. The 3D models and animation throughout are of an exceptional standard and provide what TiG believes to be the most 'console-like' iPhone gaming experience so far.

There are parts of the game (The Caves) that remind TiG very much of Goldeneye on the N64, the visuals in Sandstorm are far superior of course. But the animation, especially with the sniper rifle is very Goldeneye-esque. There are also hints of Halflife and Halflife 2 in the game and although the comparison with Call of Duty is justified, it's not the only FPS title that has influenced the graphics in Sandstorm. Overall graphics are top notch and not just for the iPhone, they are top notch for any mobile platform, PSP included.

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Audio

The audio much like the graphics is remarkable, it is crisp and weapon noise is eerily accurate. TiG especially enjoyed the high pitched sequels left ringing in your ears following near-by grenade explosions. The voice overs in the game can become annoying after you have heard 'RPG' for the nth time, but at least they are clear and legible. Maybe an option to turn them off completely would have been a good idea? 'You belong in hellfire' is another overused remark that various enemies seem to have a penchant for shouting at you as they crumble!

The music in Sandstorm is quite good but this can also become rather irritating after a while, thankfully it can be turned off!

Gameplay

No surprises here, much like CoD etc... Sandstorm starts you out with a tutorial, during this time you meet your crew and the highly audible "SARGE!" Partake in a little bit of target practice, and learn the basics of movement, re-loading etc..

Sandstorm Modern Combat ScreenshotWhen your training is completed the slightly predictable storyline then begins to unfold, TiG was rather disappointed in terms of the games script. It would have been nice if Gameloft had come up with an original back-story and maybe situated the game somewhere other than the Middle East. TiG believes that this story has been milked to death going as far back as Desert Strike on the Mega drive and we, quite frankly have had enough. Sure there is trouble in the Middle East but we would prefer to play something that was less centred on the played out usage of the Jihad. Still, the context is in the title, so were not really complaining too much!

The first few missions trundle along but do serve to improve your ability with the controls as you navigate the narrow sandblasted streets gunning down Turban fancying terrorists. It's all rather easy at the beginning and TiG found that the auto targeting had to be turned off to allow you to feel that you are actually playing the game. Auto targeting is a great feature at first, but we seriously recommend that you turn it off after you have a bit of experience.

Even with auto targeting turned off, it becomes apparent that the algorithms for AI were never actually developed into code. Enemies in the early missions act out a variety of routines but no dynamically generated behaviour is apparent. In later missions similar behaviour is evident but at least it becomes more elaborate. Enemies will charge you down in suicide style running attacks, they will even follow you around corners! But for seasoned FPS players a simple targeted headshot will do the trick!

Friendly Modern CombatThe settings and backdrops for Sandstorm are pretty awesome though and go a long way in making up the shortfall regarding the Grunts AI. TiG especially enjoyed the Halflife 2 style of the hospital mission and the underground missions in the caves were lots of fun with the awesome sniper rifle. Weaponry throughout is quite varied and all your favourites are there, M16. AK-47, Shotgun, RPG.. The shotgun is quite satisfying and will obliterate anybody caught in the crossfire at short range. TiG's favourite weapon has to be the Sniper rifle, it is immensely satisfying and is one of the best implementations of a sniper rifle that TiG has ever witnessed regardless of platform.

Overall the game play follows exactly what you may of come to expect from war based FPS. The actual game play and story are probably the weakest aspects of Sandstorm. This is rather unfortunate, as the graphics and control schemes are groundbreaking and proved once and for all to the TiG team that iPhone can do FPS games and do them darn well to! If the storyline, voice acting and AI were sharper Sandstorm could very well of been our first 10 star game!

Control

The controls are almost perfect, especially If you are used to playing with a mouse and keyboard. Think of your right thumb as your mouse and your left thumb is your cursor keys. The control method is really easy to pick up, and to date, it is TiG's favourite out of the big FPS hitters so far, i.e. Doom, Eliminate etc.. For anyone that is new to FPS games on the iPhone you may need a little time to get used to the control method. There's a shallow learning curve but before to long you will be flying around the screen and precision targeting will be a cinch.

If you would prefer a more console like experience then you can choose from two alternative control schemes both of which are pretty good, but in TiG's opinion the default is without a doubt the best. TiG would like to see all FPS games use this system.

Lastability

TiG are not so sure regarding lastability of Sandstorm in it's current guise. But it's not really worth harping on about it as an update to include online play is currently in the process of development and is set to be unleashed anytime now. We will therefore be updating this review when the online multiplayer arrives. But for now, Sandstorm has limited lastability.

Sandstorm Modern Combat

Value

With a release price of £2.99 in the UK and $4.99 in the USA Value for money is a complete no-brainer. Sandstorm is a remarkable game at this price and with the new multiplayer update due out soon. TiG recommends that if your going to buy an FPS game, get over to the app store and check it out asap!

Presentation

A quick word to all iPhone developers! Your users want the ability to save their own profiles and games. It is infuriating to lose all of your progress when you do something like hit the home button, which forces you to begin your mission again from scratch. I am sure the ability to save is not impossible on the iPhone so why is it not implemented? It would make for a far better user experience if it were.

Other than the save game problem, Sandstorm clearly excels in it's presentation. Gameloft have done a great job on the games navigation and all the options and configuration screens are intuitive and easy to use. Load times were a bit long on my 2nd gen iPod touch but on the 3rd gen they are not a problem.

TiG Review Score

Graphics Rating:
9
Control Rating:
9
Gameplay Rating:
7
Value Rating:
8
TiG Overall Rating:
(not an average)
8