If first-person shooters on console are a gamer’s bread and butter, then an FPS on smartphone is a gamer’s Ryvita. It doesn’t taste the same, but at least it’s lighter.

Unfortunately, where most Android and iOS versions of Gameloft’s Modern Combat series work in tandem with the touchscreen to create a mostly enjoyable romp, their adaption to the Xperia Play has always been troublesome.

The studio’s latest Call of Duty-'em-up Modern Combat 3: Fallen Nation is not about to change that.

Sound of the suburbs

The story behind the gunfire is, as ever, complete trash. It simply re-deploys the invasion of America sequences and other tropes from the Modern Warfare titles, right down to the suburban level design, AC-130 missions, and helicopter drop-offs.

With every addition to the series, this becomes less tolerable. Once upon a time Gameloft’s reliance on other games’ formulae was widely overlooked because its games were fun, but now the practice is starting to wear a little thin.

War and set-piece

In terms of running and gunning, it all remains largely unchanged from the second game. You follow superior officers through corridors, Pakistan back streets, and California swimming pools, all the while popping off regular shots at the numerous North Korean enemies that appear (sometimes quite literally) from thin air.

The set-pieces are the most impressive sections, with enemy choppers coming down on you as you struggle to pick up that life-saving rocket launcher just in time, or your character having to whip out a 9mm pistol in slow motion to take a well-placed shot at a particularly nasty bad guy.

The multiplayer is another of the more impressive aspects of the game, with plenty of XP to earn and weapons to unlock, but this might have something to do with how refreshing it is to play against intelligent enemies rather than the brainless AI foes the single-player campaign throws at you.

Sticking point

Sadly, even the more enjoyable moments can’t save Modern Combat 3 from being underwhelming and often frustrating. This is due to those notoriously fiddly thumbpads, which – despite attempts by many developers – still haven’t been properly adapted for fast and accurate FPS games.

You can dream of the day Gameloft finds the sweet spot between too sticky and too sensitive, but I suspect there simply is no ‘sweet spot’ when it comes to these troublesome touchpads.

The rest of the controls work fine, with the L trigger being used as a quick-fire auto-aim – something that will either feel enormously useful or suck all the reward and joy out of gun fights, depending on how challenging you like your shooters.

We’ll say nothing about the fact that this has now become a clone of a clone because that might involve Inception-like layers of mental effort. Suffice it to say that Modern Combat 3: Fallen Nation has done pretty much exactly what it set out to do, which is to echo its predecessor Black Pegasus in a different skin with more slow-mo sequences.

The set-pieces and multiplayer action might satisfy some gamers, but the controls are too weak for it to really stand out.