Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour is a game of oddities. On the one hand, chief antagonist Page bemoans the violence of the Western world. On the other, he cackles maniacally as he guns down soldiers, ordering his men to shoot them in the gut like pigs.
It wants to be mature, but with squadmates shouting joyous exclamations with every kill, and heads and other appendages flying off when you shoot them, it feels like the most immature game of imaginary playground gunfire you've ever engaged in.
But in spite of its pig-headed bravado and its ugly, child-like fascination with swear words and violence, there's still a lot here to enjoy. Just bear in mind that it makes Modern Warfare, its chief inspiration, look like Tolstoy.Post modern
The story picks up where Modern Combat 3 left off, and splits its time between a number of protagonists. You spend most of the game as a US marine called Blake. And, in an ill-judged attempt to add edge to proceedings, you also get to play as big bad Page.
The control scheme will be familiar to anyone who's played an FPS on a touchscreen before. There's a floating stick to the left for movement and various buttons to the right for shooting, aiming down your iron sights, running, and hurling grenades.
You can customise the layout however you see fit, though, enlarging and shrinking buttons as well as moving them around the screen.
Tilt controls are also thrown in, but they're overly sensitive and bring nothing whatsoever to the game experience. Luckily, you can turn them off from the options menu.
Fortunately, the game remembers your customisations across all modes, so the setup you have in single-player will be the same you have in multiplayer. Unfortunately, glitches often mean that the floating stick doesn't work, so you have to reload a checkpoint to kick it into action.Global war
The single-player campaign takes you through a variety of real world locations, from Hawaii to Barcelona, ending with a showdown at a snowy army base. The story is as subtle as a pink hand grenade, and the level design leaves a lot to be desired.
The bombast of Call of Duty's set-pieces is missing here, and while that's to be expected from a mobile game there's no excuse for replacing it with corridor after corridor of identikit goons to mow down.
Poor pacing, baffling AI, and odd checkpoints add to the feeling that the game needed a little longer in development, and a slew of glitches and bugs cement that fact. In one harrowing scene, my dead comrades kept barking orders at me, even though their physical forms has disappeared.
Multiplayer feels a little tighter, but the bugs that riddle the single-player remain in place. Restarting a checkpoint isn't the end of the world, but having to jump out of a ranking game because you can't move is a real annoyance.Stop bugging me
The usual array of perks and weapon unlocks push you further down the multiplayer road, but it's easy to be overwhelmed when you start playing. It's worth persevering though, because, in spite of the glitches, there's a lot of depth to the content on offer.
Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour isn't a step forward for the series. In fact, in many cases, it's a step back, with bugs and crashes turning entertainment into frustration. But, and this is a big but, there's really nothing else like it out there right now.
If you're looking for a smartphone and tablet military shooter that fits snugly into the ignorant, violent, but entertaining niche then Modern Combat 4 is perfectly acceptable.
Just bear in mind there's a long list of problems you're going to have to fight past to get to the meat. And, in a game with a credits list as long as this one, that's maybe the biggest oddity of all.