Game Reviews


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When facing a seemingly insurmountable task follow former Alaska governor Sarah Palin's advice: don't retreat, reload.

Gameloft has done just that with readers' choice iPhone game of the year N.O.V.A., redeploying the tightly tuned first-person shooter to iPad.

Confronted by the challenge posed to its controls by the larger screen and different ergonomics of the device, N.O.V.A. HD doesn't retreat - it's loaded up with new features to try and combat our potential control concerns.

But a lack of new content and so-so visuals demonstrate this acclaimed shooter has only been reloaded, rather than remade in full for iPad.

Second chance for a first impression

In the boots of former space marine Kal Wardin, N.O.V.A. HD commissions you for a suicide mission against a surprise alien attack.

You're a one-man army equipped with a regenerative suit of armour, pistol with unlimited ammo, and a semi-automatic assault rifle with which you're free to tear extraterrestrial butt (if they even have one) to shreds.

The 13-mission single player campaign takes you from the inside of a human capital ship to the surface of a tropical planet to the inner workings of an alien spacecraft. It's non-stop action all the way too with four-legged aliens nipping at your heels and big brutes hurling destructive energy blasts at your face.

Throw in local and online multiplayer via wi-fi for up to four players and the thrills of the iPhone original remain intact, even if the controls and presentation aren't quite as impressive.

Touchy, touchy

For one thing reconfiguring the controls is a must given the horrible default setup.

Both virtual analogue sticks - one on the left for movement, the other on the right for shooting - are situated halfway up the sides of the screen. Clearly this was done to have you cradle the device in your palms, but it's not ideal. Additionally, the left stick should appear contextually wherever you place your thumb on the screen, as in the iPhone version.

Hence shifting the analogue sticks down a bit and moving the weapon icons so they're within easy tapping distance is essential to make N.O.V.A. HD playable. Were it not for the option to customise the interface by sliding elements wherever you want, the game would be very frustrating.

Adjusting the position of the grenade button is particularly important because the new two-fingered throw is an inconvenience.

Taking your right hand away from its attack position over the right analogue stick is nothing short of disruptive. Throwing a grenade this way often results in you getting shot before you're able to remove the pin.

Higher definition

Similarly, the new multi-touch doors and locking mechanisms are more of a distraction than clever interactions. I don't want to open a door by twisting three fingers at the centre of the screen. I just want to go through the door and shoot something.

Replacing these underwhelming additions should have been something more solid such as an extra single player side mission or bonus multiplayer map that would have helped make this a more compelling proposition for previous players and newcomers alike.

A more thorough effort in increasing the visual fidelity would have aided the cause too. While N.O.V.A. HD manages a decent display, it fails to invoke awe thanks to its blurry scenery and low resolution horizons.

What was stunning on iPhone and iPod touch is merely run-of-the-mill on iPad, although neither the graphics or the lack of new content impact gameplay.

For that reason alone then N.O.V.A. HD remains an entertaining adventure, despite its borrowed basis.


Customisable controls prevent this reloaded version of N.O.V.A. HD from shooting blanks but it could have been so much more
Tracy Erickson
Tracy Erickson
Manning our editorial outpost in America, Tracy comes with years of expertise at mashing a keyboard. When he's not out painting the town red, he jets across the home of the brave, covering press events under the Pocket Gamer banner.