In its now-two years on the market, Nintendo Switch has defied all expectations. Those who derided the console as another inevitable failure have an egg on their faces as the system has been a runaway success, showing once again that you should never count out the Big N. The games have not disappointed either; basically all genres, indie and triple-A alike, have found a home on the system. And as Gameloft’s MODERN COMBAT: BLACKOUT demonstrates, that includes first-person shooters! MODERN COMBAT: BLACKOUT was originally released for mobile devices in 2014 as MODERN COMBAT 5: BLACKOUT.

The game is a remaster of that for the Nintendo Switch, released on February 14th with new features unique to the Switch. Additional remasters for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are slated for release on March 14th. This review will focus on the Switch version, however. Now, does the porting of a mobile game to a full-fledged console work? Is the game worth a purchase? Can you enjoy it even if, like me, you haven’t played FPS’s extensively in years? Let’s dive in!

MODERN COMBAT: BLACKOUT is an FPS, huh?

Modern Combat: BLACKOUT
Standard HUD in-game. Courtesy of Gameloft

When one thinks of Nintendo consoles and the games one plays on them, one typically does not think of first-person shooters. Even on consoles that were perfect for shooters such as the Wii, such games were typically not given top billing (unless one counts METROID PRIME 3: CORRUPTION as an FPS). Perhaps it is because Nintendo consoles have typically been underpowered relative to the competition in the post-GameCube era.  Perhaps it is because Nintendo consoles are often derided as “kiddy” or “casual.” This is obviously not helped when some of the biggest-name first-person shooters such as CALL OF DUTY are conspicuously absent from Nintendo consoles and have been for years. MODERN COMBAT: BLACKOUT demonstrates that FPS’s can and do still have a place on Nintendo systems.

The Good

MODERN COMBAT: BLACKOUT
An example of one of the various classes you can play as. Courtesy of Gameloft.

I did have fun with this game, despite its flaws. I will give it kudos for the way it integrates its multiplayer with its single-player campaign. Any upgrades and unlockables that you acquire in a single-player campaign will carry over to the multiplayer mode, allowing you to use your guns and upgrades right from the get-go. It is actually highly advisable to give the single-player campaign a whirl even if you have no interest in the story for this very reason. Jumping right into the multiplayer is inadvisable as you will likely face off against players far better-equipped than you. The game is also aesthetically pleasing, especially when you consider it was originally a mobile game. FPS’s have definitely come a long way on mobile!

How accessible is MODERN COMBAT: BLACKOUT?

MODENR COMBAT: BLACKOUT
If you’re bad at FPS like me, you’ll see this a lot. Courtesy of Gameloft

I will be the first to admit that I am bad at first-person shooters. I haven’t played them extensively since I played TEAM FORTRESS 2 back in the day – and even then I sucked! However, I think I can use this to my advantage in order to answer the question: is MODERN COMBAT: BLACKOUT accessible even to people like me? The answer to that question is — little of column A, a little of column B.

Out of Control?

quicktime events
Quick-time events, my old nemesis. Courtesy of Gameloft

In MODERN COMBAT: BLACKOUT, the button layout is, for the most part, intuitive. They are also customizable, with plenty of additional settings to tweak to your fancy. Even someone like me is able to make do with most of the default settings. However, while the layout is for the most part decent, the actual controls in action… need some improvement. In some respects, you can tell that this is originally a mobile game. I have not played the original mobile game, so I cannot vouch for the controls there. But on the Switch, they feel stiff. Perhaps it is because the original game was developed with a touchscreen in mind. With the Joycons, even when I max out the input sensitivity, it still feels slow.

In fairness, I played through the game mostly with the Joycons. The Pro Controller alleviates this somewhat, and is a must-have for any multiplayer matches. But it does not entirely mitigate the issue, and it isn’t always an option if you’re gaming on the go. Now, I realize that it is cliche at this point for a bad player to blame their failings on the controls or lag or whatever rather than their lack of skill. But I genuinely believe that not all of my deaths in this game are the result of my reflexes (or lack thereof) alone. That being said, the controls are not bad enough to be game-ruining. It is still entirely possible to have a good time with MODERN COMBAT: BLACKOUT in spite of them, as I did.

But they are definitely a weak point in the game.

A Bit Too Simplistic

World Liberation Army MC:B
From the single-player campaign. Courtesy of Gameloft

The other way you can tell MODERN COMBAT: BLACKOUT’s mobile heritage is in the game design. The levels are typically very short (albeit aesthetically pleasing). Maybe I’m spoiled by console/PC FPS’s, but I found the lack of checkpoints to be particularly frustrating. Nothing like almost completing every objective, only to die and have it all go up in smoke! Overall, the game feels like a throwback to the old PS2 shooters, who were largely on-rails of “spray and pray” affairs. The game just feels a bit too simplistic. Now, to be clear, I am not saying that simplicity is bad per se.

One of my favorite FPS’s of all time is PAINKILLER, which had a very simple “kill everything that moves” theme and was an absolute blast. But I do not feel like it is a positive for MODERN COMBAT: BLACKOUT. It does not help that the AI is not very good. Enemy grunts will utilize cover in a very predictable fashion and, amusingly, will make no effort to run away from a grenade you tossed literally at their very feet. Overall, while MODERN COMBAT: BLACKOUT is probably exemplary as a mobile game, as a full-fledged console game I expect something a bit more sophisticated.

The Verdict: Should you buy MODERN COMBAT: BLACKOUT?

MODERN COMBAT: BLACKOUT menu
The Menu. Courtesy of Gameloft

Now comes the moment you’ve all been waiting for. Should you buy this game, or not?

If you’re a fan of FPS games, I think there’s some enjoyment to be had here. As I said earlier, I was able to have fun with the game despite being rusty and bad at it. But I would say that there are other FPS’s that do it better, such as DOOM. Now, if you’re bored of other FPS’s such as DOOM, I’d say this is worth picking up. You can definitely scratch your FPS itch if you have one. If you’re looking for your first Switch FPS, I’m not sure if this should be the go-to.

I do not want to totally disparage this game. As I said, I could enjoy it in spite of the flaws. And I’m sure that as a mobile game it is truly exemplary; I know I was impressed when I found out it was originally developed for phones! This series, I believe, has some great potential for the Switch. I hope that Gameloft continues to develop for the Switch. But I also hope that they will develop games for the Switch from the ground-up to make the most of the better hardware and unique features that the Switch provides. A quick mobile port does not really do the game or system justice.

If you really have an FPS itch that needs scratching and you’ve exhausted other Switch FPS’s already, give this a look. Either way, I say that you should keep an eye on Gameloft’s future Switch projects. I’m sure they have potential!

Game Info

Developer: Gameloft Bucharest

Publisher: Gameloft

Platform: Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), Android, iOS, Windows Phone

Released: February 14, 2019 (Switch version)

Price: $19.99

Copy: A review copy by Gameloft

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