Call of Duty: Modern Warfare: Mobilized

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare: Mobilized
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare: Mobilized Cover
Platforms Nintendo DS
Genre Shrunken Down FPS
MtAMinutes to Action 0
Keep Playing? No
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Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was a huge hit, and Modern Warfare 2 was a huger hit. Activision expected that, and decided this wasn't a chance they could pass up. At the same time MW2 was released, the original Modern Warfare was remade for the Wii, and Modern Warfare: Mobilized was set loose on the DS.

This handheld FPS mimics the control scheme of Metroid Prime Hunters, using the stylus to aim and the buttons to move and shoot. This worked out pretty well for the DS entry in the Metroid series.

Modern Warfare and its sequel both have amazing, hi-definition graphics. But how does a studio go about shoehorning that into a system that hosts mostly 2D games? Will the controls work? Will Modern Warfare be the least bit exciting on a handheld?

A word about Half-Hour Handhelds. We review games based on their first hour and whether it's worth it to continue playing. However, handhelds games are generally designed to be played in short bursts. They usually have shorter levels, less overall content (leading to a shorter game length), and less lengthy exposition. Because of this, an hour would be a really long time to play a handheld game for a first impression. It would likely delve into a larger percentage of the overall game and it would not be consistent with how handheld games are usually played. Plus it would be uncomfortable. All that being said, I think half-an-hour is a generous amount of time to allow for a first impression. If I've played a DS game for half an hour and it's not fun yet, there's no way I'm going to give it another 30 minutes.

Minute by Minute

(minutes are in bold)
00 - I tap "Single Player" and the first half-hour of Modern Warfare: Mobilized begins. I can choose Training, Campaign, Quickplay or Bonus. I think I'd better go with Training, since I've never played it before. I get control within seconds: The control pad moves and the stylus on the touchscreen looks around. It works very much like a mouse and keyboard setup, with the control pad as the WASD keys and the stylus as the mouse.

01 - The instructor is telling me what to do. When someone is talking I can look around but not move. He tells me to pick up the MP5, which I do by walking up to it. Alright, I've got a gun! The L button shoots. I quickly test and confirm that the four buttons will move and the R button will shoot, in case you prefer to hold it that way. There's an icon on the touchscreen that lets you look down the sites of the gun.

02 - I shoot all the targets, then expend the rest of my rounds just for fun. Once I'm empty, if I press the fire button he stabs with a knife. Then the Instructor tells me to pick up the handgun and try it out.

03 - The Instructor is talking way faster than I can do the stuff he's saying. There's an icon that lets me switch weapons. It's a bit cumbersome: I have to tap the icon which expands a weapons menu, then without lifting the stylus, drag to the weapon I want. Even though it's awkward, I can see getting used to it, and I find out later why I can't just tap the icon to switch to the next weapon. Double-tapping down on the control pad makes him crouch, which steadies his aim.

Call Of Duty Modern Warfare Mobilized Firefight

04 - Grenade time. There's now a grenade icon on the touchscreen which arms them (I have both frag grenades and flashbangs). Once I've armed the grenade of my choice, I throw it by pressing L. There doesn't seem to be any way to determine how far you throw it except by where you're aiming.

05 - The Instructor warns me to look away when I throw a flashbang, but I look anyway and my screen flashes white, then has a huge glare in the middle for several seconds. I throw all the rest of my grenades just because I can. He told me what to do next, but I wasn't really paying attention, so I don't know what it was. There are no more weapons on the table and I can't figure out a way to get him to say it again.

06 - While trying to figure out what to do next I discover that I can't damage any of the scenery.

07 - I wandered around enough and found myself at the beginning of an obstacle course. I start to go through it, but nothing happens. I think I'm going backwards, if the arrows on the floor are any indication.

08 - So I found the beginning and the instructor sets me off. I have to run through the rooms and shoots targets that pop out. I get through the first three rooms really quickly, but when I move from the fourth to the fifth, no targets pop up and I have to go back into the fourth room to find a target I missed. The instructor is urging me to shoot the targets quickly, but there doesn't seem to be any consequence for taking my time.

09 - I make it to the end of the course, but the timer is still ticking. I must have missed another target somewhere, so I go back in. Room six has some targets that aren't raised, and I can't damage them on the ground. Maybe the trigger condition isn't working right.

Call Of Duty Modern Warfare Mobilized Injured

10 - Ten minutes in and I'm stuck on a training exercise. Lame.

11 - Bringing up the pause menu shows a map, which indicates that my next objective is in Room Five, where I currently am. I already shot the one target in here, but I shoot it a couple more times just to be safe. Aha, one appeared behind me! Apparently I hadn't stepped in just the right spot to trigger it and it hadn't appeared. *sigh* The instructor tells me I could do much better and offers me a second chance, but I decline. He recommends I choose difficulty level "Recruit."

12 - Now I move on to the campaign. A cutscene made of still images tell a generic story about a Middle-Eastern prince fighting invaders in his country.

13 - You know what? I'm choosing Regular difficulty in spite of my instructor's warning. More story, about how this guy is trying to find a nuclear device in South America.

14 - I start with an MP5 and a handgun. I'm following a Sergeant and a Captain. They move out and shoot two guys off of a roof; they're both better at this than I am. I step out of cover to take down a bad guy, but my guy reloads right then and I get killed. The reload took a really long time, and I don't see any way to force a reload (say, at a more opportune time).

15 - This MP5 is not very accurate. There's some dramatic music, but it's fading in and out; sometimes it's playing and sometimes it's not. I'm glad they extended the realism to the regenerating health. If it weren't for that I'd already be... never mind.

16 - I picked up an enemy's AK-47... no wait, it's a newer AK-74.

Call Of Duty Modern Warfare Mobilized Headshot

17 - I move into a house but get ambushed through a door and perish. That's right, I died again.

18 - I got killed again while reloading. I really wish there was a tactical reload feature.

19 - Because I know where the ambush is, I killed the guy before he knew I was there. In fact, all I could see was his leg, so I shot him in the knee and he died.

20 - An enemy ran up to me and when I pressed L I knifed him. Yikes, then Captain Bell ran up to another guy and knifed him in the face. The dude was just kneeling on the ground, not doing anything! How do we know he was a combatant? He did have a gun but he wasn't shooting.

21 - I ran out of ammo for my MP5 so I swap it out with an AK-74. Shortly after I find a box of ammo that gives me a new MP% full of ammo (120 rounds).

22 - Hm, I just completed an objective. I don't know what it was, as nothing special happened. It must have been to get to this particular building, but there wasn't anywhere else to go anyway.

23 - Just knifed another guy, right before getting a checkpoint. Also, I find out you can do a tactical reload, by quickly tapping the weapon icon. That's helpful, I wish the instructor had taught me that. I also find a gold star floating in the air, apparently it's a collectible item, as that's what it says when I walk over it.

Call Of Duty Modern Warfare Mobilized Cutscene

24 - My men run off, so I know there must be more fighting somewhere over there. Tactical reloads FTW!

25 - One of my men threw a grenade. I'm so proud.

26 - I made it to the room I was looking for, but the Colonel is dead so I have to access his computer. Hm, a password guessing mini-game. It's three numbers, and I have three tries before it sets off the security. There are some colored lights that indicate if I input a correct number, but not which number was correct.

27 - After three tries which were random guesses, a timer starts ticking down from two and a half minutes. I have that long to get it right. Unfortunately I don't see any pattern to use to figure it out, so I do my best trying sets of three numbers and trying to remember which lights came on for each.

28 - I figure out that 5 is the last number, and 3 seems to be one of the other two, but I'm running out of time.

29 - The timer runs out, and I fail because I didn't guess their random number game fast enough.

30 - I don't have to replay any of the level, just the mini-game, but still, it's annoying. Anyway, that's the end of the half-hour.

Call Of Duty Modern Warfare Mobilized Helicopter

Half-Hour Summary

Seconds to Action: 28

Favorite Thing: The graphics are great... for a DS game.

Least Favorite Thing: Hey, you got an obtuse puzzle in my FPS! (And it didn't make it better.)

Design: The graphics are really good for the DS, much better than any FPS on the N64, and we know how popular some of those were. The sound is also good, fully voice acted by competent actors and the guns sound good for the DS speakers. The music is a little odd, as I mentioned, going in and out at points which were unclear.

Story: A boring story, told in a boring fashion. They didn't try very hard at all.

Fun: I didn't enjoy playing it at all. I'm not a big FPS fan, but I think even if you are, this one isn't going to satisfy you.

Keep Playing: It's highly unlikely I will ever play this game again. It wasn't fun, and I would just have to replay that dumb puzzle right away anyway. I don't recommend it. If you have to have an FPS on the go, get Metroid Prime Hunters.

Other Thoughts: I think there is an inherent problem with first person shooters on the DS: the low resolution of the screen. Times came where I was trying to draw a bead on an enemy at long range, and he was represented by just a few pixels. It was impossible to tell where his head was, or in fact which pixels were part of him and which were scenery.

As far as controls, it seems like a good idea to have them imitate mouse and keyboard, but think about how you hold a DS compared to using a mouse and keyboard. It's uncomfortable, and leads to reduced accuracy. Since a couple of bullet impacts in a row can kill you, you have to react fast, but the controls and tiny screen make that difficult to do.

Metroid Prime Hunters managed to pull all this off (in my book), but it had several other tricks up it's sleeve, such as morph ball mode, to make it more interesting and break up the hand-cramping. The combat tended to take place at closer range, and Samus' shields allowed her to withstand a lot more hits, making quick reaction time much less important. Plus you don't have to reload.

In spite of all this, it did manage to impress in it's first half-hour. It just wasn't a very good impression. I got control within seconds of choosing the mode, and in spite of getting lost in the obstacle course, and getting killed many times, I still managed to almost finish the first mission within 30 minutes. At least, I think I almost finished it.

Call Of Duty Modern Warfare Mobilized C130 Gunship