Published on August 21st, 2013 | by Brian Penny0
Critical Mission: Space Review
From Wolfenstein 3D (early 90s game – look it up) to Call of Duty: Black Ops, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more ubiquitous gaming genre than the first-person shooter (FPS). It’s difficult to stand out in such a crowded genre, but developer Critical Force Entertainment manages to do so by capturing some of that old-school FPS charm with their latest game, Critical Mission: Space, an expansion to Critical Mission: Swat on Android, iOs, and web browsers.
First the bad news: the single-player modes lack depth, but, like many FPS games, single-player is nothing more than an avenue for you to get your feet wet and prepare for the multiplayer experience – online multiplayer is the bread and butter of the FPS genre. Dead Trigger – widely recognized as one of the best Android games ever made – lacks multiplayer, but overall it’s a necessity for replay value. Not only does Critical Mission focus on multiplayer, it’s the only mobile FPS where you can play multiplayer cross-platform.
Console gamers have often lamented their inability to play Modern Warfare, et al, with their friends on another platform. Players on Xbox Live can’t connect to players on the PlayStation Network, nor can either connect to PC and Mac gamers. It’s difficult to crown yourself king of the mountain when you’re only able to compete against a small fraction of the game’s audience. CM: Space alleviates this by allowing you to play with your black turtleneck friends as well as PC gamers playing in a web browser. If you don’t like the idea of competing against someone with a mouse and keyboard from your smartphone or tablet’s touchscreen, you have the option of only connecting to other mobile players.
Graphically, Critical Mission is filled with pixelated sprites and environments reminiscent of the Nintendo 64 era. I wasn’t turned off by this at all – in fact, it gave me warm fuzzies thinking about all those hours I spent pwning noobs in Goldeneye and Perfect Dark. Every so often, I’d hit a glitch where I could see through walls. I searched for ways to perform a Tom Clancy-style exploit where I could shoot through walls while remaining safe and invisible, but the levels seem designed to alleviate this type of glitching. That’s not to say this game didn’t borrow anything from the Clancy games, though – far too often, I found myself spawning in the middle of the enemy team, being gunned down before I even had a chance to realize I resurrected. It felt like karma for all those times I laid in prone position behind a wall in Ghost Recon: Island Thunder mowing down the other team as they spawned until I ran out of ammo. With any luck, spawn points will be better randomized through a patch.
The variety of gameplay options and levels is where Critical Mission amps up the replay value. Taking a cue from the Unreal Tournament series, you can choose from Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Juggernaut, Survival, Classic, and AlienMode, in which AI aliens litter the level, attacking players on both sides. These game types can be played on 11 levels included with the game and (as of publication) 69 downloadable levels. Much like Unreal Tournament, you don’t have to download each map to play it; you can simply join a game where the host has the level. Needless to say, this kind of level variety in a mobile FPS is unprecedented, with my personal favorites being “Homer House” (a clone of Black Ops’ “Nuketown” with a pink Simpsons skin applied to the house) and “Lego Mine” (a level made of Legos).
The control scheme in Critical Mission: Space is the same as the original, both of which will be a quick study to anyone familiar with mobile first-person shooters. The UI works well, although I did occasionally have an issue with accidentally throwing my gun away when attempting to switch weapons during an intense firefight. If you do accidentally (or purposely) toss your weapon (or just run out of ammo), you’ll always have a backup knife available for close combat kills. Bringing a knife to a gunfight in real life is a bad idea, but in CM, it allows you to move faster so you can perform some awesome ninja assassinations.
While we’re on the subject of weaponry, this is where Critical Force sets an example for all those freemium felons to follow. Your default weapon is an automatic pistol with only 7 shots. You have the option to purchase grenades, flash grenades, shotgun, machine gun, and sniper rifle using in-game cash (which can be either earned or purchased with real money). Each time you’re killed, you must repurchase a weapon after you respawn (although there’s an option to auto-purchase your last used weapon). When you kill an enemy, you can take their weapon as well. The longer you stay alive, the cheaper it is to remain properly armed. When you run out of funds you’re stuck with the pistol, but you’re not completely useless. Although paying money can improve the game experience, it’s not necessary in order to complete it. This is how freemium should always work.
Overall, Critical Mission: Space does nothing to reinvent the FPS genre, choosing instead to pay homage to all the greats that came before it. That’s not a bad thing though; no matter what experience you have with first-person shooters, you’ll find comfort in this mobile offering. Being able to compete against your black-turtle-necked friends alone is worth the price of admission. I have a dream that one day gamers of all consoles and devices can play together in harmony. We’re a long ways away from that place, but CM: Space is a step in the right direction.
Summary: Critical Mission: Space is a blend of every FPS we love. If you're looking for an epic multiplayer experience on Android, look no further.