When you think of the Nintendo Switch, you don’t really think of shooters. Because, well, Call of Duty and Battlefield haven’t released on the console yet. But there are some good ones: Doom, Wolfenstein II, Payday 2, even Skyrim (if you’re an archer or two-fisting spells as a mage) is an option. Actual FPS Modern Combat Blackout? Well, that one’s got a ways to go still.
Paging Bobby Kotick
As you might have guessed from the name, Modern Combat Blackout takes an awful lot of inspiration from Call of Duty‘s Modern Warfare and Black Ops series. Large set-pieces where things explode with national monuments in the background somewhere? Done. A wide range of guns, with various sights and attachments? Sure. A story mode that casts players as the (mostly) unkillable action hero? It’s been special-ordered for Blackout.
And there are features that you might have seen in some of the older Call of Duty games. Items unlock because players have been using a particular weapon (and getting kills with it). There’s an on-screen notification every time you level up — weirdly also in the single-player mode. Multi- and single-player loadouts can be customised in between stages and there’s even a Spec Ops mode of a sort, for when you’ve finished the single-player and you don’t feel like taking the competition online.
Any port in a… actually, never mind
Which might be fine if this game was built for the Switch from the ground up but… that’s not the case. It’s a port from Gameloft’s Modern Combat 5, which was first available for smartphones. Unfortunately, it shows. First of all in the visuals, which look about ten years old. Facial animation is basically non-existent, character models lack detail, and the scenery is flat and uninteresting.
And then there is control. Blackout‘s movement is by turns floaty and sluggish. There’s no sense of traction while moving around a level but a ton of weight while aiming. Some players have been cranking the control sensitivity but even that doesn’t alleviate the problem entirely.
The control issues are a direct result of the game being a mobile port. You can see this in the way that weapons aim. There’s a little barrel sway while moving from place to place but aim down the sights and your assault rifle, SMG, or sniper rifle is as steady as a rock. Because you can’t really control for weapon climb when you’re using touchscreen controls. But… it really should be here. There’s no differentiation in the way different weapons handle, otherwise.
It’s also evident in the way that cutscene quick-time events have been converted from touch to the right analogue stick. The on-screen prompts are unchanged and ideally placed for a quick finger-swipe, smartphone style. Less so in the case of the Switch’s touchscreen. Long story short, Gameloft really should have redone most of the mechanics that were in place for the mobile version.
Ticks all the boxes (they’re low-res boxes, tho)
But if you’re looking for some fast-paced military combat on the Switch, this is the place to be. For now. There’s a whole lot of single-player content to experience, including the Specs Ops mode. There’s ranked and unranked online, though it doesn’t have nearly the same slick polish of bigger offerings.
There’s also the option to play offline with local wireless multiplayer, which is where Modern Combat Blackout might really shine. Having a couple of squads in the same room yelling at each other as the headshots fly… sounds like a recipe for a fight, actually. But it also sounds like a raucous good time. But that means convincing a bunch of friends to all buy a copy of the game and that’s going to be a tougher sell.
It’s also worth taking a look at the vestiges of the mobile game’s microtransactions. Instead of paying real-world rands for cosmetic upgrades, players earn in-game currency which can then be spent on cosmetic upgrades. Like Fortnite and other similar games, these visual updates don’t change the way your character handles. It’s more of a nice-to-have, so you can show off while you’re being nice and respectful to all the other players online. You are being nice and respectful, right?
Modern Combat Blackout Verdict
One of the best things we can say about Blackout is that it’s not priced like a full-sized shooter. If Activision had released it, we’d be looking at a thousand bucks. Maybe R800, if we’re well-behaved. But at R300, Modern Combat Blackout is priced for what it is: A so-so port that will do for now if you absolutely must have a military shooter on your Nintendo console. If you want a bunch of familiar features and an experience that isn’t unpleasant, get your crosshairs over Blackout. If you’re holding out hope for Call of Duty, this’ll give you someplace to be Oscar Mike until the big boys get their act together.