[Review] N.O.V.A. 2 N.O.V.A. 2 by Gameloft Price: $6.99 USD Here's a poem I wrote to Gameloft in response to its release of N.O.V.A. 2: We know that the original N.O.V.A. was a trend-setter, but its sequel is a mind-blower-- Yes, really. Although it seems to have been shadowed by the releases of Infinity Blade and Real Racing 2, N.O.V.A. 2 is at the least a commendable title as well. Infinity Blade and RR2 have AMAZING graphics; there is no denying this. While N.O.V.A. 2 doesn't have what can be considered the best graphics in town anymore, it reciprocates from this area with nearly perfect quality in all other categories. Read on to find out why. GRAPHICS Whereas the graphics of the original N.O.V.A. were amazing at the time, N.O.V.A. 2's are nothing to brag about. It features a beautiful 3D environment and characters, but I noticed during gameplay on my 4th-Gen iPod that a lot of the environment doesn't seem to have been rendered capable of using the Retina displays of newer devices-- A lot of the models have pixelated edges and jagged shapes and curves. At other points, however, N.O.V.A. 2 really shines. Take for instance, these two in-game screen shots: Here, the armor is blurry, ... ... while these pistols look... supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Oh yes, I just went there. You can easily see that the rest of the scenes look gorgeous as well. Indoors, the environment generally looks amazing because it doesn't require any curves, but outdoor settings can look a bit off of par. You'll also notice that image quality of the UI is pretty bad. Either Gameloft made a mistake, or they tried to make it look a bit blurry so that you get the feeling that what you're seeing really is a monitor inside your helmet. I'll leave that for you to decide. I sound pessimistic, but hey: everyone is a critic. The graphic quality varies throughout the game, but N.O.V.A. 2's graphics deserve a solid 4 out of 5 stars. AUDIO As always, Gameloft composed a unique soundtrack to accompany the game. It's great-- maybe even perfect. The voice-overs are good; it's too bad that the characters' mouths don't move, but this isn't a standard on the iOS platform yet, so I can't complain. Also note that the script is pretty corny at points; I laughed once or twice because of it. The sounds that guns and vehicles make are of good quality as well, but they sound oddly similar to those from some of Gameloft's other games... N.O.V.A. 2's audio gets 5 stars out of 5. GAMEPLAY & CONTROLS I honestly can't think of anything that I didn't like about the controls. They're perfect aside from the aforementioned image quality issue. The learning curve is extremely small unless you've never played a first-person shooter game in your life, in which case you probably live under a rock and don't own an iDevice. There's a great variety of weapons, including melee weapons, grenades, other indescribable tools, and a plethora of your standard short-, medium-, and long-range weaponry. The movement of the NPCs (non-player characters) looks fluid and natural, as do the cutscenes, which are all made with Gameloft's 3D engine, other than its fantastic intro video, which is a video file. Gameplay and controls deserve 5 out of 5 stars. REPLAY VALUE The campaign seems to be lengthy, providing at least a few hours of play. It did present a challenge at a few spots, which is a definite plus. Also notable is the extremely high level of AI that is present in the NPCs-- they hide behind cover when they can, and scurry when you aim at them with a turret, but poor them: most of their health amounts aren't too high, but the sheer numbers of them can sometimes be overwhelming. Note that the enemies never appear this bad during gameplay. One aspect in which this game brightly shines is the multiplayer feature, which is available in both online and local area network mode. Each customizable online game hosts up to 10 players, with gametypes varying from team deathmatch to CTF, and options like friendly fire or non-disappearing dropped weaponry. Right now, there aren't any hackers (like in the original N.O.V.A., where hackers and cheaters run rampant), but I don't expect it to keep this way forever. It only takes one killjoy and a few minutes of hacking to figure out a way to hack the game and ruin it for everyone else on the servers. All assumptions set aside, the multiplayer games are always unique from preceding ones, unlike in many other titles. Also featured are unlockable weaponry and abilities, as well as a ranking/leveling system, all of which provide a strong incentive to keep players coming back for more. Replay value earns a great 5 out of 5 stars. VALUE FOR MONEY At $6.99, N.O.V.A. 2 is more expensive than the great majority of other games on the App Store, but keep in mind that this is more of a mobile console game, rather than a pick-up-and-play 99-cent app. You won't regret your purchase, as you will be provided with hours of great campaign gameplay, and dozens of times more of online play. Value for money earns a full 5 out of 5 stars. Rounded to the nearest half-star, N.O.V.A. rightfully earns 5 out of 5 stars for outstanding quality in almost all aspects of its composition.