Modern Combat: Domination Review

After eight hours of Call of Duty or any number of other first-person shooters, all that’s really left to most players is hours and hours of multiplayer action — so why not just skip the first part and go straight to the second? That was the thinking with Gameloft‘s Modern Combat: Domination, a downloadable title on the Playstation Network that doesn’t mess around with things like story or characters, and goes straight to the heart of the matter: killing other virtual soldiers into oblivion. The result is competent, if imperfect, but certainly worth the asking price of a mere $7.99.


Modern Combat: Domination (PS3 [Reviewed])
Developer: Gameloft
Publisher: Gameloft
Release Date: January 18, 2011
MSRP: $7.99

The fare on offer in Domination isn’t much of anything you haven’t seen before. The game includes five maps and supports up to 16 players in multiplayer. It has several game modes, including mainstays free-for-all deathmatch and team deathmatch, as well as a capture the flag variation, a version of a territory capturing mode, one in which your objective is to kill the other team’s leader (or get him to an extraction point) and one in which one team has to set a computer objective while the other tries to defend it. If you’ve played any of the FPS games that have come out in the last decade, and specifically Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare or Modern Warfare 2, you’ll recognize lots of the elements at work here.

Playing the game is pretty standard, as well. You’ll take on either a special forces team or join up with a group of looser mercenaries, and your character comes with the standard set of buttons that includes a knife-swinging melee attack, a weaponeless sprint, grenades you can hold to burn off a portion of their fuse and a complement of only two weapons.

Your equipment is determined by “purchasing” goods at the start of each life. Each player gets $2,400 in-game cash every time you hit the respawn menu, and you can use it to purchase your loadout every single time you go out. Limited cash means you have to make hard decisions — body armor might mean foregoing grenades; a bigger assault rifle means sacrificing more items. You’ll earn more money by killing enemy soldiers while you’re alive, and any money you earn in a life over paying for what you bought in your loadout appears in your bank when you die. None of those weapons or money carries over to the next life, however, so every time you’re killed, you start fresh and have to earn back the right to new and better equipment.

Not everything is available at the outset of the game, however. Like most modern shooters, Domination includes an RPG-like leveling system, and you’ll earn experience points toward higher ranks with every kill and every completed game. Raising your level makes more weapons and attachments for those weapons available to you at the start of each game — all of them cost money, however, so you’ll either need to make tough decisions about slapping a scope or grenade launcher onto your rifle, or you’ll have to kill a bunch of guys to earn the privilege. It’s a nice system that rewards you for doing well but doesn’t penalize you much if you have a bad round or a bad match.

In addition to using a standard Dual Shock controller, Domination also supports Playstation Move, allowing you to replace the right half of the standard controller with the Move controller. This actually works pretty well even if you don’t have the Move’s Navigation controller — the left side of the Dual Shock controller takes care of your movement, iron-sights aiming and grenade-chucking, while the Move controller is your aiming and all your face buttons. It takes a few rounds to get used to, but the Move controller is actually very fluid and well-supported, allowing for additional accuracy. You’ll sacrifice a little mobility to use it, though; it’s hard to whip around and engage a target behind you, for example. Overall, though, the motion control scheme works better than expected and can be quite a bit of fun. It’s certainly not a handicap.

While Domination does hit a few great notes — fast-moving multiplayer and intuitive shooting controls, chief among them — it suffers from a few min0r issues that have a tendency to pile up. Loading screens and connecting to games feels like it takes abnormally long, and the game will go from running beautifully to suddenly suffering painful lag spikes. Opponents have a tendency to get shot down and hang occasionally, causing you to keep shooting at them despite their already being dead. It doesn’t happen too often, but it’s definitely something that came up more than once while I was playing. There’s also a little bit of a delay between some buttons and their corresponding actions. The melee, for example, is pretty useless because its range is limited, and by the time the action is executed, it’s usually far too late to hit the enemy you were aiming at. Trying to activate it on the Move by thrusting the controller forward can have the dizzying effect of sending your camera spinning.

There’s also not much of any good way to play the game with friends. Domination includes a lot of great modes, including an offline, computer-controlled bot-fighting mode for honing your skills and the ability to set up private matches or custom matches that include bots, but coordinating to play with friends is especially difficult. The game lacks any kind of party system, so you’re stuck with dropping into a game and inviting a friend to that lobby, hoping they wind up on your team.

You can create a custom game of your own, too, and this makes it a little easier to form up teams and get the games you want. However, this requires specifying a lot of options on the game’s menu, including disabling team auto-balancing in order to let your friends pile up on your side. It’s a solution, but definitely an inelegant one, and a game that’s multiplayer-only and extremely cheap is begging to be compatible with building teams of friends. The fact that Domination doesn’t include such a capability is painful, to be sure.

Still, it’s eight bucks. It’s a coffee and a half at Starbucks, two dollars less than a movie ticket, and the same price as a footlong at Subway — and it’s even two bucks less if you happen to subscribe to Playstation Plus. That’s a pretty damn good deal, and for its tag, Domination is a great little multiplayer experience. It could use some after-market tweaking from Gameloft to fine-tune the ability to play with friends, reduce the server lag and maybe add a few more features and maps, but even if Gameloft doesn’t touch it at all, Domination makes a great alternative to a $60 triple-A title with a bunch of features you’re not interested in. For the price, Domination is a steal and a very competent, if not transcendent, entry into the genre.

Pros:

  • Good multiplayer FPS action
  • Solid Move support that actually makes motion control a viable playing option
  • Lots of customization and a leveling system that will keep you playing
  • Decent, large maps; good mix of weapons; all the great shooter controls of the last generation
  • Fair number of game modes
  • Phenomenal price

Cons:

  • Thin on features: only five maps, nothing we haven’t seen before in other FPS games
  • Can get a little laggy; long loading times
  • Trying to play with friends is a hassle, since there’s no way to make parties or guarantee joining the same team
  • Leveling feels like it takes forever

Final Score: 80/100

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