Gameloft’s Modern Combat 2: Black Pegasus is spiritually inspired by Call of Duty, and to a lesser extent, Medal of Honor first person shooters. Like those titles, Pegasus deals with the war on terror. For the holiday season of 2010, it seems special or black operations are in fashion. This game is no different. I always keep thinking of that one year when both Armageddon and Deep Impact came out at exactly the same time. Why? But c’est la vie. You assume the role of one protagonist assigned to a special operations unit trying to nab evidence and terrorists across the globe.
The plot is entirely linear, which is a departure from Call of Duty’s tendency to switch from one vantage point to the next. However, the missions are more than simply search and destroy. You’ll be placed into scenarios such as defending a convoy from RPG attack as a covering sniper. Like Call of Duty, your assignments will change inside each mission between offense and defense to keep the gameplay fresh. You could take over a location in one segment and then be asked to defend it behind a turret in the next. In between action sequences, there are also dramatic sequences where you have to tap various places on the screen in order to get through them. Remember fighting hand to hand in Call of Duty and having to scramble to press a series of buttons to get through the sequence? That’s in here as well.
The artificial intelligence is adequate. They won’t blindly run at you or stand in one position. Some do retreat autonomously. Because it’s a single player campaign game, this is mixed in with some scripted sequences where enemies will move up to flank you. The game, thankfully, does not resort to endlessly spawning enemies. Your friendly squadmates are not as effective though. A lot of times, it feels like you’re with someone who is firing blanks because the game assumes you have to take those characters out. It’s a bit annoying but par for the course in this type of heavily scripted single player campaign. Also because the iPhone lacks the horsepower to model something akin to a human wave in the battle of Stalingrad, many times you will be detached from your squad as a lone wolf. The game works this into the story by asking you to activate elevators or you’re assigned to mop up one floor while the squad moves on to the next level; all things that first person shooter veterans have heard of before.
What will impress those veterans, though, is the visual quality of Pegasus. This game is arguably one of the best looking modern shooters on the iPhone today. It has specially enhanced features for the new generation of retina enabled iPhones and iPod Touches. There are certain elements of the level design where I thought the architecture was square to keep performance moving at a good pace. However, on the whole, you’ll be impressed with what can be done in a mobile device. Functionally, there are a few clipping problems. Enemies can die in certain areas where their body parts can pierce solid matter. I also felt I could ping off a few enemies by shooting very close to the wall they were hiding behind. But the audio aspect of Pegasus is good with crisp sound effects and importantly in multiplayer gaming, a spatial dimension to let you know how close gunfire is relative to you.
Any first person shooter relies on decent controls. Pegasus doesn’t disappoint. I wouldn’t laud them as precise as a mouse but there is a degree of levity in that the game occasionally helps via a sticky auto target mechanism. Those with the newer iPhones will be able to use the gyroscopic interface, which goes untested by me. But for the most part, with iron sights enabled, you can pull off a bunch of headshots. The only problem I find is when it dips into slow motion mode (think Max Payne) after a headshot and the action continues while my character is in the line of fire. I keep having this morbid fear I’ll actually die after it emerges from cinematic view.
Multiplayer with Pegasus is easy. It took me a few minutes to create a Gameloft Live account and then I could jump in to a variety of multiplayer modes including battle, capture the flag and a defuse the bomb type game. Most were doing some variant of team deathmatch and it wasn’t hard to find a game populated with more than two people. I find the iPhone is better suited for these short bursts of action and the games allow you to jump in and out of the action. Performance over Wi-Fi was pretty good, although there are going to be some players who are laggy and may make your life harder.
Pegasus is a solid first person shooter game. It has a lengthy single player campaign with a variety of increasing levels of difficulty that shooter fans will want to play through at least once. And if you don’t like the single player aspect of the game, the multiplayer portion has its own experience and progress rankings letting you unlock new items and abilities. It has to be said this is one of those rare iPhone games that are priced at a premium that really deserve that premium.