Mobile games coming to the Nintendo Switch are no new thing. The sheer success of the platform and its many similarities to mobile devices make it a choice platform for mobile developers to get into the console world. These mobile ports have very mixed results. Some games, like Donut County, do a great job at adapting to the Switch, while other games, like RollerCoaster Tycoon Adventures, completely fail to make the transition well. Modern Combat: Blackout is an interesting case, then. It’s an extremely popular game on mobile devices, well reviewed, and comes from a studio that many feel makes consistent quality titles. Modern Combat: Blackout does a number of things right, a number of things wrong, and in the end is a mixed experience.
Modern Combat: Blackout is a first-person shooter. On the surface it’s very much like Call of Duty, just more fit for a mobile experience. Modern Combat: Blackout is actually just a Switch port of the popular mobile game Modern Combat 5: Blackout. The developers spent the time bringing the title to Switch with traditional controller support and a few tweaks to the game.
One thing I really appreciated in Modern Combat: Blackout is its bit-sized campaign. Jumping into the campaign didn’t take long, and each mission lasted, at most, five minutes or so. This is obviously due to its mobile roots as it’s not designed to be the deep, long-lasting campaign of a Call of Duty or Battlefield. To me, it worked quite well on the Switch. I was able to pick up the game, play for a mission or two, and feel content. This fits the Switch’s pick up and play style quite nicely. The game also works well in both modes for the Switch as well. On the TV or in handheld mode, the game performed well as there was no noticeable difference between the two mode.
Additionally, I enjoyed the amount of content in the game. Modern Combat: Blackout doesn’t just have a single-player campaign, it also has an online component. In online you can create your own squad and play against other players. You can simply jump into an empty squad and play 4v4, or you can play locally against your friends. I was able to jump online and play a number of matches with people. To my surprise, it took very little time to find a match and jump in. There seem to be plenty of people playing online as I never played with the same people ever. Online matches play out like in a traditional online shooter: eliminate the enemy team. First one to reach a certain kill count wins.
All that said, Modern Combat: Blackout is a mobile port, and it shows. The gameplay itself is a mixed bag at best. I had many issues with simple things like aiming and controlling my weapons. I had to turn the controller sensitivity to max, and even then it felt too slow. The game also has random quick-time events that require you to move the right stick in various directions at random times in the campaign. Obviously, this is where you’re supposed to swipe the screen on your mobile device, but the QTEs feel kind of odd and out of place on the Switch. Another issue I had was that there is no way to exit out of a level. During my time with the game, I accidentally started a part of the campaign I already played. Yet once you load into that level, that’s it. You’re stuck in that level until you complete it again. Pausing the game doesn’t allow you to choose a “Back to Main Menu” option. I thought I could fix this issue by shutting the game off and restarting it, but nope, still stuck in the same level. It’s a minor issue but one that proved to be really annoying.
The other glaring piece of evidence that makes it obvious that Modern Combat: Blackout is a mobile port brought to Switch is its visuals. During its best moments, the game looks like it’s from 2009. At its worst moments, the game looks like it’s from…2009. This consistently runs through your mind when playing the game. Details in the environment are bare minimum. Character details are light. The overall visual experience is something that would have been expected in a game that came out 10 years ago. Yes, I understand that this is a mobile port. For this review I downloaded the original Modern Combat 5: Blackout on my phone to compare the visuals. They are the same. This is a bit disappointing for a Switch release. I understand that developers don’t always have the ability to truly upgrade their game for a Switch release. That said, when you’re bringing your game to Switch and making a Switch-specific version, it’d be nice if something was done to upgrade the very dated visuals. The issue is less noticeable in handheld mode, but it’s still obvious that the effects and lighting are from a decade ago.
Overall, Modern Combat: Blackout is a mixed experience. For those looking for a Call of Duty-like game on Switch, this does a good job of seeming like that type of game. The campaign and online modes have enough content to keep you busy and make it worth the $20 price tag. However, this isn’t a Call of Duty game (obvious statement is obvious). I mention this because I truly feel your enjoyment of this title will greatly depend on your mindset when you go into it. If you think you’re getting a game that’s at the same level of a Call of Duty game, you will be disappointed. If you go into it thinking you’re getting a competent first-person shooter, then you’ll enjoy the title.
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (also mobile devices)
Release Date: 14th February 2019