Call of Duty: Mobile (Android, iOS – free-to-play with microtransactions) – game review (of sorts)

by Abdul Hussain – H/T “Marney Imy” (@marneymo (Twitter)) and Mohammed Hafeez

Platforms tested: Android OS (Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 – Havoc-OS (10), LG G4 – AOSPExtended (9), Samsung Galaxy S4 – GT-i9505 – Samsung OEM firmware (5.0.1), and BlueStacks – PC (7.1.1))

Who would have thought that a somewhat decent game on a smartphone would exist? Not me, and I was initially, immediately sceptical when I first heard of this game being out on mobile devices (Apple’s iOS and Google/Alphabet’s Android OS), especially when mobile gaming has a bad reputation for being littered with copy-and-paste vertical endless-running games (made popular by Temple Run), tap-laden match-X-amount-of-objects games (made popular by King’s Candy Crush Saga), and egregious microtransactions that would put console/PC gaming-synonymous repeat monetization practices to shame.

Microtransactions – the basic rundown

However, in the case of Call of Duty: Mobile, the microtransactions are sadly what one would expect in a free-to-play mobile/smartphone title, ranging from a ridiculously unfairly implemented tiered free-versus-paywall rewards system (one or two items for free players versus almost 20 items for those who are willing to spend money on a Premium Pass), and a two-tier credit system (credits earned via gameplay versus credits earned while paying up monetarily beforehand), to the heavy-handed, frequent promotion of paywall-tiered incentives to encourage players of the game to cough up the money for these incentives, which range from gun skins to soldiers and credits, and at this point, it can be a genuine deciding, and perhaps make-or-break factor that decides whether one wishes to play such a game or not, for whatever reason and cause. As of the time of writing though, the game is not as bad as some of the games in terms of microtransaction “design” choices, like Miniclip’s 8 Ball Pool, whereby level progression is more stunted due to said choices when compared to this game, though these impressions may be subject to change once I play the game more, and/or once any updates that either handicap or improve this arrive later down the line.

Tiered rewards systems shown on display here
This game has a tendency to lock out certain game achievement objectives behind a paywall in the form of a Premium Pass.
Oh, you’ve increased your Battle Pass tier level, and you haven’t forked out a shekel? Oh dear – here’s what you COULD HAVE got if you’ve forked out money (hint: you won’t just get 1 or 2 rewards – you’ll get 10-15 more). Sadly, this theme of teasing Premium Pass incentives continues throughout the game.
Yep, thanks to the CP credit system, and how that’s only available to those who monetarily fork out money for it, you can only get crates immediately via the CP currency (Call of Duty: Mobile’s paywall-only virtual currency). You can get loot crates via gameplay, but good luck with that.
Ruby Rose from RWBY: Oooooooh, that’s a freaking sweet gun
Activision Blizzard/Tencent/Timi Studios: Sorry ma’am, shekels please…

The Game Itself – the basic rundown of the game modes included

Now, with the microtransactions being talked about here and out of the way, this game is merely an online multiplayer title published by Activision, and developed by Tencent Games’ studio, Timi Studios, and as of the time of writing (December 3, 2019), has Zombies Mode, in which you’re facing a bunch of zombies and you blow their brains out to survive, which has its roots in Call of Duty: Black Ops, a conventional bunch multiplayer modes, ranging from Free-for-All and Team Deathmatch to Domination, Search and Destroy, and Frontline, and Battle Royale, which is a “last man standing” game mode somewhat akin to PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite, which in itself should provide some lasting value to the game itself with the minimal risk of the game becoming too stale in terms of the diversity of content and game modes, though the game has introduced some time-limited modes such as the melee-only “Stick and Stones” mode, and a sniper rifle-only mode, unimaginatively named “Snipers Only”.

In addition to this, the game maps on offer are based on the seventh gaming generation (Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, and  Nintendo Wii) versions of the Call of Duty games, ranging from the numbered Modern Warfare games (EXCLUDING Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019)), to the early Black Ops games, and so is the gameplay and the graphics, with map designs and game controls being tailored for smartphones, without any noticeable negative compromises, as the touchscreen controls work surprisingly well, but compared to a keyboard-and-mouse setup, touchscreen controls is a far cry from the keyboard-and-mouse setup, although for those who have good enough PCs but weak smartphones, Tencent’s officially sanctioned Gameloop Android emulator and BlueStacks are two ways to play the game on PC, and with playing the game on PC, cross-play is reportedly segregated to ensure that emulator-toting players are matched with other emulator-toting players to reduce gameplay imbalances.

The Gameplay and Game Controls

For those who are not familiar with how the game plays, especially when I have described the gameplay in the game as akin to the earlier console/PC Call of Duty titles, the gameplay is fast-paced, snappy, and arcade-tier, which is easy to get into with weapon authenticity being of a slightly lower priority in terms of game design, and the ability to “run around like a headless chicken” is pretty easy as a result, while shooting opponents in the process – that is: if you’re familiar with how Call of Duty games largely play as a whole, and the maps in this entry range from Nuketown and Summit to Hijacked, a map consisting of a superyacht deserted in the bloody middle of nowhere, because videogames, most of which, as stated earlier in this article, are based on the maps in earlier Call of Duty games, which provides a sense of familiarity for those who have played the earlier games before, and as for the multiplayer player-base sizes, 8 players can play in one solo multiplayer matchup, or two 5-player teams in team-based sessions, which is too small by 2019 console/PC gaming standards, but is satisfactory for mobile gaming, considering the nature of it, and the limitations that come with mobile gaming from a technical and free-time perspective.

The main menu, that presents all of the available options, including the three main game modes (middle-right, presented in a segmented, stylized M-shape manner)

As for the game controls, the game itself offers two main types of game controls for the game: Simple Mode, which auto-fires whenever the crosshair is hovered over a rival player, and Advanced Mode, which allows for more freedom in terms of aiming to shoot, with the ability to toggle automatic Aim Down the Sights support, which works fairly well for touchscreen gameplay, especially on devices with big screens as bigger screens reduce the risk of accidentally touching gameplay action icons that act as “button commands”, though the layout of the gameplay action icons can be tweaked to alleviate accidental touches. In addition to this, there has been the re-introduction to game controller support for the game, though I cannot test this personally as I do not have the necessary gamepads (a Sony DualShock 4 or a Microsoft Xbox One controller) to test out the game on. As for keyboard and mouse support, that is exclusive to PC users who use an Android emulator like Tencent’s officially supported/sanctioned emulator, Gameloop, which supports both PUBG (PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds) and Call of Duty: Mobile out-of-the-box, and BlueStacks, which only works on the Microsoft Windows version of the emulator, and not on the Apple macOS version of the emulator, complete with segregated matchmaking as mentioned earlier in the article, and out of the game controls that are available, keyboard-and-mouse, once mastered, is the most accurate in terms of aiming and firing, thus the matchmaking segregation protocols that are reportedly put in place, and as someone who has played on PC against two mobile phone users in a private match, it is laughably easy to why the segregation is implemented: so much so that they have laughably described my movement as akin to that of “a Dragon Ball Z character” and the shooting capabilities akin to the ageing actor, Clint Eastwood.

The game offers two main control modes: Simple Mode, which autofires on opponents when the cursor hovers over an opponent, and Advanced Mode, allowing for more manual control.

The More Technical Aspects of the Game – Graphics, Framerate, Storage Use, and Tested Setups

Onto the more technical aspects of the game, the game itself can easily be installed via the Google Play Store on eligible phones and emulators, though in the case of the Samsung Galaxy S4, I had to resort to more technical measures to get the game installed (read: download the APK from APKMirror, and find an OBB file from some random site and place it into the desired directory), as Google Play Store does not show the game in-store due to it reportedly being incompatible with the device. The game itself takes up around 1.8GB of storage as of December 3, 2019 (version immediately after installing from my personal experience, which can be a massive storage hog for devices with 16/32GB internal storage only, especially without expandable storage, so having 3-4GB of free storage space is recommended before installing the game, and if needed, please get yourself a microSD card and transfer any data that is not immediately needed onto it, like camera photos.

Call of Duty: Mobile takes up almost 1.9GB on the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3

The satisfactory minimum system requirements for the game are as follows (source: Activision Blizzard and HutMobile):

  • Android (low/medium with 30-50FPS average, 60FPS in some instances): OS: 5.1 (Lollipop) – RAM: 2GB (Activision) (3GB according to HutMobile), CPU: Qualcomm Snadragon 625 (HutMobile)/650/808 (personal tests – Xiaomi Redmi Note 3/LG G4) – GPU: Adreno 418 (LG G4)/506 (HutMobile)/510 (Xiaomi Redmi Note 3)
  • Android (ultra-low with 20-40FPS average – Samsung Galaxy S4, GT-I9505): OS: 5.0.1 (Lollipop) – RAM: 2GB – CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 – GPU: Adreno 320
  • Apple iOS: OS: iOS 9.0 – Handset: Apple iPhone 6/7 or better (HutMobile)

As for playing the game on PC via BlueStacks, I have played the game on PC with the following hardware specifications, which can reach maximum settings without compromise at a user level (BlueStacks will not allow “maximum graphical fidelity” as the game will just reset itself to “Very High” even after selecting that option in the BlueStacks Android emulator):

  • CPU: Intel Core i7-6700k
  • GPU: nVidia Geforce GTX Titan X
  • RAM: 4 x 8GB Corsair Vengeance RAM (32GB total)
  • OS: Microsoft Windows 10

After playing the game on three different smartphones, with varying setups and hardware configurations, the Samsung Galaxy S4 provided the worst gaming experience for the game due to the very dated hardware, with framerate averages reaching around 20 to 40 frames per second (FPS) on most maps and modes on the lowest graphical fidelity settings with Samsung’s version of Android 5.0.1 installed (below the minimum advertised OS requirements), with the LG G4 sitting in between the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3, with around an average framerate count of 30-50FPS, with some maps and camera angles making that hit 60 frames per second on low graphical fidelity settings and on a custom (hobbyist/homebrew-made) firmware called AOSPExtended v6.6, which is based on Android 9 (Pie), and lastly, but the best in terms of the available devices, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 can hit around 30-60FPS on average with medium graphical fidelity on a custom firmware called Havoc-OS 3.0, which is based on Android 10, which is a surprise for the ageing devices, as my initial expectations were that they would severely struggle even on the lowest settings. Fortunately, the game itself will not allow you to select higher settings than what your device are capable of, by simply not showing such options, in the eventuality that selecting such options will grind a dated phone down to unusable extremes. However, if your PC can handle Android emulation with consummate ease, as is the case with my aforementioned setup, then maximum settings can be selected without framerates dipping before the coveted sixty frames per second, and that needs no further explanation as to how great that can be in gaming terms, other than silky-smooth gameplay with quick responses that are only hindered by Internet speeds/online server speeds. As for graphics and how they stack up, they’re comparable to the early-entry seventh gaming generation (Sony PlayStation 3/Microsoft Xbox 360) games in the franchise, with the exception of shadows, whereby the shadows look like a jarringly bad jagged farce, and some of the non-interactive vehicles and walls looking like vehicles from Sony’s The Getaway, but where the game graphically shines is in the player models, with the overall clothing and glove stitches looking crisp and clear, and so does the guns and weapons in the game.

Graphical options are omitted or greyed out when the game feels that they will not work well on targeted devices – snapshots: LG G4 – H815 – AOSPExtended 6.6 – Android 9
Graphical options are omitted or greyed out when the game feels that they will not work well on targeted devices – snapshots: Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 – Havoc-OS – Android 10
Upon playing the game via BlueStacks on Microsoft Windows, all the game options are available, right off the bat, but don’t let the “Max” “Graphic Quality” (sic) selection fool you – that will reset itself to “Very High” upon each BlueStacks emulator restart for some reason.

Closing Statements

All in all, as a mobile game offering, it is perhaps one of mobile gaming’s surprises of 2019, and if you’re interested in playing a quick first-person shooter while you sit on the toilet, trying to relieve your bowels, or on public transport, while you are willing to overlook the microtransactions that are presented to you in-game (I seriously cannot blame you if you can’t), then you cannot go wrong with Call of Duty: Mobile. Hell, if you’re in the mood for a free-to-play session of Call of Duty, and you are hesitant to fork out money for a mainline entry, like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019), while you don’t mind taking a trip down Gaming Memory Lane, then I would also suggest this game as well, but obviously, with modern military shooters, come political undertones that not a lot of folks will be fond of, for whatever reason, and that is understandable, though in this entry, there’s no solo campaign with a storyline to follow, so that issue is minimized somewhat, but with all that said, one could do a lot worse than play this game… on mobile, like playing this game on PC (cue the incoming anti-PC gaming outrage), and getting so incoherently drunk that walking in a straight line is no longer a possibility.

Now, here’s a shameless plug: please watch my gameplay sessions of Call of Duty: Mobile, played with BlueStacks on PC, so enjoy!

A Team Deathmatch session of CoD: Mobile from yours truly
…aaaaaand another Team Deathmatch session of CoD: Mobile, because why not?
Lastly, here’s a time-limited Sticks & Stones (melee-only) session, which was fun while that session lasted.

6 replies on “Call of Duty: Mobile (Android, iOS – free-to-play with microtransactions) – game review (of sorts)”

I’m a bit of a newbie at WordPress myself, but yeah, Twitter is a massive joke and a half, especially when you can’t even say anything without getting reported and subsequently banned. It’s a farce, and I also know someone else who got banned on Twitter today, and thanks for the compliments on a review.

Liked by 1 person

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