Call of Duty: Mobile is the best shooter I’ve played on a smartphone

Editor’s note: Call of Duty Mobile is now available for download. This hands-on review is based on time with the game at E3 2019.

Mobile games suck.

Ask any gamer about mobile, and that’s the response you’ll receive. Mobile games are in hiding at the show, and when they do appear, the response is usually a pained groan.

Pure, refined Call of Duty
Loading up a match of Call of Duty: Mobile is like having a syringe of pure, refined, unfiltered Call of Duty stuck straight in your jugular. TiMi Studios, a division of Tencent developing the game for Activision, could’ve watered it down until it was unrecognizable, but instead, the mobile version feels like a master cut of every CoD game ever made.

Its clean and sometimes colorful looks are reminiscent of Advanced Warfare and Black Ops 4, but the mostly realistic weapons and reeled-in class system have more in common with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, the recently released mainline game for PC and console.The simple controls put your left thumb in charge of movement, and your right in charge of aim. There’s no fire button. Instead, you fire as soon as your reticle finds an enemy.

It sounds strange, I know, but it works. The fact your gun is firing doesn’t mean you’ll win a fight. Accuracy, range, and even aim still matter. You won’t do any damage if you try to shoot someone across the map with a shotgun, and it’s important to aim for headshots. I killed several foes who began firing at me first and, yes, I was owned by several I surprised.
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The advanced controls add a button that lets you aim down sights. You’ll only fire when aiming. This gives you more precise control and makes headshots easier, but sharp aim is required to make the most of it.

I preferred the advanced controls. Aiming down sights for a headshot at range felt rewarding. It’s not great for 360 no-scope kills, but I never felt my success or victory was due to fat-thumbing the fire button.

Shooting fools is the main activity in Call of Duty: Mobile, but other favorites carry over. You can throw grenades and flash-bangs, use killstreaks, and pick up weapons dropped by enemies. It all happens at the press of on-screen buttons. I played on an iPhone XS, which was just large enough to fit the many controls. Players on small smartphones may be in for a rough time.Battle royale is here, but it’s not flying solo
Battle royale makes its way to Call of Duty: Mobile, though it’s not the game mode I tried. Instead, I was shown a brief demo of the battle royale. Anyone who enjoyed the Blackout mode in Black Ops 4 should be pleased. Mobile’s battle royale isn’t a copy of it, but it’s similar. Even the map looks like a spin-off of Black Ops 4.

My time was spent playing two matches of the game’s classic 5-on-5 mode. Unlike battle royale, which can be a lengthy experience, this mode is perfect for short bursts of play. Most 5-on-5 matches take between five and 10 minutes.