Winston Churchill is said to have remarked of golf that its goal is to get a small ball into an even smaller hole with tools completely unsuited to the purpose. That is more or less the experience of playing Critical Ops, a first-person shooter for tablets and smartphones.
The game is currently in soft launch and not entirely complete. Its Counter-Strike heritage is clearly visible – all three game modes feature the players in two teams of terrorists and counter-terrorists and the maps feature familiar milieus. The game modes are bomb defusing, where the terrorists try to plant the bomb and the counter-terrorists try to shoot them all or defuse the bomb; the self-explanatory deathmatch; and gun game, which is a more fast-paced version of deathmatch where your gun levels up every time you kill someone. The maps are small and the matches are fast-paced and short, and even most defusing missions actually end by shooting the opposing team.
The controls are surprisingly intuitive, with the left thumb controlling movement direction and the right thumb controlling facing, aim, and firing. While it is smoother than I would have expected from a shooter on a smartphone, it still does feature my thumbs blocking a lot of visibility and occasionally firing instead of turning around. The system is still far from ideal.
The tutorial is short and simple, and apart from the three game modes, there’s not much else. The playerbase is active enough, and I had no problems accessing a multiplayer match even at odd hours. There is no single-player mode. The game does advertise the possibility of ranked matches, but that would require logging in on my Google Play account and all attempts to do that failed. Other than that, the technical execution of the game is solid. My aged smartphone ran Critical Ops at a smooth 60 FPS even over 4G. There are micropurchases in the game for new weapon skins.
The game’s entertainment value expired for me around the two-hour mark. The core experience of the game is not in matching skills with the other players but in trying to overcome the game’s control system. Critical Ops presents less story to get invested in than Counter-Strike, and I wasn’t always certain which team I was even playing on. At least the game does not feature friendly fire.
Evidently the sleek run, shoot, die, repeat of the game with nothing extraneous appeals to a wide enough player base, and there was always a match to be found with minimal waiting. I may reinstall it if they ever come out with the finished product.
Publisher & Developer: Critical Force
Release Date: May 2nd 2016
Platforms: Android, iOS
Rating: PEGI 16
Test Device: Samsung Galaxy S4
Test Version: 0.9.7.f384
All photos © Critical Force.