You would be forgiven for not hearing or thinking much about Call of Duty Mobile, as it's been somewhat overshadowed by the all-singing, all-dancing Call of Duty Modern Warfare second coming later this year.
I hadn't thought about it at all until it emerged blinking into the world today, and I saw it on the Play Store while catching up on the newest releases.
War on the move
A few hours later I fired it up and was blown away by both the fidelity and how smooth the game feels to play. Call of Duty: Mobile isn't just a contender for one of the better multiplayer first-person shooters on mobile, it's also a firm entry into the Call of Duty canon, with all of the meat of the multiplayer experience you would expect from a mainline COD title distilled into a tight multiplayer package.
Or at least, that's how it appears after a couple of hours of playing the fast-paced multiplayer blaster. There's a Battle Pass, Create-A-Class, perks, and even operator skills, letting me unleash a flamethrower. Popular Call of Duty levels, characters and elements are also in the mix; Nuketown feels particularly exciting as you belt around the group hocking grenades and getting frags.
This is definitely the authentic COD experience — until you get to the end of a level and are encouraged to buy in-app purchases.
At this early stage, the menus are quite overwhelming. Pop-ups at the end of matches cajole you to buy a premium version of the battle pass, and a host of stars and crosses try to point you towards the many unlocks you've gotten after every match. Progress is fast early on, and I found myself ploughing through a couple of levels at a time in my first few matches, followed by a few minutes of confused blundering through the menus trying to make sure I was using all of the items I had unlocked.
If you can overlook the menus, getting into a game is quick and easy, and as with every good Call of Duty game, you start with access to the M4, so you don't need to tweak your loadout.
The game is out now, and the launch has been fairly smooth, however, the promised Zombies Mode isn't yet in the game. Battle Royale and the more standard Multiplayer are all present and correct, although you can't dip into Battle Royale properly until level 7. Once you're away from the teeming menus, the game is the Call of Duty you remember, if not a little slower and a little harder to control, part of the series jump from a mouse and keyboard or controller to a flat screen with no analogue buttons whatsoever.
The console illusion
But the illusion that you're playing a AAA console shooter holds strong, a magic trick that holds up for the length of each of the short matches. Movement is super smooth: you control your digital soldier with a virtual controller overlaid on the screen, moving with your left thumb and aiming with your right.
There are a host of smaller bubbles on the screen letting you switch between weapons, reload and even jump and crouch — although jumping and crouching to get through a small window is one of the parts where the curtain comes back on the magic trick and you remember you're playing a mobile game.
This is a mobile game with the weight and graphical prowess of a console game, and that's really difficult to accomplish.
The best endorsement of the game is that even on a tiny screen, the shooting feels satisfying and has some weight to it. The game fires for you, so you only have to line up the target in your sights and you'll shred it with a hail of gunfire. Knifing opponents or tossing a grenade takes a little more work, but it still scratches the itch of a solid multiplayer shooter, except you can play it anywhere you can get a decent connection.
I'm not sure how long I'll keep playing for, but I've found the game to be pretty well balanced for bashing away during a break from work or with my feet up while watching TV on the sofa with my housemate. The matches are fast-paced and don't require your full attention, which is a nice change of pace.
We've got a full review coming later this week, but if I could give you anything at this early stage, it's that this is a Call of Duty game you should take seriously, and if you're writing it off as just a mobile game, you're missing out.