Review: Modern Strike Online blows the competition away

Released in 1999, Counter-Strike is responsible for sparking the iconic counter-terrorist VS. terrorist first-person shooter format which has been imitated and reimagined countless times in the years since. Beloved by millions and still played competitively around the world, it essentially set the groundwork for the shooter franchises that followed.

The dev team behind Modern Strike Online set out to make a mobile version of Counter-Strike, and they make no bones about it. Consider the intro to Modern Strike Online's app description in the Google Play Store:

Are you a fan of the good old counter terrorists? Here is some striking news for you. We are ready to change an idea of free online Android multiplayer shooters.

Modern Strike Online has been available in the Google Play Store for many months now, but kind of flew under the radar thanks in part to it's horribly unoriginal name — not to be confused with Mobile Strike, Modern Combat or… Combat Duty Modern Strike FPS (that last one is 100% real, by the way). Featuring slick graphics, frantic gameplay, and deep customization, it's definitely one of the best first-person shooters you'll find on Android in 2016.

Modern Strike Online was reviewed on a Google Pixel, with the graphics set to their highest settings.

When you launch Modern Strike Online for the first time, first you'll run through a quick tutorial that lays out the controls and walks you through the various menus you'll need to know about. After a brief bit of offline prep, you're ready to take your game online and start collecting XP.

More often than not, the quick battle option on the main menu will be your go-to option, whether you're just starting out or only plan on playing for a few minutes and don't have a game mode preference. New game modes become available as you level up. Once you've reached level 9 you'll have unlocked all six modes, which include all the classics: free-for-all deathmatch, team deathmatch, team squad battle (no respawning), bomb mode (classic seek and destroy), hardcore mode, and custom matches for friendly battles against friends (no XP to be gained here).

The control layout is as good as it gets for a mobile shooter, with options to completely customize the placement and size of the buttons and control sticks in the settings menu. We'll touch on customization more later.

The first things you'll notice is the lack of a trigger button — by default, Modern Strike Online is set to auto-fire as soon as an enemy walks into your crosshairs. It's a bit of a compromise and takes some time to get used to since it can give away your position when you're trying to sneak around or line up a headshot, but it's way more efficient than having another on-screen button alongside the ones for grenades and first aid kits. Not having to worry about pulling the trigger lets you focus on controlling your movement, throwing grenades, and trying for headshots by aiming down the gun sights. Sadly, there's no support here for Bluetooth controllers so you're stuck with touchscreen controls, but in a way that becomes a sort of equalizer within the game.

There are 11 maps in the game, and they include what you would consider FPS standards — warehouses, office buildings and the sort. They're well designed but nothing spectacular, with each offering their own unique features to accommodate firefights of all sorts. You'll want to quickly discover your favorite attack strategies, as each map has pinch points you'll either want to avoid completely, or charge in with guns ablazing.

Modern Strike Online does include in-app purchases to expedite weapon upgrades, but it feels balanced enough that you never feel totally outgunned by someone who's simply paying to win.

Looking at the different game modes available, Modern Strike Online really shines in team-based combat. While a lack of in-game communication hinders team strategizing, you're always able to see where you're teammates are, allowing you to rush in for support when they're under fire, or sneak into an area you know is overrun by the enemy. The maps are perfectly sized for 4 vs. 4 team battles, whereas things often feel a bit too frantic in free-for-all battles with a full slate of opponents.

Modern Strike Online does include in-app purchases to expedite weapon upgrades, but it feels balanced enough that you never feel totally outgunned by someone who's simply paying to win — though it's worth noting that an innocuous upgrade like the flashlight actually ends up being one of the more frustrating distractions in the heat of battle, regardless of the gun it's attached to. The in-game currencies are credits and gold. You earn credits based on your performance in each match, and can also unlock both credits and gold from crates and daily rewards for checking into the game each day. You'll also occasionally unlock a premium weapon in a crate, which will be available to you for an hour or a day depending on how lucky you are. It's a well designed system that's streamlined and perfect for mobile gaming where you won't necessarily be settling in for marathon gaming sessions. The cost for restocking grenades and health kits is also quite reasonable, and something you can do during a round while waiting to respawn.

Speaking of crates, they're used perfectly in Modern Strike Online to keep you checking to the game to open the free crates you unlock every four hours. Occasionally, you'll be rewarded with limited time usage of a rare or legendary weapon, which not only helps you dominate the opposition for a set period, but also gives you an opportunity to try out expensive guns before investing your hard-earned credits. Also, an hour with a M4A1 is just a really satisfying reward.

First-person shooters on Android always require a certain level of compromise to properly enjoy. If there's still a debate raging between console and PC gamers over which is the superior platform, mobile gaming is still trying to muscle their way into that conversation. Compared to precise control and response you get from a keyboard and mouse combo, and the ergonomic design of modern console controllers, controlling the action via touch screen are almost always lacking.

But Modern Strike Online does the work to quell those frustrations starting in the settings menu. From tweaking control sensitivity, toggling aiming assistant, and customizing the on-screen button layout, it allows you to make the most out of the touch screen controls. I personally have no issue with touch screen controls for FPS, so it wasn't a distraction in my enjoyment of the game (and yet, my kill-to-death ratio remains abysmal).

If playing with friends is your top priority, Modern Strike Online delivers with the previously mentioned custom matches, which friends can join by looking for the unique game number. There's also the option of spending gold to create your own clan, complete with custom tag, so you and your friends can show solidarity while battling online.

Overall, Modern Strike Online looks and plays like a paid game, making it an absolute must play. Instead of spending effort on developing an offline campaign with a linear story and weak AI, Modern Strike Online goes all-in on creating a fast-paced and addictive multiplayer experience that really shines on Android.

Bottom Line: The developers behind Modern Strike Online set out to replicate Counter-Strike for smartphones, and in doing so created one of the best FPS you'll find for Android. If you've been searching for a reliably awesome FPS multiplayer experience to play when you're on the go, Modern Strike Online is the game you've been waiting for.

Download: Modern Strike Online (Free)

Marc Lagace

Marc Lagace was an Apps and Games Editor at Android Central between 2016 and 2020. You can reach out to him on Twitter [@spacelagace.