Call of Duty Mobile is a decent mobile game, but many consider it bad for reasons that may be surprising to hear. The free-to-play approach on the Call of Duty franchise is the least of the game's problems and the way it tries to ease players into the game and handles player count issues get in the way of creating a game that feels authentic.
Call of Duty Mobile's launch early last week brought the fast paced shooter to iOS and Android devices for the first time ever. The game has a modern warfare setting and features maps from previous games in the franchise including Nuketown and Crash from the Modern Warfare games and multiple Black Ops fan favorites. It also has the classic game modes and loadout customizability that fans have come to expect that unlock through playing.
From the get-go, Call of Duty Mobile has intuitive controls and shooting. It has a standard one hand to look, one hand to move control setup with on screen buttons to aim and shoot. The game makes the smart choice to put quick aim down sights and shoot on the same button, when pressing down the gun aims down the sight with a slight before firing begins. It is a choice that works because it simplifies and evokes actions that are core to Call of Duty on console. If only everything else in the game was so elegantly translated.
One symptom of bringing the game to mobile is the prevalence of bot matches, especially early on. PUBG Mobile suffered from frequent bot matches early on as well, and for some players this can feel like the game is breaking. In matches immediately after the tutorial, in an attempt to ease players into the game, bots are deployed in matches to let the human players dominate, get used to the controls, and feel like they are winning. It is also a way to mitigate lobby wait times and fill up matches.
This strategy leads to less interesting games. Sure, it feels good to win, but an over-reliance on bots, especially when it leads to players miraculously winning their first Battle Royale match, can turn people off the game because it's not competitive enough. This is felt in the opening hours of Call of Duty: Mobile where wins come too easy, especially in lower population modes like Domination.
This is especially problematic in the Battle Royale mode, which unlocks at player level 7. The game leans into the complex, gear overloaded, Call of Duty take on the genre and runs into the same issues as PUBG Mobile. The game feels overly complicated and the icons on screen become both confusing and immersion breaking. Even with the same quality of life improvements that take cues from PUBG and Fortnite like auto-pickup and equip the Battle Royale mode doesn't feel like it stands out from either of these huge mobile competitors.
All these elements combine to affect the progression system, which is more or less faithful to the Modern Warfare approach to loadouts and leveling. Leveling up in Call of Duty Mobile is fast and every early level unlocks one more small feature, a new perk slot, a new game mode, etc. Waiting to level up to unlock favorite game modes like Domination and Battle Royale feels a bit archaic for a franchise so well established that fans know exactly what they want, especially so far as facing off with bots is involved.
It remains uncertain if Call of Duty Mobile will somehow be able to remove these bots or if it has enough users to even do so. It's a lingering problem in mobile shooter games, likely meaning Call of Duty Mobile will walk the same path as PUBG mobile.
As a Call of Duty game, Call of Duty Mobile doesn't create an identity for itself and instead serves as a reminder of those great COD games and characters of the past console games. Playing a mobile shooter on the best maps from Call of Duty 4 and Black Ops, but with bot riddled matches, just doesn't quite hit home
Call of Duty Mobile is available now for iOS and Android.