Modern Combat 5: Blackout review: The best shooter on mobile, but not without its faults

The Good Modern Combat 5: Blackout has amazing graphics, an exciting storyline, and online multiplayer mode. The new class system has great customization options.

The Bad You can't play offline. Overpowered weapons in multiplayer can make matches one-sided. Touchscreen controls are not nearly as good as console or desktop setups.

The Bottom Line Even with its issues, Modern Combat 5: Blackout is still the best first-person shooter on smartphones and tablets.


8.1 Overall
  • Setup 9
  • Features 8
  • Interface 7
  • Performance 9

Modern Combat 5: Blackout (iOS|Android) is the latest sequel from Gameloft's popular first-person shooter franchise, and it's the best FPS for mobile to date. Featuring both a single-player campaign and multiplayer game modes, it's closely modeled after the Battlefield and Call of Duty games on consoles and PCs, but while it looks great and plays well, it still doesn't live up to the games it emulates.

Is that a surprise? Not really. It's incredibly difficult for a touchscreen FPS to compete with the precise control systems on consoles or keyboard-and-mouse setups. So one thing you need to know right away is you won't have the tight control you might be used to in other FPS games you've played.

The other thing you need to know about Modern Combat 5: Blackout is you can't play offline, so if you don't have Internet connectivity, you can't play even the single-player missions.

Single-player campaign

As in most modern first-person shooters, you predictably play as an elite super-soldier whose job is to save the world by clearing out terrorists until you face an insane and brutal boss bent on world destruction. The single-player campaign includes a few different game types you'll encounter as you progress through the game's chapters and unlock new equipment.

On your journey, you'll start in Venice, Italy, to learn the ropes. From there, you'll continue to a temple in Japan, then fight through the streets of Tokyo, then back to the canals of Venice, then back to a neighborhood in Tokyo. The graphics and animations are better than those of most games on iOS and looked great on the iPhone 5S and even my iPad 2 (the game requires at least an iPhone 4S, iPad 2, or 5th-gen iPod Touch to play). Each of the main missions is more or less on rails, requiring you to fight through enemies until you clear an area, then move on to the next until you complete the mission objective at the end. This is true for most FPS games as you're guided through the storyline, but be aware that you'll never go far from the beaten path.

Each mission has several parts and you'll need to complete the challenges in each to get a 3-star rating. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Each chapter in Modern Combat 5 also has other game types to complete before you can unlock the next chapter (or area) of the game. These include special-ops missions where you'll clear rooms one after the other in quick succession, and multiplayer missions where you'll play with other Modern Combat players from around the world. Each of these side missions will help you unlock the next chapter, so you'll need to at least dabble in a few game types outside the main storyline to move on in the game.

New in Modern Combat 5: Player classes

In the previous installment of the game, Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour, you could take class specializations that would give you perks to help you play as a sniper, demolition expert, support, and other types of soldiers, but it wasn't broken up into classes. Modern Combat 5 takes customization a bit further toward games like the Battlefield franchise with set classes. Before a fight, or after dying, you can choose from Assault, Sniper, Heavy Assault, or Recon. Each of the classes has a number of weapons and accessories you can unlock by playing the game and gaining experience.

Customize your loadout with scopes, flash suppressors, and other accessories you'll unlock as you play. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

You also earn skill points that you can use to upgrade class traits to make each class more powerful. As an example, with the Assault class you can choose an upgrade called Improved Gearbox to increase the number of grenades you can carry. The Heavy Assault class has a Bulletproof upgrade that reduces damage by 15 percent. What's great about this system is you can customize each class to focus on how you want to play the game, and it differentiates your character from other people playing the same class.