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N.O.V.A.: The next best thing to Halo for iPhone

This sci-fi shooter offers some of the best graphics and gameplay I've seen to date. It's a must-have for Halo fans or anyone who likes blasting aliens.

N.O.V.A. for iPhone looks and plays like a certain console classic.

Will we ever see Halo for iPhone? Let me be the first to say: who cares? We've got N.O.V.A.

Short for Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance (as if that matters), Gameloft's first-person shooter borrows heavily from the Halo playbook.

You're the sometimes solo, sometimes squad-based hero out to save mankind from the alien threat du jour. The game's 13 single-player missions span five environments (from bunker to jungle to spacecraft), each one dripping in console-quality graphic goodness.

An excellent tutorial acclimates you to the controls, which are always a challenge for any iPhone/iPod Touch shooter, but here are some of the best I've seen. Dip into the settings and you can choose from three control schemes or manually arrange the onscreen d-pad, fire button, and other controls exactly how you like them. Nice.

If you like kicking alien butt, you'll love N.O.V.A. Gameloft

Once you've exhausted the single-player campaign, you can engage in two- to four-player deathmatches--either locally or online. (One small gripe: online play requires a Wi-Fi connection, so you can't get your frag on just anywhere.)

I could say more about the game, but I really don't want to spoil the fun of discovering it on your own. N.O.V.A. really is something special (and that's saying something in a year chock full of special games). Don't take my word alone: the Download Blog's Jason Parker named N.O.V.A. one of the 17 best iPhone games of 2009.

How would you rank N.O.V.A. among first-person shooters for the iPhone? Is it better than Modern Combat: Sandstorm? Better than Call of Duty: World at War: Zombies? Share your FPS faves in the comments!