N.O.V.A Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance

Cost: $4.99

Publisher: Gameloft

Buy now on N.O.V.A. - Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance

I guess I should start this review with a disclaimer.  I don’t like HALO.  I think it’s bad.  I think the single player mode has an embarrassingly poor story line (in all of the HALO games) and the multiplayer mode isn’t much better than some of the first multiplayer games ever developed for PC gamers.  I know people like it.  I am not one of those people.

The reason I mention all of this before reviewing N.O.V.A is that for all intents and purposes, N.O.V.A is another 4 letter name for HALO (complete with a stupid acronym).  That doesn’t mean it’s all bad.  In fact, parts of the game are surprisingly fun.

NOVA screenshot

N.O.V.A starts off its single player mode with some decent looking cut scenes and with some half thought out story about aliens in the future.  I have no problem with this.  Just a typical sci-fi plot.  The first thing you’ll notice as you go through the opening tutorial level is that it’s pretty.  In fact, the graphics are among the best of any game I have seen on the iPhone.  The colors are bright and clean.  In fact, the levels you play through in the game (12 or so) all look good on the iPhone’s screen.  Each is distinctive as you go from a jungle map to a space ship to an alien planet.

The sound is standard fare for a science fiction FPS.  The background music is nice but some of the alien noises are a little over the top.  My wife overheard me playing and thoughts I was killing dinosaurs.  Unfortunately there are very few different alien types in the game.  So even though you travel all over the galaxy, you’re likely to see the same foes again and again.

The controls are ok.  However, in some places it is almost impossible to turn quickly enough to not be killed or grabbed (some of the aliens can pick you up).  That brings me to one of my most hated parts of this game. The ubiquitous enemy pop-ins.  Like an old Nintendo game, if I walk 1 more foot I know another enemy will fall through the ceiling or magically teleport behind me in a room and begin shooting.  The publisher, Gameloft, has trouble with this in quite a few of their games (another example is Modern Combat).  Being shot suddenly from behind occurs throughout the entire game and can become quite frustrating.

Along with the enemy pop-in, there are other annoyances that keep the game from being as fun as it could be.  For example, as I run through a level, I may miss killing one or two baddies.  The game will allow me to go up the elevator, into the next room but not allow me to progress.  What’s wrong?  Oh, I get it.  I forgot to kill an alien and he is down the elevator waiting for me to kill him (literally).  Wow, how fun.

Once you leave the single player campaign, things do get a bit better.  The game offers the standard Bluetooth multiplayer and local Wi Fi options but it also offers online Wi Fi mode that allows you to play 3 other people around the world in 1 on 1 (on 1 on 1) death match.  For this mode, it uses Gameloft’s excellent online server service.  The game connects you quickly to an online lobby and I was able to connect immediately each time I tried a new game. Multiplayer offers several maps that allow you to see everyone at the same time.  Death comes quickly to those regardless of their skill.  You have the ability to use 6 weapons to maim and kill your opponents in any way you can.  This part of the game can be fun for a few minutes.

NOVA screenshot

Unfortunately the only multiplayer option available is deathmatch.  It would have been nice to offer co-op mode (at least someone else could share the experience of that awful story) or team deathmatch.  perhaps these will be future additions but for now, you should get a good 30 minutes of enjoyment out of deathmatch.  Probably a lot more if you really like HALO.

All in all, NOVA isn’t necessarily a bad game.  I think it’s a bit disappointing that it wasn’t better.  When are we going to see story telling on the iPhone like we do in games like Half Life or Deus Ex on a PC or console?  If you play through the whole single player game and give multiplayer a shot, the game should give you a good 2 or 3 hours.  It also offers some achievements and other rewards for playing the game that will give some people enough reason to replay it.  Overall, N.O.V.A is decent in a pinch but I doubt I’ll run back to it anytime soon.

Overall Value for it’s $4.99 price point

Overall Value: Rating: ★★★☆☆
Graphics: Rating: ★★★★★
Sound: Rating: ★★★½☆
Controls: Rating: ★★★★½

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Rating: 4.2/5 (5 votes cast)
N.O.V.A Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance, 4.2 out of 5 based on 5 ratings
Cody likes sports, games and sports games. He has also been known to read about sports, games and sports games.


  1. panos

    January 23, 2010 at 12:43 am


    you’re are so staggeringly wrong on your assumption that “PC games were not even close, even on a hyperbole level to even the first Halo’s multiplayer” that I find it hard to even start to rebuke you. But I will.

    Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear. A game that came out several years prior to Halo has a much more satisfying multiplayer. Half Life deathmatch was more fun than Halo multiplayer. Quake 3 Deathmatch also is at least as fun. Unreal Tournament, especially with CTF addons (add that onto Quake 3 as well)…

    The first Halo’s multiplayer was simply the first CONSOLE game to do multiplayer fps right since Goldeneye. Yes, it was a lot of fun, I played it here and there. But I still prefer my PC multiplayer FPS’. And they’re still better.

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  2. Cody

    January 20, 2010 at 6:09 pm


    Sorry to hear your not a fan. Obviously the quote was done for hyperbole. I can only say I have been gaming a very long time and though you may not agree with my opinions, it doesn’t mean I have a lack of understanding when it comes to the gaming world. Most of these larger developers can’t find a space big enough to put all of the people that love their mediocre game offerings on the iPhone ( not every game and not every major developer). I expect more than them simply making a game for us iPhone gamers. I want a game that would be good no matter what system it was made for. Nevertheless, I hope you will check out the site again sometime and appreciate your comment.

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  3. johngannon

    January 20, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    I hate Halo as well, with a passion. But to say that “the multiplayer mode isn’t much better than some of the first multiplayer games ever developed for PC gamers” really highlights a lack of understanding of gaming in general.

    First multiplayer PC games were not even close, even on a hyperbole level to even the first Halo’s multiplayer.

    Your reviews all come off smarmy and self knowing, then most highlight a true lack of understanding the games industry. Not a fan of this site, I’ll continue to get my reviews elsewhere.

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