If you’re wary about Call of Duty®: Mobile, don’t be. Sure, there are compromises here and there – along with some mildly obnoxious microtransactions – but none of them spoils what’s arguably the best shooter right now on Android. This isn’t some cut-backed, dumbed-down rubbish that looks a bit like Call of Duty – it looks, feels and plays like Call of Duty, with deep customisation options and the three key multiplayer game modes: your basic Multiplayer, Battle Royale and Zombies.
And if you think you need a high-end phone to get stuck in, don’t panic. I’ve been playing it on high detail settings on a mid-range Oppo Reno Z, which we reviewed last year. This uses Mediatek’s Helio P90 chipset incorporating a PowerVR GM 9446 GPU, and I’ve had the game running on high detail settings and a perfectly smooth frame rate. Not bad for a phone you can pick up for around £200, or you can go upscale and grab the newer Oppo Reno 2Z with the same processor and double the 4GB of RAM. One of those will set you back around £325.
It’s all the more impressive because Call of Duty Mobile is something of a smartphone graphics showcase. On the smaller screen of your average mobile, your troops and the maps they run around in do a pretty convincing impression of what you’d see in a modern Call of Duty, matching, and in some ways surpassing, the visuals from the last-gen Call of Duty console titles. There’s plenty of detail, some effective lighting, and it all moves at a decent clip. You can immerse yourself in Call of Duty: Mobile just like you can in the real deal.
Xhead: Strength in depth
The first great thing about Call of Duty Mobile is that it does a fantastic job of breaking you in. The tutorials are quick but cover all the basic mechanics while demonstrating the different controls and control systems and the principal loadout and upgrade screens. Within minutes you’ll be getting into practice matches, then levelling up and joining real live games. And if you feel like you need a little extra practice? You can play matches against AI bots while you try to skill yourself up.
You can play the game with a Bluetooth controller – ideally a PS4 Dual Shock 4 or Xbox One pad – in which case you’ll be matched with other controller players to keep things even. Otherwise, you’re looking at a choice of touch control systems. Both have a virtual thumbstick on the left-hand-side along with an array of buttons on the right, plus icons to switch weapons and call in your scorestreaks at the bottom of the screen. The choice comes down to whether you prefer automatic from-the-hip firing, in which case all you need to worry about is aiming, or an advanced aim down sights mode, where tapping the icon gives you an iron-sights view and the chance to really focus for a good, clean shot. The latter is essential for effective sniper fire but also the best way to score quick headshots. It’s worth getting used to if you can.
The second great thing is the depth of customisation. Keep levelling up and using the same guns and you’ll earn XP which can be splashed out on upgrades. You can not only unlock new guns but new perks, secondary weapons, grenades and explosives and scorestreaks, then customise your weapons with different sights, magazines, grips, barrels and ammo. You can switch between five different loadouts per mode, so there’s plenty of room to keep tweaking and trying different options.
You can, needless to say, purchase loot boxes with real money (good luck buying anything using in-game points) but it’s really not essential. Some of the weapon skins and outfits go beyond being cosmetic, but most are just for show and even where they’re not the impact isn’t huge.
Xhead: Maps and Modes
Call of Duty Mobile feels a lot like a streamlined Greatest Hits package. The multiplayer maps are smaller versions of classic Modern Warfare and Black Ops series favourites, and they’re perfect for the quickfire 5v5 action you get in the game, with most matches over in five to ten minutes. We get Frontline, Free for All, Hardpoint and Domination modes, and the action is every bit as fast and furious as you’d expect. Touch controls have an impact – it’s a lot harder to turn and kill an enemy behind you – but the maps provide clear routes through, along with plenty of cover and some sneaky side-routes and sniping spots. Maybe it’s a generally lower skill level, but I’ve found Mobile more accessible than Black Ops IIII or the new Modern Warfare.
Keep levelling up, meanwhile, and you’ll unlock Battle Royale mode and eventually Zombies. The Battle Royale map takes inspiration from Black Ops IIII’s Blackout mode, combining iconic CoD locations into one good-sized map, and the squad-based gameplay works really well, with the same kind of tension you’d find in PUBG Mobile, but a slightly punchier, more action-packed feel.
Zombies, meanwhile, is a bit of a throwback to the earlier Zombies modes, rather than the lavish, Hollywood productions we’ve grown used to, but blasting away at the undead through several rounds, unlocking weapons and new areas, never gets tired. And we even get some pretty cool boss battles thrown in on top.
Xhead: A Blockbuster Package
To be honest, Call of Duty: Mobile isn’t what I expected – it’s so much better on just about every level. And to see it running so smoothly and looking so good on a mid-range phone is just as much a shocker – thanks to a world-class team and PowerVR’s super-efficient Series9XM GPU. This isn’t some B-List Call of Duty clone, but the game we know and love, so grab your phone, install it and get playing.
Quicktake: Call of Duty Mobile on a PowerVR Series 9XM device is proof that you don’t need a flagship device to enjoy the best mobile multiplayer mayhem.
Download it from the Google Play Store