Exclusive first look at Modern Combat 4 for Xbox Windows Phone 8

We can’t say whether there will be two Xbox Windows Phone releases this week just yet. But we can tell you – and show you – one very exciting game arriving for Windows Phone 8 on Wednesday. Originally announced back in October, Gameloft’s Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour will finally arrive this week! Not only will it be the first Xbox Windows Phone first-person shooter, but it promises even more advanced multiplayer features than we saw in Asphalt 7 earlier this year.

During my recent trip to the Game Developers Conference, I stopped by the San Francisco Gameloft office for a quick tour. Lennon Arcaro, Gameloft’s Account Director was kind enough to walk me through the opening moments of Modern Combat 4. See our world exclusive hands-on footage after the break!

Modern Combat 4 in action

As you might have guessed from the series title, Modern Combat provides a very similar experience to the popular Call of Duty console games but for mobile devices. I don’t fault Gameloft for being unoriginal. Instead, they’re giving many mobile gamers what they want: the full console-style FPS experience that Call of Duty series owner Activision refuses to give them. Yes, there are a couple of Call of Duty Zombies games for iOS, but those are severely stripped-down experiences, and they don’t do Windows Phone owners any good regardless.

Modern Combat 4 features an exciting single-player campaign as well as a robust multiplayer component. The campaign storyline revolves around a series of terrorist attacks as well as the kidnapping of the US president. A dire situation! The story comes to life through fully-voiced cinematics that you’ll only find in mobile games from Gameloft. Players will take on several different roles throughout the campaign, including not only heroic military operatives but even the lead enemy! You’ll even encounter the same battle from both sides’ perspectives – we can’t fault Gameloft for not being ambitious.

Shooting on the go

Modern Combat 4 gameplay iOS

Lots of gamers trash talk the idea of playing first-person shooters on a phone, but few of those people have actually tried it for themselves. As it turns out, controlling a soldier in Modern Combat 4 isn’t all that different from playing twin-stick shooters like Rocket Riot and Zombies on the Phone.  Touch anywhere on the left side of the screen to move, and touch anywhere on the right to aim. Shooting has its own button; that's the only key control difference. Additional functions like crouching, zooming, and throwing grenades are all accomplished via buttons at the bottom of the screen as well. Oh, and looking can be controlled by Gyroscope if the player so chooses.

After seeing the relatively low frame rates on Gameloft’s The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises Windows Phone 8 games, some players might have been concerned about how Modern Combat 4 and N.O.V.A. 3 would perform on Windows Phones. As you can see from the video, this particular game runs very well (thanks in part to the Havok Physics engine). It’s not 60 FPS smooth, but certainly in the same 30 FPS hemisphere as Asphalt 7. (We haven’t played N.O.V.A. 3 yet, but it uses the same engine as Modern Combat 4 and should perform similarly.)

Multiplayer combat

Modern Combat 4 iOS multiplayer

Modern Combat 4’s multiplayer functions weren’t available for testing during our studio visit, but we did discuss the topic and look through some of the menus. Like Asphalt 7, the multiplayer mode will work either online or via local Wi-Fi. The latter is a great way to compete against a local player with minimal latency. Either way, the game supports up to 12 players simultaneously.

Best of all, Gameloft has managed to integrate their Gameloft Live servers with actual Xbox Live functionality. Remember how Asphalt 7’s online multiplayer was completely separate from Xbox Live? That resulted from Microsoft’s lack of real-time multiplayer support for Xbox Windows Phone games.

This time, Gameloft has worked hard with Microsoft to ensure that players will be able to invite their Xbox Live friends while playing on Gameloft servers. Considering how important the online experience is to the Modern Combat series (and the FPS genre in general), that’s great news.

Achievement hunters should note that this game's Achievements are distributed between both single-player and multiplayer. Gotta join the fray if you want to unlock them all!

The battle begins soon

Modern Combat 4 Zero Hour

Modern Combat 4 arrives on Windows Phone 8 this Wednesday, April 10th. It will require devices with 1 GB of RAM, and probably a lot of free storage space too. Modern Combat 4 will cost $6.99, just like the iOS and Android versions. And stay tuned later this week for interviews with Gameloft and Havok, the physics engine that powers Modern Combat 4!

Paul Acevedo

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!