Developer: Rory Harvey
Price: $0.99
Version: 1.1
App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★☆☆
User Interface Rating: ★★½☆☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★☆☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆

I’m always seeing games on the App Store with ridiculously high ratings or featured in the Best Selling category and wonder “Why?” Then when I get the opportunity to play them everything clicks and I begin to understand all the adoration. After going through pretty much the same thought process with Block Ops I can honestly say I still don’t get it.

Block Ops is designed to be a silly and simplified first-person shooter set in a destructible all-block world. Players rush through a few different levels set in a number of different locations as they attempt to complete certain objectives (shut down a communications array, gather intel, etc), which usually all boil down to “go here, now go here.” Along the way they’ll have to gun down opposing voxel forces and try to stay alive using the typical iOS FPS controls with virtual movement sticks, swipe-looking, ironsights, and so on.

There’s a certain almost clever underlying joke to the entire game that pokes fun of the simplicity in modern shooter design that’s usually hidden beneath all the setpiece moments and high definition graphics. Assuming it was intentional, anyway. There’s also an unexpected amount of fun to be had simply running through each level and mowing down the opposition. At least it could be fun if the controls and presentation weren’t so absolutely terrible.

Block Ops looks about as good in motion as it does in stills, which is to say not very. Up close the character models are decent enough but the levels themselves are incredibly barren and featureless for the most part. Sure there are buildings and sometimes vehicles and stuff, but they’re missing most of the little texture details that would really make them pop. This is probably why the second level (playing sniper all over a snowy mountain range) sticks out more; because of the terrain detail. Even without detailed textures or actual music (save for the first level), it’s just difficult to play. The controls are loose and slippery; I had to fight them for the entire time I was playing. Having the ironsights snap to a nearby target helps, but if they’re moving it can still be a problem to make small adjustments.

I’m honestly shocked to see that Block Ops has been doing so well on the App Store, and even more so to see that it’s received so many five star reviews. It’s certainly got potential, but in its current state it feels like a broken mess. I suppose time will tell if it can eventually live up to all the accolades.

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