App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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Critical Ops is a free-to-play, multiplayer-only, first-person shooter that resembles Counter Strike in a lot of ways. Although it is nice to see an online shooter arrive to mobile that is free of annoying ads or messy free-to-play mechanics, there are a few things that hold Critical Ops back from being a critical hit.
From head to toe, Critical Ops is a no-nonsense game. It has a very sparse menu system that seems designed to get you into a game and stay in it as quickly as possible.
There's only two game modes in Critical Ops, both of which can be played on any of the handful of maps. The first mode, Deathmatch, is a straightforward team shootout, complete with respawns, while Defuse challenges one team to plant bombs while the other team tries to stop them. In Defuse, no players can respawn until the end of the round, and players have in-game money that they can use shop for their weapon loadouts between rounds and take from round-to-round, provided they survive.
When I say that Critical Ops tries to be as straightforward as possible, that also extends to its free-to-play structure. In the game, all maps and weapons are unlocked from the get-go, leaving only skins for you to earn or pay for through spending credits on cases.
If you don't want to spend money, you can earn these credits by completing daily missions, most of which consist of killing a certain number of players with a particular weapon.
A shoestring operation
While there are a lot of benefits to Critical Ops's streamlined design, there are also a number of drawbacks that come with it. With such a small number of maps, game types, and unlock options, there is little to look forward to from playing the game beyond the satisfaction of the shooting mechanics.
This wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing (since, after all, games should be enjoyed for their mechanics), the touch control scheme doesn't feel quite as easy-to-use as it should. Thankfully, there are some options to tweak how these controls behave to make them feel a little better, but there's no one configuration that feels great.
The bottom line
Out of the existing free-to-play, multiplayer shooters on mobile, Critical Ops provides the fairest playing field when it comes to those who spend money on the game and those who don't. That said, there's not a ton of content here, and the controls sub-optimal. Judging by the version number of Critical Ops's initial release, it seems like the game has updates in mind, but until then, Critical Ops feels a little too thin and wonky.