Just a week after we got to see how Nintendo totally bungled the free-to-play version of Mario Kart, here comes Activision and its attempt to bring its marquee franchise to smartphones with Call of Duty: Mobile.

Activision is a company that has drawn criticism for how it has implemented in its paid AAA titles many of the same insidious monetization mechanics rampant in free-to-play titles — things like a premium Battle Pass and battle crate loot boxes for unlocking weapons and cosmetic upgrades. And things could have gone oh-so-wrong with Call of Duty: Mobile. But here’s the surprising news: playing multiplayer Call of Duty on a smartphone is as good or better than playing on a console. So much so, it just might be the best Call of Duty game released in years.

The game offers two distinct gameplay modes to choose from. Your standard multiplayer offers 5-on-5 matches with options for Team Deathmatch, Domination, and Search and Destroy match modifiers. You can choose between playing a standard match or a ranked match, with your performance in the latter being recorded and points added to your player rank. The non-ranked matches have a much more casual feel and let you choose which game mode you want to play, while ranked matches are chosen randomly and are limited to just team deathmatch until you move out of the Rookie ranks.

Call of Duty: Mobile is a polished gem that long time fans of the series will appreciate while still remaining accessible and easy to jump into for newcomers.

Complementing the already excellent multiplayer modes, Activision has also included a Battle Royale mode, quite similar to the one introduced in CoD: Black Ops 4. Given that the was developed by Tencent Games, it’s clear to see the influences of PUBG Mobile in terms of delivering a really complete battle royale experience for mobile gamers right out of the gate. There’s another mode coming soon on the main menu, which appears to be a zombie survival mode — always a hit with the CoD fanbase.

For a free-to-play game that focuses exclusively on multiplayer, Call of Duty: Mobile does a great job of not letting the weapon or character upgrade systems completely break the core gameplay. Sure, sometimes the top-tier perks and operator skills can feel unbalanced at times — particularly when your whole team gets torched by a dude with a flamethrower — but the game’s matchmaking algorithm does a good job of building fairly balanced teams, with each match always coming down to the best teamwork and skill rather than who’s got the best upgraded weapon.

Call of Duty: Mobile is a game that fans have dreamt about for well over a decade. The hype was absolutely massive and yet it still managed to live up to almost all expectations without diminishing the core gameplay for the sake of squeezing out more profit.

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