It turns out N.O.V.A. Elite isn't one of the three new iOS games that Gameloft has licensed the Unreal Engine for. In fact, it's not an iOS game at all. Instead, Gameloft has decided to bring its popular science-fiction shooter franchise to Facebook as a competitive multiplayer 3D shooter tied to your social network and running on the Unity engine.
While the core style of the earlier N.O.V.A. games is still the same in N.O.V.A. Elite, it has also picked up many of the features you've probably come to expect from any free-to-play Facebook game, including friends invitations and purchasable upgrades. That's right, if you want to have all the best gear, you'll need to pull out your wallet and exchange real money for Facebook Credits. Don't worry though, they aren't required to play.
If you don't mind the free-to-play model, there's a lot to like about Elite. The pace is fast, and I found the gameplay smooth and satisfying, even on dated hardware. The graphics are adequately impressive for a browser-based game, but they are more comparable to N.O.V.A. 2 running on an iPad than a modern native PC or console game.
What really interests me about Gameloft's move to Facebook is that, like previous N.O.V.A. titles, the game is running on the Unity engine. This could potentially mean that it was a straightforward process porting the core of the earlier games and all the assets from iOS to Facebook. One of the advantages to using Unity is how ubiquitous the engine is; in theory it's easy to make a game that will run on many different platforms.
If the development for multiple platforms was painless, I hope that N.O.V.A. Elite will be making its way back to iOS for those of us who don't play many games on Facebook. I contacted Gameloft to see if they were willing to comment on the transition process to Facebook, and if they will eventually be releasing it as an iOS game, but I haven't received a reply.
Want to give it a try? Head to Facebook's N.O.V.A. Elite page to get started. You will need to install the Unity browser plug-in to play if you don't already have it on your system. I strongly suspect we'll be seeing a lot more of Unity on the Web in the near future.
What do you think about the news? Are you N.O.V.A. fans going to fire up Facebook and give it a try? Are you disappointed that it wasn't released for iOS?
[via Touch Arcade]