There was a time when we waited months for hot new apps and games to hit Android. Now most of the top-tier content appears in short order. Just because something popular has been released, doesn't mean you should buy it on the spot. Swing by the weekly Google Play App Roundup here to get the details first. This is the place where we go over the best new and newly updated apps on Android.
This week sending files gets easier, a new shooter appears, and it's time to go back to Vice City.
One of the coolest things about Android is that you have complete control over your internal storage. Unlike some other platforms, Android has a full file system. You can share files with other people from your device, but this process has never been as smooth as it should be. You can use Android Beam, but only if both phones are running Android 4.1 or higher with the file push support. Or there is Bump, but only if both devices have it installed as set up. You could use an old fashioned Bluetooth tether, but that’s a pain to establish. Maybe Send It can fix that.
This rigamarole makes Send It really stand out. All you need to do in order to send a file from your device, is install the app and go. The recipient doesn’t need to install anything.
So here’s how it works. Send It plugs into your Google Drive account, which has 2GB of free storage on all Google accounts now. Just find the item you want to share in any app, and use Android’s built-in sharing menu to select Share It. The app will automatically upload your file to Google Drive in the special Send It folder. It sets the file access to be open to anyone that has the direct file link. Then, as if that wasn't enough, it takes that link and shortens it using the goo.gl URL shortener.
Send It is designed to operate with SMS, so it will pull up a list of all your contacts after the upload is done. This makes it very easy to send the link off. Your friend gets the link, opens it, and the download starts. It’s really slick and requires no fiddling with settings. In addition to the SMS angle, Send It allows you to copy the URL to the clipboard so you can paste it into an email or IM.
A quick word about security; the developer is very cognizant of the intrusive vibe of this app. Some users might be squeamish about giving an app access to their Google Drive account, but Send It can only see the files it uploaded. The rest of your data is private.
You don’t have to worry at all about what device people are using to see your link. As long as the recipient can download or save a file, Send It will work. The free version of the app is limited to a single recipient and a maximum of 10MB per file. The $3 pro app lifts these restrictions. You should check this one out.
Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour
French developer Gameloft likes to go for the sure thing, and there is nothing more sure than something that is already a success. That’s why most of its games bear a striking resemblance to established franchises on consoles. This time we have another installment of Gameloft’s Modern Warfare clone, creatively called Modern Combat 4. Like it or not, this is still one of the best shooters on Android.
Like many Gameloft titles, this one does include in-app purchases on top of the initial cost. However, the game plays fine without them, and it doesn’t even push you to spend anything. It’s purely an extra. Still, I’m annoyed the up-sell is happening at all.
The game is laid out as a typical first-person shooter. You have to make your way through each stage, accomplishing objectives and taking out baddies as you go. Like the real Modern Warfare titles, you follow the story through the eyes of several different characters. Part of the game is even played as the villain, Edward Page.
Before I get to what MC4 does right, I need to vent a little. Gameloft can’t write a story as compelling as you’d find in a full-scale shooter. Much of the dialog is pedantic and clichéd. Take this gem from Page’s first mission monolog: “Tremble, you weaklings. Now you fall, just like the leaders of your corrupt nation.” Yikes, that’s bad. There are just too many cutscenes that make me cringe and want to skip ahead.
The controls are basically the same you’ll find in past Gameloft shooters, and that’s because they work. Tap and drag on the right side of the screen to look and aim. Do the same on the left side to walk and strafe. The right side is where the attack, scope, and grenade buttons are. I like that you can drag your finger around after mashing the trigger so as to sweep your field of fire around. The controls are about as good as you’ll find in a touchscreen shooter.
Modern Combat 4 requires a 1.9GB download, but it’s all hosted through Google Play. I had no issues with the installation process, and the visuals you get from all that data are great. There is very little aliasing, and texture resolutions are fairly high. The lighting effects are also pretty cool, especially when there are explosions going on. I do have to dock MC4 a few points for its overuse of cutscenes in the game engine. The game looks fine in first person, but getting up close with the character models in a cinematic is just no good.
Aside from the bad dialog and lackluster story, Modern Combat 4 is a good game. It’s a fun shooter and the graphics are solid. There is also a multiplayer mode you can play when you tire of the campaign. $6.99 is a hefty price to pay, and I’m not pleased to see any hint of in-app purchases, but I think you can safely ignore them.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
After a short delay, GTA: Vice City has arrived on Android. Perhaps I’m a little biased when it comes to this game, seeing as I spent innumerable hours playing it when it came out 10 years ago, but it’s still one of the best open world experiences out there.
I’ll spare you every minute detail of how Vice City works -- it’s the same game it was 10 years ago. You play the part of Tommy Vercetti, and you own a lot of money to some very unpleasant people. Your task is to go from a two-bit thug to the most powerful man in Vice City. This is the game that introduced buying properties and an in-depth storyline to the GTA games.
The controls are not perfect, but the game appears to be more than playable. The controls are all on screen, with one layout for driving and one for walking. When you’re in a vehicle, which you will be most of the time, your accelerator and brake are off to the right. To the left are left and right arrows for steering. The steering controls are a little small, and I find that I occasionally lose track of them. You can switch to analog steering, which is good for precision driving, but a little more tedious in general.
The walking controls are about what you expect; thumbstick on the left and action buttons on the right. There are buttons for attacking, running, and hopping in a car (occupied or not). Jumping is handled with a double tap of the sprint button. The game does a good job of keeping screen clutter to a minimum. Buttons you don’t need, like 'carjack,' disappear when they aren’t needed.
The controls are overall roughly 90% as good as having a real controller. I’m a little surprised it’s as good as it is, but also quite happy. Vice City on Android is easy enough to play that I can get lost in it just like I did in the original 10 years ago.
Vice City supports USB and wireless gamepads natively. I tested the game with a wired Xbox 360 controller plugged in via a USB OTG cable. The on-screen controls go away, and everything works as expected from the gamepad -- the analog sticks, shoulder buttons, everything. If you're in a position to use a controller, it's a killer experience.
The graphics in Vice City have been updated with higher resolution textures, lighting effects, and character models. It’s still recognizable as a Vice City -- it’s not a full transformation. Rather, everything looks crisper and more detailed at higher resolutions. You can go into the settings to tweak the resolution and effects quality as well.
One the things that made Vice City a really cool experience was the the 80s soundtrack. All the licenses appear to have been secured for the Android release, so get ready to rock out. Even if you prefer to switch over to the hilarious talk radio stations, you’ll still encounter those iconic tunes from time to time.
So should you pay $4.99 for Vice City on Android? Yeah, you should. The game is still wonderful, it looks good, and controls better than expected. The game comes with a 1.4GB download handled through Google Play.
That's all for the Roundup this week, and it was a big week. If you come across something important in Google Play, make sure to let me know.