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If Cold War is any indication, the Sky Gamblers series may have reached maximum altitude with last year's stellar Storm Raiders. Sure, there's still plenty of high-flying dogfighting action to be found in this latest entry, but there's a legitimate question as to whether this fourth outing on iOS is running on fumes after so many entries in a relatively compact span of time. Thankfully, Cold War does bring some fresh ideas to the table, and the online multiplayer still provides the best aerial combat on the App Store. But the core campaign experience of Cold War is a bland and tired-looking stroll through what is an otherwise fascinating portion of American history.
Stretched across multiple decades, Sky Gamblers: Cold War takes advantage of the passing of time – and the progress of aeronautical technology – to place you in ever-improving aircraft over 12 missions. Great sequences include one in which you man a helicopter gun, plus another wherein you'll covertly snap pictures of enemy strongholds from the upper atmosphere. But despite those welcome distractions, the majority of Cold War's missions are brief dogfighting encounters without much emotion. And beyond the obvious visual changes between aircraft, a jet from the '60s feels exactly the same as a jet from the late '80s in practice.
The story is weakly presented in short, text-only briefings prior to each stage. During your airborne skirmishes with the Soviets, quick snippets of poorly written dialogue attempt to flesh out a confusing tale without any real substance. And strangely, Cold War's environments and even the details of the interface are a noticeable downgrade from last year's Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy, which was memorably glossy and refined.
After the brief campaign has ended, Cold War does offer a number of enjoyable single-player and multiplayer game modes to stretch out the action. The offline dogfights are a fair experience, but online play – whether protecting a base, or just shooting it out in deathmatch battles – retains the series' penchant for quality. Blasting opponents out of the sky is great, thanks in no small part to a decent control scheme that lets you stay in command even as things get chaotic.
The bottom line. While there's something to be said for Cold War's new gameplay elements and decent multiplayer, the Sky Gamblers series appears to have entered a deep freeze.
iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad running iOS 5.0 or later
Fresh gameplay ideas for the series. Multiplayer works very well.
Boring, monotonous levels. Negligible variety in planes. Weak story.