The Media Guru
Jan 5, 2011

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The Broadcom BCM2727 graphics chip brought something that has been sorely missed on Symbian devices – 3D gaming.

 

This post is Part 5 of Nokia N8 Review series. The remaining posts are here:

 

Angry Birds

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The most popular non-console & non-PC game in the world.

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Gameplay – use a slingshot to launch birds, hit targets, targets fall over, kill pigs, get score based on damage done. Birds left = extra points. Each bird has a different ability: red – simple strike, yellow – accelerates, blue – cluster bombs, black – timed bomb, white – drop egg bombs).

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While it’s easy to complete all levels, gaining max points to get 3 stars takes a lot of time as you have to try every possible combination of target practice. Once you have completed all levels at 3 stars, a secret level is unlocked…
AllAboutSymbianAngry Birds Seasons review

 

Hero of Sparta HD

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Hero of Sparta is a 3D action/adventure fantasy game set in the realm of Ancient Greek mythology (a mobile clone of God of War). King Argos is stranded on an island & has to combat his way through hordes of enemies to find his way back home.

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Among the monsters – minotaurs, serpent-warriors, skeletons, wraiths, giant scorpions, etc. At the end of each level, you have to defeat a boss monster. Killing each monster gives orbs which increase life, energy & experience points. The points can be used to increased the damage & other attributes of your weapons. Collecting hidden gems increases your life/energy bar.

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The gameplay is quite straight-forward - duck, hack & slash. But you get to do combo super-kills for more orbs! & then you have the various weapons & armour – Axe of Ajax, Apollonean Bow, Arachne’s Cape, etc. 

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I’ve loved the big levels & the huge amount of monsters you encounter! At first, I was dying a little too easily but once I upgraded my weapons, wiping waves of enemies is easy. Bosses are harder to kill but you’ll eventually get there. The only downside is that the font is horrible. Try deciphering the above…
AASHero of Sparta review

 

Avatar HD

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Avatar is another action/adventure game where you control a Na’vi avatar. It starts off with the training at the base, getting lost in the jungle & meeting up with the Na’vis. From there on you get different challenges which you’ll have to complete to gain the trust of the Na’vis.

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As you’re an avatar, you also get a gun as weapon in addition to the bow, knife & spear. You get to fight the various creatures as depicted in the film & even humans (with the mechanical suits!) in a dream sequence!

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To be honest, while the environment was vast & the graphics ok, I found the whole killing of animals quite repetitive & hard if you’re attacked in group. Which means you tend to die too easily, making it even more frustrating. I even encountered a couple of bugs where I got stuck in the décor. After a while, I became bored of the game & didn’t bother to finish it. Avatar fans will love this game but it’s quite average.

 

Real Football 2010 HD

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It’s a football simulation game, equivalent to… FIFA 97. Really, the graphics are equally impressive

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Controls are an on-screen direction pad & A/B. Because it’s multi-touch, you can move around & press A & B at the same direction.

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With stadium names like RedBrick & players like Raanay, the whole game is sprinkled with clones (you do have the option to rename).

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The gameplay is quite… bad because the AI is so predictable (well, it’s a mobile phone). Opponents sometimes watch you stupidly as you pass them effortlessly. The goalkeeper doesn’t rush at you until you’re near the penalty spot. The referee stays invisible unless there’s a foul or a player has been carded. One glitch I noticed is that if you keep pressing a certain key, your goalkeeper runs around trying to get the ball off the opponent…
Overall, an average game that becomes boring at times due to the dumb AI.
AASReal Football 2010 review

 

Need For Speed: Shift HD

Scr000521When I first received the N8, one the free apps made available by Nokia on Ovi Suite update was EA’s NFS Shift. That was a wise move, because NFS Shift is one of the best games of Symbian^3.

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You have 4 tiers of cars & races. A tier 1 car can compete in tier 2 races but tier 4 cars can’t compete in tier 1 races in career mode. However you can select any racetrack in a custom race/quick play.

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Tier 1 cars – Volkswagen Golf GTI, Mazda RX-8, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, Subaru Impreza WRX STI.
Tier 2 cars – Porsche Cayman S, Nissan 370Z (Z34), Nissan Skyline GT-R (R34), Dodge Challenger Concept, Ford Shelby GT500.
Tier 3 cars – Audi R8 4.2 FSI quattro, Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG, Chevrolet Corvette Z06, Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4, Ford GT, Porsche 911 GT2.
Tier 4 cars – Lamborghini Murciélago LP640, Pagani Zonda F, Aston Martin Racing DBR9, Maserati MC12 GT1, BMW M3 GT2.

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Controls - you steer using the accelerometer & tap to brake. Game is exactly as PC-based NFS games. You win races, earns points & cash, buy upgrades & visual mods for your car & new cars get unlocked when you reach a point milestone or an event milestone.

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You get bonus points for a clean race, for not hitting other cars, for high speed & so on. I’ve really enjoyed playing NFS Shift because the gaming experience is exactly on PC – to progress you have to upgrade your car or purchase better cars. Winning races is quite easy if you manage to grab the lead (using NOS) & then holding off your opponents. However, if you are behind, it’s a massive challenge to get back to the top. Drift events are exactly as on PC – damn hard to complete! Highly recommended!
AASNFS: Shift review

 

Galaxy on Fire

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Galaxy on Fire is an accelerometer-controlled arcade-styled shooter, with you controlling a spaceship & having to shoot down enemy spaceships who move in a 3D plane, hence you have to turn the phone in every direction to track them down.

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The graphics are very good & the game suits the N8’s AMOLED screen. I haven’t progressed beyond the mission levels, but AAS reviewers have found the later stages to be fantastic (where you can buy other ships, trade & explore new worlds).
AASGalaxy on Fire review

 

GT Racing: Motor Academy HD

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Another racing simulation game with a huge (I meant it, huge!) amount of cars available – Bugatti Veyron, Lamborghini Reventon, Ferrari 458 & even a Ford T!

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Before racing, you have to get your license which involves a couple of braking challenges, overtaking a car & completing a circuit. Despite the extended control options (accelerometer, on-screen, auto), it’s massively hard to control a car on GT Racing.

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On NFS Shift, you never had to brake, but on GT Racing, braking is essential just as precise accelerometer tilt control so that you neither over-steer or under-steer. & you aren’t helped by the fact that each car has its own attributes & thus behaves differently.

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The upgrades & customizations go beyond what’s normally available, straight into the PC-gaming zone… Traction control? Seriously?

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The graphics are awesome, no doubt about that. The sheer number of available cars is mind-boggling (like the above mythical Lamborghini Miura!). But the thing with GT Racing is that it’s so realistic that it’s overkill. The developers should understand that this is a mobile game. Make it over-complicated & no one enjoys it anymore. It becomes a chore. Verdict – not for the faint-hearted.
AASGT Racing: Motor Academy review

 

Asphalt 5 HD

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Asphalt 5 is an arcade racing game. You get to race for laps, you collect bonuses scattered on the road, you get points for crashing other opponents & you can take shortcuts!

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It has a decent car lot & even… girls?

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& where does it fail? On-screen controls. Like the Java games of old-time. Avoid at all costs.
AASAsphalt 5 review

 

Rally Master Pro

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A rally simulation with really beautiful landscapes. However, the cars available aren’t something to boast about.

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The gameplay consists of using the accelerometer to steer & on-screen brake button. As it’s a rally, most of time you’ll be drifting along rather than proper steering. The car  can be damaged & you get mini-games to speed up the repairs.

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But I was surprised that I finished the game so quickly. Could do with some more racetracks. Overall, not bad. Give it a try.
AASRally Master Pro review

 

Wrap-up

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On the N97, gaming really sucked because of its resistive screen, you had to actually punch the buttons! The N8’s capacitive screen not only makes on-screen controls actually usable, but with multi-touch, you don’t miss the hardware buttons at all. The N8’s accelerometer is very precise giving you a hard time in the racing games if you don’t reduce its sensitivity! Furthermore, the design of the N8, with its 2 plastic parts, gives you enough “bezel” to rest your thumbs upon. Add in the 3D chip & what you have is a great gaming phone!

Except, almost none of the above games have been optimized for the N8. Notice how some of these games have very little anti-aliasing (rough edges)… That’s because they are just straight ports of games made with the capabilities of the Symbian-powered Samsung Omnia HD i8910 as the base hardware. Indeed, these are old games that hardly exploit the full potential of the graphics chip. Nokia are also to be blamed because the current Qt framework on the N8 doesn’t support OpenGL.
The GL Benchmark is not available right now. But it should place the N8 somewhere in-between the Galaxy S & the iPhone 4.
Hopefully, newer made-for-Symbian^3 games will be able to squeeze the awesome iPhone 4-like graphics out of the N8. I would love to see a comeback of Nokia classics Bounce & Snake.

The only downside with gaming is that it drains battery life like no other thing! 2 hours of NFS Shift gaming reduces the battery meter to less than half! Once again, I believe, it’s a lack of optimized games that cause this. Another thing to consider is that most of these HD games are downloads over 150MB – so never try to download them over anything but a Wifi network.
Another fault with the N8 is the speaker. It affects your gaming experience as the sounds are away from you. You have to either cup your hand or increase the game volume using the volume keys.

It’s amazing to think that Nokia actually brought gaming to the smartphone with the N-Gage & N-Gage QD & then pioneered gamer social interaction & multiplayer gaming with N-Gage Social. But then they completely neglected it by releasing phones with no 3D chip & the N-Gage franchise was left for dead…
The success of gaming on the iPhone & iPod Touch showed that this was a market that was there for the taking. With the newer crop of Symbian^3 devices all having the same powerful gpu, Nokia are certainly back in the game…. as long they can bring game developers on board.

 

This post was Part 5 of Nokia N8 Review series. The remaining posts are here:

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