Ovi Gaming - N-Gage and Ovi Store reviews

Raging Thunder

Published by Steve Litchfield at 9:46 UTC, January 15th 2010 under Games in N-Gage|| 12 Comments / Post New Comment

You may remember that the Nokia E90 shipped with a widescreen, hardware-accelerated 3D driving game, Global Race: Raging Thunder? Somewhat wasted on the 'business' device, many people quickly realised that it also worked after a fashion on the also-accelerated N95. However, the game ran like a turkey on other phones without the vital graphics chip. Until now. Raging Thunder has been reworked by Polarbit and optimised for modern single chip ARM designs and for nHD screens - and it's available now in the Ovi Store. Read on for my review of this reworked seminal Symbian racer.

Author: Polarbit
Version Reviewed:
Score: 79

Now, now, don't get excited. The graphic above is from the Nokia E90, three years ago, a fully graphics-accelerated device, and Global Race: Raging Thunder took full advantage. Now shift your eyes to the screenshot below, taken on the Nokia N97 for this review:

Raging Thunder screenshot

Yes, your eyes don't deceive you - the resolution is lower and the graphics fuzzier, but don't let that put you off too much, for there's still a good game here - and notice the addition of code to handle full 3D surfaces (e.g. banking), written in the intervening years.


Raging Thunder screenshot

 

The key to the transformation of Raging Thunder into a playable multi-platform title, is Polarbit's 'middleware' platform, Fuse. Think of it as Qt for games. Impressively, Fuse is available for (and I quote) "iPhone, Android, Symbian S60, Symbian UIQ, NGI (nGage), Brew, Windows Mobile, WIPI, PalmOS, Linux, Nintendo DS, Nintendo Wii". Normally, adding in middleware to a title can lend itself towards bloat and a reduction in speed rather than an increase, but I'm guessing that Polarbit's long association with the Symbian platforms has meant that Fuse is very much optimised to work well with this OS.

Raging Thunder screenshot

The end result is what matters, anyway, and Raging Thunder is a blast, running on my Nokia N97 as fast (in terms of frame rate) as the original game did on the hardware-aided Nokia E90. Of course, you rarely get something for nothing, and it's apparent that there's a degree of 'upsampling' going on, with the core FUSE engine working on platform-generic 360 by 180 pixel graphics, i.e. the S60 5th Edition code has to scale these graphics 'on the fly' to fill the nHD screen. This means that the surrounding scenery is of much lower grade than on the original 800 pixel wide graphics hardware of the E90, as you saw above. In addition, numerous graphics tricks (e.g. animated 'streaking') have been added to give an extra impression of speed (when going fast).

Raging Thunder screenshot

But none of this should take away from the fact that the game is downright fun and, once racing, you'll forget about middleware and upsampling and processors - and even that you're playing on a Nokia and not an iPhone - and will simply be focussed on making the next timing checkpoint or becoming the first car past the line.

Reviewers in the Ovi Store (in which this new version has been launched, at 3 UK pounds) have noted that the game's too hard - to which I say 'poppycock'. Games are supposed to be hard - that's what keeps you coming back for more. I've had it up to here with games which can be completed in 3 or 4 hours of gameplay and then you're done and off looking for the next title. With Raging Thunder, it'll take you a dozen races to make it to the front in just the first circuit, and then the tracks just get harder - even with the best reactions in the world, you're looking at many tens of hours (maybe even hundreds) if you really want to conquer the Raging Thunder world.

Along the way, you'll encounter genuine 3D tracks, complete with uphill and downhill gradients, obstacles, powerups, collectable 'dollars' and skull-powerdowns. By default acceleration is automatic, so you only really have to worry about steering (by default using the phone's accelerometer) and power-sliding round corners. Tapping on the left or right of the screen activates power boost or tackles opponents, respectively.

Raging Thunder screenshot

Talking of opponents, there's (ambitiously) a multiplayer mode here, using either players on your own local Wi-Fi network or players from round the world, hosted on Polarbit game servers - this feature being in beta and with the game being brand new, there was noone for me to race against, but I'll try again in a month or so. Still, full marks for trying, Polarbit - Internet-hosted multiplayer gaming is de rigeur in a top title in 2010.

'Arcade' mode sees you tackling one track at a time, trying to beat a minimum time in order to unlock each successive track; 'Championship' mode gives you the lowliest car and then you work your way up from track to track, using monies gained to improve your car and thereby gain better results - and so on; while 'Time attack' sees you trying to beat the best times posted by other people round the world on the same (unlocked) track.

Raging Thunder screenshot

A pumping soundtrack adds atmosphere - we're not talking CD-quality techno here, more late 80s digi-pop, but hey, the speakers in many of the Symbian-powered phones of today aren't really up to much more anyway (the Nokia 5800 excepted).

Raging Thunder screenshot

Priced sensibly and really rather impressively optimised to extract every last gram of performance out of the current generation of Symbian smartphones, Raging Thunder is highly recommended for anyone who loves car racing and who is willing to take on a serious challenge to the reflexes. No, the graphics aren't a patch on those in Real Racing or Fastlane Racing on the iPhone - and, arguably, they're not as good as those on the same game three years ago - but I'm still going to give Polarbit a well deserved pass here for producing something fun, playable and which won't break the bank.

Steve Litchfield, All About Symbian, 15 January 2010

Raging Thunder screenshot

Cerrunchhh! Oops.....

Review Discussion

Insane Reindeer
Steve, please do not take this as a slight on you, I know that the problem is most definitely not of your causing. But for those of us who like there Symbian in the S60 V3 flavour could you please state in your application/game reviews what version the programme under review will work on.

After trying several different methods to find this game on the Ovi store client on my bang up to date N85 and failing to find it, I followed the links from the top of the review and yes, I was not surprised to see the Ovi site tell me that this was not available for my phone.

If you could mention this to your co-collaborators of AAS/Ovi Gaming I, for one, would be most appreciative.

Thanks Steve.:cool:
Unregistered
I had no idea v3 phones had nHD screens - shouldn't that be sufficiently a clue?
raka
This game is preinstalled on my 5800, which I use already for a year. And the game runs in native resolution, with accelerometer steering. Didn't you remember, Steve?
rvirga
Holy grainy graphics, Batman! It looks like the way they managed to have decent framerates without a GPU was to render the graphics at 1/4 size (320x180) offscreen, and then scaling up the rendered bitmap.
slitchfield
raka - this is new code, I believe. Grainier graphics but faster frame rates - and more terrain and gameplay. Don't have a 5800 here to double-check differences though.
reindeer - I do refer to 'S60 5th Edition' and, yes, nHD screens, I was hoping it was obvious what the platform was.
boxieblue
Quote:
Originally Posted by raka View Post
This game is preinstalled on my 5800, which I use already for a year. And the game runs in native resolution, with accelerometer steering. Didn't you remember, Steve?
this is a reworked game with much better graphics and gameplay. it was just released so you'd do well to check it out :)

and i must mention that the game is a lot less grainier than it is made out to be in the screenshots. when you play the game, you won't really notice the pixels on the edge of the car. and as for the "unimpressive" scenery...heck who has the time to even look at it while racing?!!
Insane Reindeer
Right. So let's all just assume I am complete idiot who can't read shall we. Thanks. :icon13:
Rafe
Actually no Insane Reindeer it's useful feedback which I have taken note of. It my job to note and deal with this sort of thing.

Ovi Gaming does not have the platform / category labels on all content (as AAS does).

Do you think making the category information clearer on news post would be a step in the right direction? On AAS, on news pages, it is mention down the bottom - Platforms and Categories - (see http://www.allaboutsymbian.com/news/...ng_Thunder.php).

I've actually been thinking about this issue quite a bit - putting only relevant content in front of people. Or at least making things clearer. The problem is its not just a platform issue it is a device issue too - people don't always know what version of Symbian they are running (and this will increase in the next few years with ^3 and ^4)... so it may have to be by device (and even then not everyone knows what device they have. Thinking along the lines of device hubs / device specific start pages so that people see content relavent to them.

Would be interested to hear anyone thoughts on this - feel free to email me rafe at allaboutsymbian.com etc.

Oh and I do like your handle!

Cheers

Rafe
Williamoni
I agree with the Insane Reindeer. Clearer pointers as to the Symbian flavour are helpful. And I'm not ashamed to say that I don't know about nHD screens, which phones have them and which don't etc.
Rafe
Thanks for the feedback Williamoni. Noted carefully.
raka
Quote:
Originally Posted by boxieblue View Post
this is a reworked game with much better graphics and gameplay. it was just released so you'd do well to check it out :)
Indeed. Now I had the chance to download it for free I can see it is totally reworked, basically a total new game.
Unregistered
@rvirga At least it was effective. Gameloft and other companies can't compete with that -- they kept insisting their Javas in which is kind of like adding insulting to injury in this age of touch screen smartphones.
Unregistered
Armageddon Squadron,Iron Sight and Toonwarz are also wonderful games for Symbian 5th touch screen,all made by Polarbit and worthy of review (sry if they have been already)

Toonwarz is especially worthy as it one of VERY few FPS games out on touch screen. Its hard at times but shows Polarbit are the only bigboys out there for our starving Nokia's.

Cheers and very nice review.

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