Now, if you own an Android device, you’ve probably heard of NVIDIA’s Tegra Zone. It’s an exclusive game marketplace for owners of devices running on the Tegra SoC. Games featured here are renowned for visuals superior to their iOS/Android Market counterparts, like Fruit Ninja THD, Samurai II: Vengeance, Backbreaker THD, and Galaxy on Fire 2: THD. Read on for the Rest of the review:
In the PC world, NVIDIA is known for its impressive graphics. With their recent advancements in the mobile field, they set a goal of bringing console quality graphics to Android, and who better to go to than XBOX 360 developers themselves?
The result? Riptide GP.
Like most racing games, the controls are rather simple. You tap on the right side of the screen to accelerate and the left side to brake. By default, steering is handled by the accelerometer, and there is a control for boost on the upper, right-hand side. The Options menu provides toggles for auto-accelerate, horzion-based tilt, and sensitivity.
One feature that makes Riptide GP stand out is the gamepad integration. You can use your XBOX 360 controller or an assortment of other Bluetooth/USB gamepads supported by the game. Just about any setup will work, since there are many IME apps that you can use to configure your controls. Upon opening the application, any initialized controllers should be detected. I haven’t had the chance to try out external controls first-hand, but many tablet users have praised its convenience and effectiveness.
(Note: A USB Gamepad requires Android 3.1 or above. Bluetooth will work with any device.)
The actual racing has an “on rails” feel to it since the walls act more as bumpers to push you in the right direction rather than as objects to avoid due to a possible crash. When you jump off a ramp and try to fly into the crowd, you hit an invisible wall in the air, which pushes you back into the water. This isn’t a bad thing in theory, but it feels badly implemented. (It’s reminiscent of the first two Need for Speed games for iOS). Maybe if the vehicles flew into the crowd and then respawned, the animation would feel more natural.
Aside from that, the gameplay is fast paced and intense. Like most games, there is an unlock system for vehicles and tracks that should keep you interested until you complete everything. There is no customization for your vehicle but various colors and designs are available as unlocks.
The game modes are; Race, Hot Lap, and Championship. The names should be self explanatory, due to their prevalence in almost every other title in the same genre. Leader-boards and challenges are handled through OpenFeint integration, and you can communicate with the “Community” via a Facebook option in the Menu.
Landing a jump
The menus in Riptide GP are clean and intuitive. They feature large options that you must scroll though for navigation. In the background there is a gorgeous ocean with realistic wave and lighting effects rendering in real-time. One should have no trouble figuring out how to access each section of the game.
This is the splash screen. Before even starting a race the game shows off its graphics with the water effects in the background.
In the main menu, you horizontally scroll through several large options for navigation.
As previously mentioned, the Tegra Zone would not be what it is today unless its games had impressive visual flair; Riptide GP is no exception. Right away, you’ll notice the dynamic lighting on your vehicle and driver (relative to the sun) and the breathtaking reflections on the surface of the water. Additionally, there are randomized waves and swells that will constantly affect the course of your boat. When you land on the water after soaring off a ramp, you will be greeted with a nice splash effect combined with crest foam and bubbles.
The landscape outside the track isn’t as eye catching, but it nicely displays the futuristic art direction. If you take the time to observe the architecture, it should become clear that the setting of the game is far from modern. Massive rockets, spires, and helical buildings can be seen directly adjacent to the race course.
All in all, graphics were definitely a priority for Vector Unit and nVidia. I would be hard pressed to think of any other mobile games aside from Infinity Blade and Real Racing 2 that can match the quality seen here. What sets it apart is that it runs at a buttery smooth 60 FPS, while IB and RR2 run at 25-30 FPS.
This is the starting line in a race. The reflections and swells on the water surface are visible. Click this image or the link above to be taken to the debut trailer. It’s a much better example of the visual quality in RipTide GP.
An AI races by and approaches a ramp. Notice the dynamic lighting on your character and the vehicle.
The audio in Riptide GP is somewhat underwhelming. The background music has a pleasant arcade tone to it and plays in harmony with the atmosphere of the game. However, the in-game SFX are disappointing. The boats sound like broken down cars, and the noise from the AI are exactly the same as your boat. The Doppler Effect feeling that one should get when an AI zooms by you is no where to be found.
A positive aspect of the audio is the quality of the environmental of effects. You can hear the crowd screaming, the splash and waves in the water, the “stall” when you jump off a ramp, and more. In conjunction with the fast paced sound-track, the impact of the poor vehicular sounds is neutralized.
As of now, Android doesn’t feature any universal social gaming system like GameCenter, so Vector Unit settled for the next best thing; OpenFeint. Challenges and leader-boards are integrated into the game modes (especially Hot Lap), however, no multiplayer, online or local, is available at this time.
Championship Mode will allow you to race on 12 different maps with 6 different vehicles. It’s split into three divisions; 250CC, 500CC, 1000CC, each of which feature 5 different series (such as Pro Circuit and Grand Prix). Every series has three races, so that would put as at 45 total events.
Quite frankly, once you finish the campaign, there is no reason to keep the app. Unless you’re fond of consistently leveling up in leader-boards for Hot Lap, the replay value in this game is inadequate at best. However a 5 hour single player isn’t too shabby for a mobile game.
Event selection menu. You can see three of the 5 series here, which are included in engine class.
Assuming each race takes around 5 minutes, you should probably be able to squeeze out over 6 hours of gameplay (taking difficulty into account). If you’re a fan of Hot Lap, you can add another hour to that figure. Don’t let the “46MB” figure drive you away. Size doesn’t matter. The app is small because, unlike racing games on land, the developers don’t need to make textures for the ground, or common objects directly outside of the course.
Riptide GP is available for $6.99 as of now. Considering that the price cap for most higher-end mobile games is $10, $7 is a reasonable price. Some other games can probably give you more bang for your buck (Need for Speed and Asphalt) due to the inclusion of a multiplayer component along with similar gameplay times. Anyhow, they lack the superb visual quality and polish that every game featured in Tegra Zone accommodates.
When I purchased my Inspire, I was very disappointed when I browsed through the games section in the Android market. All I could see were poorly ported iOS games, plagued with bugs and blurriness caused by lack of optimization for higher resolution devices. Gameloft had a few noteworthy titles, but in several cases, issues with installation and device compatibility occurred and took a while to fix.
If one looks at the specifications for Android devices, they often outclass iOS devices in every aspect (aside from the iPad 2). Is there really a purpose to all of that power when few games in the Android Market utilize it? The scenario is similar to the one that buyers of 3rd generation iOS devices may have experienced. Their devices far outperformed those from the second gen, but did not get games that utilized that hardware until months after the release of the 4th gen.
Nvidia took an initiative to push high end devices to their limits with the Tegra Zone, and Riptide GP is a game you will not regret buying. It shows that mobile games can pack a lot of visual punch too, whether it’s in effects, physics, or shading.