Chinese manufacturer ZTE have announced the release of the ‘Grand X’ in partnership with Nvidia, Phones4U and Virgin Media UK. Their flagship gaming and entertainment oriented Android smartphone will be onsale at an eye popping £190 on Pay As You Go, and free on contract.
The 4.3” qHD touchscreen handset is run by a Tegra 2 chipset, a dual-core 1gHz CPU with Nvidia’s ultra low power 8 core graphics processor, allowing vivid console quality graphics on a mobile device. Nvidia’s own ‘TegraZone’ app-portal will allow you to download graphically enhanced versions of existing and exclusive games, for a slight premium.
In an move to lure the youthful gaming market, ZTE have enlisted the support of East London’s very own Professor Green. During a video-presentation the chirpy rapper only needed one word to sum up the Grand X… “Cool!”.
The Grand X comes loaded with the latest Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) and unlike many mobile manufacturers, ZTE have been kind enough to leave the OS alone. This appeared to be a clean Android build, as found on Google’s Nexus handsets, so should satisfy the purists.
Our first impressions of it was that it was slightly on the chubby side, but felt solid. The handset performed admirably, without any hint of slowdown and apps loaded super-fast. The screen was bright too, and although we only got to use it in a darkened room, we will put it through its paces in a range of conditions in an upcoming review.
Notable absences are DLNA, so no streaming to HDTV’s and no NFC, although these are technologies that haven’t really taken off as yet. The onboard memory is limited to 4GB too, so you’ll have to stump up if you want to expand it with a microSD (upto 32GB). 512MB of RAM also seems on the low side, we’ll see if this has any noticeable effects in a later review.
If you fancy getting your hands on one, ZTE will be introducing the ‘Grand Xperience’ to the public between now and the 11th September at Westfield shopping centre in Stratford, close to the Olympic site and under the watchful billboards of official London 2012 mobile sponsor, Samsung.
So, the ZTE Grand X, big on gaming and small on price, will be available from August 2012, free on a 2 year £24p/m contract with Virgin Mobile, or £189 on PAYG.
Phones4U will also be stocking this model online and on the high streets. More information on their deals to follow.
We first caught sight of the video for Flairs – Trucker’s Delight at Adam Buxton’s music video showcase “Bug” back in January. Not many things shock us, but even our jaws dropped when we saw just how profane this was. The 8-bit profanity masterclass packed in enough cartoon nudity and un-work safe antics to last you a weekend. View on a work computer at your own risk!
Great news though – Mobigame have made an arcade style racer for iPhone, Trucker’s Delight: Episode 1, which is based on the music video and is in the mould of the classic Sega arcade game OutRun.
You play as the truck driver chasing the girl down the highway, ramming her car wherever possible to score points, passing checkpoints and running other competitors off the road on your way, all the while with the clock ticking.
Mobigame have done a great job in translating both the humour of the video and the gameplay of a scorching arcade racer, with the iPhone’s accelerometer allowing you to tilt for steering and of course, an excellent soundtrack.
It does leave us wondering how the notoriously prudish App Store passed over so much nudity, but whateve… we’re not complaining. Great video – Great game!
Game maker Konami is bringing their seminal football game franchise to the iPhone and iPod Touch, announcing the arrival of Pro Evolution Soccer 2010 in June.
Conversion duties have been handled by Konami’s Paris studio, with an eye towards capturing the authentic atmosphere and dynamic build-up play that the series has been known for on home consoles.
PES 2010 will be fully rendered in 3D (first image above), providing an innovative touch interface that retains the degree of player control and finesse that marks the series as a velvet boot to FIFA’s showy iron studs.
This mobile version of Pro Evo will will also include big name events including the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League, but the most important league to fans – Master League – is yet to be confirmed.
“We have been working to ensure that all the slick moves and control – not to mention strong AI and aesthetic touches – that are associated with the series, have been recreated,” said PES mobile producer Axel de Rougé.
Pro Evolution’s iPhone presence has already been established with the popular free ‘iPES’ app, allowing fans of polygonal footy to vote for virtual goal of the month as well as enter daily quizzes.
The June release of PES 2010 follows hot on the heels of the latest version of EA’s FIFA franchise released to co-incide with this year’s World Cup on every gaming platform known to man, including the iPhone and iPod Touch.
Today EA Mobile hosted their Spring showcase for iPhone and iPod Touch, giving the gaming press a chance to grill the developers behind the games as well as road test the five new games that are about to drop – FIFA World Cup South Africa Edition, The SIMs 3 – World Adventures, SIMCity Deluxe and the highly anticipated platformer, Mirror’s Edge.
First we spoke to the Rik Skews, who produced Mirror’s Edge and also oversaw production on all the of the new titles on show today. He was very excited over the future of mobile gaming, particularly the emerging social element to gameplay. With Farmville attracting around 60 million players (that’s Pacman numbers!), the potential for Facebook as a platform for gamers and a tech demo for developers is massive.
When asked about the relative merits of iPhone, PSP and Ninteno’s DS, Skews was balanced, but affirmative – while the iPhone’s graphics aren’t quite up there with the PSP it was, he said, “far better placed to make use of the emerging integrated social platforms.”
So it was off into the brunch gaming session to see what EA Mobile has in store for iPhone users this season:
Set in a not-too-distant future society draped in surveillance and stripped of most freedoms, Mirror’s Edge puts you in control of “Faith”, a member of an underground group known as “Runners”. Essentially it’s Prince of Persia on amphetamines… and it is incredibly addictive (we didn’t even touch the laid on buffet, we were so egngrossed).
Seasoned gamers will recognise the high-octane one-way format from smash-hit platformer Canabaltand it’s undeniable that Mirror’s Edge owes alot to that title. (The original PC version of Mirror’s Edge which was a 1st-person action-adventure), however the new hieghts that EA have take the graphics in Mirror’s Edge for iPhone are spectacular.
For producer Rik Skews, the idea of a 40-hour plus game was very much a console based model and for the emerging mobile market he was passionate about bringing games that just delivered “the best experience possible”. Take it from us… this game is a tasty a “digital-snack” as you can get.
Due Date & Price: T.B.C
FIFA World Cup – South Africa
The greatest sports event in the world comes to South Africa for the first time in it’s history and with this iPhone app you can be there too! Dean Bennet, associate producer for FIFA South Africa said that since football was a super popular sport, they’d planned to make a game that could be enjoyed by anyone. The game features enhanced controls, a new button layout and a floating d-pad, which all make gameplay more intuitive answer the problems of the iPhone not having physical buttons perfectly:
The game also has a highly authentic feel – it includes all 10 of the official stadiums and the newly animated crowds help re-create that all-important atmosphere. Fantastists still in denial over which teams qualified will be happy to hear they also can play as any team they wish – the only way Scotland will qualify for this years World Cup!
Due Date: 30th April
Skate – It
If you’re into extreme sports – you’ll probably prefer being all “gnarly” outside. If you’re like us however and recoil at the mere sight of a grazed knee then there’s Skate-It for iPhone:
Grind, ollie and kickflip til your heart’s content using EA’s nifty swipe-controls through a variety of real-world skate parks. Mastering tricks is just one aspect of this game though – Skate-It allows you to create entire skateparks from scratch using an environment editor. If that wasn’t enough though you can also deck out your board and customise your own clothes to give your character that all-important personal feel. Also, check out the cool action-replay feature in the clip below.
We did find the experience realistic and the gesture controls innovative, but for first time-gamers the co-ordination required might prove frustrating. Fans of the genre will not be disappointed.
Due Date: Spring 2010
The SIMs 3: World Adventures
The latest iteration of the massively successful SIMs series allows you to enjoy the SIM experience across continents and cultures. Depending on what continent you’re in, this is reflected in all sorts of ways – from the furniture to the clothes you can wear. Moreover, in different countries the game goals can change – for instance, in China the objective might be language learning, in Egypt it could be archaelogical excavation.
We had a play>> Charging our SIM up with as many blundering personality defects as possible we got on a flight, got travel sickness, arrived in China smelling really badly then barged into the nearest person’s house to watch TV, despite it being in the wee hours. This didn’t go down too well and we were swiftly ejected.
We were assured by the product manager on hand that we could influence much more positive outcomes though – with a more gentler approach, you can befriend people and eventually entice them to hang out, even fall into love and shack up!
The SIMs 3 offers fans of the genre yet more depth to the SIM experience, however. We noticed that if a SIM from another continent chooses to move in with you, they can bring their possessions over too! We especially liked the added dimension that flying between continents added to gameplay – during your flight you have to focus your character to avoid getting travel sick. A nice realistic touch (no sick bag though).
Our only gripe – we can’t skip the sightseeing parts of the game, so if you’re in for a quick gaming fix, this certainly isn’t the one.
Unfortunately, this was still at the pre-Beta development stage, so no-go for video. However, we did have a play and a talk to the games producer, Brian Sheehan who showed us the main gameplay features. Most notably, these included seasonal disasters such as typhoons, floods and locusts, plus a nifty pinch-zoom function. Mr Sheehan then told us that for the 3Gs version we could expect better animation, more detailed artwork and more animated rendering of landscapes and coastal areas.
Frequent readers may know that one of my favourite pastimes is zombies, particularly the viewing of movies where zombies are contained therein.
This great viral short shows off numerous ways of handling the impending onslaught with a stiff upper lip, whilst also advertising PC/360 zombie survival ‘em up Left 4 Dead 2.
Going for the clever humour of Shaun of the Dead rather than the ultra-stylised comic violence of Zombieland, this video shows that us Brits will always have time for a spot of tea…as long as there’s milk.
Want to start swinging your frying pan down in the bayous of Louisiana? The demo for PC owners is available on Steam, whilst clever pre-ordering 360 folk should be getting their Left 4 Dead 2 demo fix right about…now.
How’s that for a cheap check up? To celebrate the integration of achievements though the Plus+ service, budding surgeons can now enjoy the anime antics of ng:moco’s Dr. Awesome, for free!
The iPhone game is classic arcade gaming a la ‘Qix,’ where you have to regain control of an area by sectioning off pieces of the playfield, tilting your device and dodging foreign viruses. Cure 75% of the vaguely body-shaped mass, and you move onto the next patient!
Features like the comic cut-scenes between Dr. Awesome and his surly nurse, and the fact that each poorly patient is a name from your contacts list with a real-time 24 hours to be cured, level it above average iGaming fare.
Do something good today. Save a friend’s life, if only for points.
One of my favourite games ever has to be boxing game Punch Out! on the NES. The experience of taking Little Mac from no-mark fighter to title bout pugilist made for a smash hit back in the ’80s.
The tactics of dodging, weaving and exploiting openings and weaknesses in your brilliantly caricatured opponents made Punch Out one of the best titles to capture the sport…until you meet the unremittingly tough pre-tattooed visage of Mike Tyson and he punches your face off.
Even though the latest boxing sims take more processing grunt to handle realistic sweat than it took to run Punch Out, the gameplay stands the test of time and Glu’s Super K.O. Boxing 2 on the iPhone captures that early arcade spirit perfectly.
The quest for the title of heavyweight champ remains the premise, as you control ‘The K.O. Kid’ against 12 brilliantly stylised opponents in the ring, with animation and gameplay that looks fresh but is steeped in classic twitch gaming.
Circuit is the main gameplay mode which sees you face off against each fearsome fighter in three round bouts, starting off in the lower brackets before working up to the big time.
The controls are fairly simplistic with a left and right dodge as well as a block on the left virtual stick, whilst the right handles high and low blows as well as a power punch that builds after successful connections.
Combinations can be figured out with a little deft finger work, giving you an advantage over those tougher challengers. An alternative control mode requires actually tapping on the opponent to specify high or low attacks, but this obscures the screen to the point of being impractical.
Your first foes are fairly easy with burly hillbilly Big Gip, matador El Bulli and faux-rapper 15 Cent (the jokes are that broad…) proving to have that classic ‘Glass Joe’ glass jaw, but before long every punch counts as the enemies become faster and punish every misstep.
Fighters like Dynamo (pretty much identical to his electrically-charged namesake from The Running Man) and man mountain Shogun require judicious use of blocking, as well as second guessing their moves. Luckily the fluid animation and gorgeous graphics mean each fighter has their fair share of ‘tells’ that can be exploited for a quick KO.
Adding notches to your win tally soon unlocks Challenge Mode, offering up tricky situations like knocking out opponents without taking a single hit, and Versus Mode which lets you hone your skills against previously fallen foes.
Those not well versed in Nintendo’s Punch Out series will find this an enjoyable Rocky-style romp whilst others with longer memories of the SNES or even the recent Wii reboot might find it overstepping the line past an homage into ‘half-inching’ territory, but either way Super K.O. Boxing 2 is a brilliant example of a mobile game with depth, longevity, production values and most importantly a sense of humour that puts many games on dedicated handhelds to shame.
Available now on the App Store for £2.99 as well as on old-school mobiles, Super K.O. Boxing 2 is definitely a fighter in its prime.
Okay, not strictly mobile phones related, but the second great love in my life after HSDPA speeds and megapixels is video games…first person shooters in particular. So the opportunity to sample the latest iteration of the Battlefield franchise is something that I just HAD to share!
Battlefield 1943 takes the fight to the 360 and Playstation 3, offering three areas torn from the World War II history books and conflict for up to 24 players. The maps might prove familiar to Battlefield veterans as they are the most popular ones from the 1942 PC original, buffed up to a next-gen sheen thanks to the Frostbite engine.
Another thing this new engine (first seen in Battlefield : Bad Company) allows for is destructible landscapes, with fully-controllable boats, tanks and airplanes able to chew up the scenery with bombs and shells.
The Pacific theatre is the setting, with the US Marine Corps pitched against the Imperial Japanese Navy. Featuring only three classes of soldier, little by way of ‘levelling up’ and a single mode (the power struggle of capturing five bases in Conquest) 1943 might seem lean in comparison to other multiplayer shooters, but with a unique download-only distribution model and a low price of £9.99 / 1200 Microsoft Points on the PSN and XBox Live respectively, it is online competition distilled into its purest form.
The controls are very familiar to anyone that has previously answered the Call of Duty, with the left shoulder button giving an iron sight view, the right shoulder to pop off rounds and clicking in the stick to run. Despite no way of customising the loadout, it is quick and painless to gather familiarity with the sniper, infantry and middle distance rifleman. The draw distance is amazing, allowing patient shooters able to score long range shots with ease.
Vehicles are still present and correct, with sea, air and land all easily traversed thanks to jackable transport dotted around the huge maps. Driving takes a bit of getting used to, bucking the traditional right stick for acceleration and breaking setup for the left shoulder buttons, and planes proving just as tough to fly without practice as ever!
Anyone wanting a further aeronautical fix can now play on the special fourth ‘Coral Sea’ map, unlocked after avid fans racked up 43,000,000 kills in record time on the 360. This map offers pure dogfighting, with an aerial take on warfare proving hilarious and challenging in equal measure.
The tactical elements of calling in bombing raids, repairing friendly vehicles and anti-air guns also add an anarchic element to proceedings if your team does not work together as a well-oiled machine. The only negative I can level at 1943 is that the battles can get a little repetitive once players get into the routine of starting out on a particular map. The mad scramble to gain ground in the first five minutes does become a little mechanical. However, the constant mixing of players on respective teams between rounds manages to keep things fresh.
Bringing this title into 2009 with voice chat, group formation and co-ordination of attacks adds another layer to the classic ebb and flow of Battlefield combat, and the low price makes it an impulse purchase that you won’t regret. DICE have managed to parcel the best elements of online multiplayer into a tight and cohesive package, and is sure to appeal to Battlefield purists and new recruits alike.
Check out some promotional explosions and gunfire below!
A fully realised open world is at your disposal, with all manner of running, driving, shooting and fisticuffs coming to iPhone touchscreens by the end of the summer.
The day-glo HUD and bright environment reminds us very much of Vice City’s neon charms and we’ve spotted a radio in one screenshot, suggesting that there will be a rich musical accompaniment to your path of destruction.
Our only concern would be one of the need for precise controls, as there is nothing worse than sweaty fingertips to blow a bank job getaway! Gang$tar iPhone looks to have the familiar virtual joypad and button setup for the on-foot sections, switching to a steering wheel and brake/accelerator when moving on four wheels. Clever, but a decent input method can make or break a game, so we hope Gang$tar survives the switch to 3D intact.
We’ll have to wait until we get our hands on it to see if West Coast Hustle can fulfill our (purely virtual) criminal tendencies on the move!