Great games that showcase Apple’s iOS graphic revolution

Sep 20, 2010
Games

Apple’s emergence as a force in mobile gaming cannot be attributed to pricing and selection alone. Hardcore and casual gamers alike want to play games that look great. With a selection of more than 30,000 games that are mostly priced between 99 cents and $10, it has been easy to overlook increasingly state-of-the-art graphics as […]

Apple’s emergence as a force in mobile gaming cannot be attributed to pricing and selection alone. Hardcore and casual gamers alike want to play games that look great.

With a selection of more than 30,000 games that are mostly priced between 99 cents and $10, it has been easy to overlook increasingly state-of-the-art graphics as a driver of Apple’s gaming success. No more.

Display enhancements on the iPhone 4 and its iOS operating system are putting Apple on par with – if not better than – portable gaming leaders Nintendo DS and PSP. Due to hardware and memory restrictions, it wasn’t this way when Apple opened up its App Store more than two years ago.

Early hits on the iPhone such as Doodle Jump and Flight Control are perfect examples of cheap games that are wonderfully simple, but graphically not acceptable for the increasing number of gamers who grew up on X-Box and PlayStation. Yet pioneering technology like the iPhone 4’s Retina Display – which visually levels the playing field with with other mobile gaming devices – and graphically ambitious developers are establishing the iPhone 4 as the premier portable gaming system for graphics.

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According to mobile analytics firm Flurry, game sales for devices including the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad already account for more than 19 percent of portable gaming software in the United States and more than 5 percent of all U.S. video game software revenue.

Here is a rundown of new and upcoming games that graphically shine on iOS devices, and will likely help Apple carve an even greater market share in the gaming industry.

Rage

ID Software is probably best known as the developer of Wolfenstein and DOOM, games that came to iOS devices with their original, charming 90s-style PC graphics. At QuakeCon 2010 the company demoed a new game called Rage, which is similar to those classics in that it’s a first person shooter. This game’s graphics are anything but retro, however. The game is set in a post-apocalyptic Earth, with the demo boasting textured environments and an impressive attention to detail. Rage is also set to be released on PlayStation, X-Box, PC and Mac, though interestingly the iOS release is currently the only scheduled mobile version of the game. As of now it is set for a Sept. 2011 release.

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Epic Citadel

The free download Epic Citadel is not a game, but instead a sort of declaration of what developer Epic Games can do graphically on an iOS device. The demo allows you to explore a medieval setting, and though there are no goals or really any action, it is notable for environments that are much more realistic than anything that has come to the App Store to date. Epic Citadel is powered by the company’s Unreal Engine 3, which has been behind Epic Games’ Gears of War and Unreal Tournament 3, as well as other titles such as BioShock, Mass Effect, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Vegas and Medal of Honor: Airborne.

Mirror’s Edge

Electronic Arts’ Mirror’s Edge isn’t new to the gaming world, with the console-version of the game (which used Unreal Engine 3) being released in 2008. The game came to the iPad in April of this year, and finally to the iPhone earlier this month. It stands to reason much of the delay was due to optimizing the game for the iPhone 4. While Mirror’s Edge takes a simplistic approach to gameplay and controls, the same can’t be said for its graphics. Unlike the console version , this game is presented as a side-scroller instead of in first person, and the rooftop locations you guide your character through have both a sense of depth and realism. Although Mirror’s Edge certainly isn’t the first horizontal runner, due to its superior graphics and multiple camera angles it is one of the most notable.

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Chaos Rings

Chaos Rings is an iOS-exclusive RPG from Square Enix, the company responsible for the legendary Final Fantasy series. Fans of that series may notice some visual similarities between the games, as the art director for many Final Fantasy releases – Yusuke Naora – was also the art director for this game. Unlike many RPG’s in the App Store, characters aren’t presented as pixilated blobs but instead as lifelike beings with distinctive features and realistic movements. The game’s cut scenes, standard gameplay graphics and battle views all have sharp visuals and colorful displays, and go a long way in justifying Chaos Rings’ $12.99 price tag.

Zen Bound 2 Universal

Graphics have never been an integral part of puzzle games, and maybe that’s part of what makes Zen Bound 2 Universal so refreshing. The Secret Exit game has received many accolades for its gameplay and soundtrack, but also for its visual presentation, including an IGN’s iPhone Best of 2009 award for visual excellence. Rotating the game’s 3D figures feels real not only because of the smooth gameplay, but because of spot-on lighting and realistic paint splattering. Aside from that, Zen Bound is simply pleasant to look at, with the word ‘beautiful’ popping up in more than a few reviews of the game.

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