iPad is finally upon us. And while PC-illiterate millionaires, Apple fanboys and Steve Jobs have plenty of reason to rejoice, for gamers, the question still remains: "Should we care about this?"
The launch line-up of games, for example, is cautiously standard: Generic, casual fare with an “HD” hook, or "optimized" ports from high-profile publishers. Since we doubt many of you are willing to pay $500 (minimum) just to take the iPad ride, GamesRadar’s bringing in the hardened professionals of Gamez Journalology! Or, in this case, two editors who also happen to own iPhones.
How do the glossy, tap-tastic offerings of the iPad rate with people who review Halo and GTA for a living? Read-on and find out.
Charlie Barratt, Senior Editor: Let's start with Mirror's Edge, since it's one of the few iPad games that's actually an iPad game first... the iPhone version isn't even out yet. The 3D free-running, platforming world of the original Mirror's Edge has been reduced to what's basically a simple 2D sidescroller. What'd you think of the controls, Chris?
Chris Antista, Features Editor: Reducing a parkour FPS to touch screen arrow keys seems like just another iPad "casualty" of a vastly superior console game. It's like the designers took every incident of unintuitive controls on the 360/PS3 and made an iPad game out of just that. I like the simplicity of a basic running/hurdles game, but at least Robot Unicorn Attack is free and has better music. Although, I will say I'm in awe of the balls it took to charge $1.50 more for this cell phone 2.0 title than the 360 version. That's legendary gall!
Charlie: But on the console version, I had to hit buttons. Futuristic touch sensitivity straight out of [insert Minority Report or Star Trek reference here] doesn't come for free, you know.
Chris: You're right, the console version really needed an ill-defined D-pad the size of an iPad screen. Maybe EA could've had a hit on their hands.
Charlie: Still, though I realize it's insultingly overpriced, I enjoyed Mirror's Edge more than most of the other iPad games we tested. Once you get her started, Faith runs across levels, building up speed on her own. All you have to worry about is flicking the screen in the right direction at the right moment to make her jump, slide, etc. It'll probably be too basic for most gamers, but I found myself settling into a relaxing groove and actually enjoying the touch interactivity. And I was impressed that they were able to squeeze all of her moves – from wall running to gun disarming – into those few inputs.
Chris: And I enjoyed Teleroboxer. But I never recommended anyone go buy a Virtual Boy.
NEED FOR SPEED SHIFT
Charlie: Racing games seem like they should work on an iPad - in theory, at least. You have to tilt a steering wheel back and forth, so why not tilt a giant $700 tablet back and forth. But while I'm no racing expert, I could barely finish a lap, let alone place.
Chris: You know why this genre doesn't work as well as you think it should? Because no one has every wanted to play a racing game with the screen attached to the steering wheel.
Charlie: Exactly. To turn the car to even the slightest degree, you have to ruin your viewing angle. And I didn't feel like I was actually steering the car, but rotating the entire world underneath the car... very much like a Monkey Ball game (more on that later).
Chris: The responsiveness of the tilt is actually incredibly impressive. Problem is, it's also incredibly disorienting. Have a look at this screenshot I took directly from the game:
Jesus Christ! Plus, your E-Brake is a hard jerk to the left or right, so a satisfying drift is only possible during a momentary lack of visibility. I can’t think of any game, on any platform, that has been commended for that. I also can't remember any portable system that I had better luck playing with my arms fully extended. The iPad may be the future, but I'm not entirely ready to go out in public and give people the impression that I'm dancing with a hologram.
Charlie: And why are the gas and brake pedals located within millimeters of each other? Since they're just images on a screen, it's very difficult to know whether you're pressing on the right one... until your car lurches to a stop when you're trying to accelerate, or slamming into a curve at full speed when you wanted to drift.
At least the graphics were impressive - PS2 impressive, anyway - which can't be said for the next game we played.
Up next! Resident Evil 4 and Super Monkey Ball.