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Quick Review of id Software's Rage HD for iPhone

id Software is the maker of high-end shooter titles that are made to wow your eyes at its proficient use of 3D hardware to make the best of your video card. Rage is the next big id game that will show off what id Tech 5 engine can do, but before that, the developer is teasing its 2011 release with… a game for Apple devices?

Yes, it's called Rage HD and it's now available for the iPhone, iPod and iPad. Only the two most recent generations are supported, as they are the ones with the PowerVR SGX 535 GPU required to run the game.

There is a $0.99 SD version that is made for the lower resolution displays of the iPhone 3GS and the iPod touch 3G, and there's a universal iPhone 4 and iPad version called Rage HD that's $1.99.

We took the Rage HD version for a spin on the iPhone 4 and iPad, and found them to be comparable, but different experiences.

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There are two options for control, one of which uses a portion of the touchscreen as a touchpad to control aiming. The other way uses the accelerometer to use tilt control to aim.

Using the tilt control on the iPhone 4 worked reasonably well, as it was a smaller device and easier to manipulate. On the iPad, however, the tilting felt more unwieldy due to the device's size. Thanks to the larger screen, however, using your thumb to aim didn't take as much away from the display as it would on the iPhone 4.

Aiming is the main control you'll have to deal with, as the game is on-rails. You don't get a choice where you go (though you do get to control the pace), but the levels are laid out in such a linear fashion that you rarely have a desire to go anywhere other than where the game takes you.

Other controls include firing, reloading, weapon switching and dodging. Everything works in a fairly straightforward press-to-action manner, but the reload has an "active reload" feature much like in Gears of War, when a second, well-timed press will unlock a 2X damage bonus for the remainder of that clip.

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Graphically, Rage HD is unlike anything you've seen run on the iPhone or iPad before – with the possible exception of the Epic Citadel Unreal Engine 3 demo. Rage HD, however, is the first game to really make use of that tiny GPU, which makes good on John Carmack's statement that what's inside today's smartphones is better than what we had in our original Xboxes and PS2s.

The textures are not of a high resolution, even in the over-700MB HD version, but they do best anything else that's been done on the platform this far. In fact, the experience is especially impressive on the iPhone 4, partially thanks to the high-pixel-density Retina Display screen and that there hasn't been anything of this kind of graphical intensity in such a small device. It's notable that the iPad version runs at 1024x768, while the iPhone 4 is at 960x640, which also means different aspect ratios between platforms.

When it comes to platform choice, however, the iPad is the preferable one thanks purely to display size. The bigger real estate allows for a more comfortable layout –provided it's not tilt controls – and allows the player to take in more of the environment. After playing on the iPad, going to the iPhone feels a little cramped.

Rage HD's "Mutant Bash TV" runs for only three levels, each of which can be easily finished in around 10 minutes. It's definitely very much of an arcade experience, but at no more than $1.99, the game is a pretty decent value.

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