Is the "New iPad" a viable gaming platform? We take a look at the first announced New iPad games, as well as checking out the tech behind the New iPad to see how it stacks up against consoles.
It may not be called the iPad 3 or the iPad HD, but the next biggest rumor about “the new iPad” was certainly true: it has a beautiful Retina Display. In fact, that description doesn’t do it justice. How about “the highest resolution screen for a mobile device?” The specs back up that claim with a 2048 x 1536 resolution, whopping 3.1 million total pixels and 44% greater color saturation vs. the iPad 2. The result is more vivid colors and pixel-perfect graphics, something that a side-by-side comparison of the new iPad and iPad 2 bore out at today’s Apple press conference. So while the look and feel of the new iPad hasn’t changed very much, the technology crammed inside received all of Apple’s love and attention and, as horsepower-loving gamers, that gets our attention.
What a “Retina Display” means for games
Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy
“Sky Gamblers delivers ‘console quality’ single- and multiplayer experiences,” boasted James Shelton, Game Design Director for Namco. He made this claim while demoing the Pac-Man publisher’s newest flight simulator, and as ridiculous as the statement may sound, the numbers don’t lie. The new iPad actually has over a million more pixels than that HDTV sitting in your living room. Apple just happened to pack it into a much tighter package. Shelton went on to say that not even the giant projection screen used during the keynote behind him could show off the game’s full detail. “The only place to truly experience the intensity of the action and that richness of detail is on the new iPad itself.”
Due out at the end of the month, Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy doesn’t look too far off from an Ace Combat console experience. It was able to support 50 dogfighting jets in the sky, a hostile enemy aircraft carrier in the bay and a flyover of San Francisco. This iOS exclusive will be available for other iOS devices, too, but the new iPad boasts four times the resolution and therefore “none of the detail goes to waste,” said Shelton. “Just look at the heat haze coming off the engines here, look at the scale of the city, look at the detail of its buildings.” The jet then made some nifty aerobatic maneuvers right before the demoing pilot ejected. Seat ejections are handled by conveniently - and carefully - shaking the new iPad up and down.
Infinity Blade: Dungeons
If there was one iPhone game that already looked on par with console games it was Infinity Blade II on the iPhone 4S. That’s why it wasn’t a huge surprise that Epic Games President Mike Capps once again took to Apple’s stage and introduced another addition to the Unreal Engine-powered franchise: Infinity Blade: Dungeons. Capps demoed this dungeon-crawler while dropping lexicon for advanced visual techniques like “tone mapping” and “depth of field post-processing.”
What really made sense to all of the gamers in the audience was when Capps said “if you think about it, this new device actually has more memory and a higher screen resolution than an Xbox 360 or a PlayStation 3. So these guys [developer Chair Entertainment] are redefining mobile gaming... again.”
Infinity Blade: Dungeons has a cinematic-heavy presentation thanks to its dynamic camera system that takes you in and out of battle. But while the graphics have advanced, the story is taking a step back - in a good way, though. It’s set thousands of years prior to the first two games, giving players a chance to assume the role of an apprentice weaponsmith. You’re serving the Master of the Forge and are sent to forge the Infinity Blade. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to download this action-packed iOS exclusive until “sometime later this year.”
Apple A5X Quad-Core Graphics
At four times the pixels, how does the new iPad handle that much raw graphical horsepower? Well, even though the rumored debut of the quad-core A6 chip didn’t pan out (as it still has a dual-core CPU), the bumped up A5X chip means the iPad now supports quad-core graphics. “Great gaming experiences are about immersion, being able to really lose yourself in a game,” said Namco’s James Shelton during his demo of the new Sky Gamblers. “The extra graphics performance [of the new iPad] lets us increase the level of detail of everything in the game.”
Without the quad-core graphics processor, much of what Apple displayed today, gaming and beyond, wouldn’t be possible on screen of 3.1 million teeny, tiny pixels. And while “better than HD” may be a sexy achievement and will be a sure-fire marketing hit, having the resources of a faster graphics processor is going to mean a whole lot more to developers, to gamers and to the next generation of game apps. The only thing Apple needs now is an actual controller with real buttons.
4G LTE and Fit for Travel
Portable video game systems are ideal travel gear, and the 4G-enabled new iPad models will be ready for roadtrip duty no matter where you are in the developed world. That’s because Apple has finally made this a “World-Ready” device, whether you’re under contract with AT&T or Verizon here in the States. The company is also laying claim to “the most bands ever” with 3G, HSPA+, DC-HSPA and, yes, 4G LTE. So, no matter where you are, if data coverage exists and you’re willing to pay the price, you’ll have access to Internet-connected game apps.
All-Important Battery Life
The iPhone 4S had "Antenna Gate"-like battery issues when it first came out, and you know that whenever Apple has an embarrassing problem, the company outdoes itself in that department the next year (see: dual antennas in the iPhone 4S). That’s why I’m thinking that Apple is going to pour a lot of time and resources into having stellar battery performance for the the iPhone 5 later this year. Right now, Apple is on its way to making that prediction come true with the new iPad’s 10-hour battery life. That’s the same as the iPad 2 and it goes down to 9 hours with 4G enabled, but think about it: this device has a much faster graphics processor and it’s displaying quadruple the pixels at all times. It may be remarkable engineering or it may just be Apple “magic.”
The New Apple Release Date and Price
The predictions were correct about this one, too: the new iPad is coming out on March 16 and pre-orders are already being taken on Apple’s website. Better than this quick worldwide launch is the fact that Apple didn’t increase the price along with the new iPad’s bumped up specs. The WiFi-only model is $499 for 16GB, $599 for 32GB and $699 for 64GB. But you’re probably angling for that superior 4G LTE model, which follows the same storage size scheme and prices: $629, $729 and $829.
If owning an iPad is enticing, but the Retina Display doesn’t seem worth the above prices, the iPad 2 has a new starting price of $399 for the 16GB WiFi model and $529 for the 16 GB 3G model. But that’s a big if - can you put a price on beauty (of the 9.7-inch Retina Display) and not have the latest and greatest piece of Apple mobile gaming tech?