According to our source at Microsoft, there won’t be a general Xbox Windows Phone release this week. That could be because N.O.V.A. 3 still hasn’t passed certification yet (as Gameloft has informed us) and neither has anything else, or maybe Microsoft just wants Xbox fans focused on the Xbox One this week instead of their phones.
Don’t fret, though! Non-Nokia owners just got two new Xbox Windows Phone titles to choose from: Spy Mouse and Trivial Pursuit. And Nokia owners, boy is this a good week for you…
Nokia and Electronic Arts have just released not one, two, or even three new games. That’s right, FOUR new Nokia exclusives rolled in overnight: Mass Effect: Infiltrator (requires Windows Phone 8), NBA Jam, Real Racing 2, and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12. In other words, most of the big games we’ve been looking forward to since EA and Nokia first announced their partnership!
The only bad news: Windows Phone 8 users with 512 MB RAM devices can't play any of these games, while Nokia WP7 users can. Weirdness...
Mass Effect Infiltrator
How fitting that the Mass Effect series, which started life on the Xbox 360 before branching out to other platforms has finally arrived on Windows Phone 8. Infiltrator is a side story to the main trilogy of games. It stars a Cerberus Agent named Randall Ezno (Ezno? I bet he got teased in school) who rebels against his employers when he discovers they’ve been up to no good.
As a companion game, Infiltrator focuses solely on the series’ third-person shooting and combat instead of its RPG elements. You move by swiping your left thumb and look and aim with your right thumb, not unlike twin-stick shooters and even Modern Combat 4. But the aiming and shooting is much easier here than in Gameloft’s FPS games because you can tap enemies to lock onto them and then just aim at specific parts of their bodies to fire – no separate shooting button, thankfully.
Ezno’s health recharges over time, but he’s bound to die if you don’t take cover. Actually attaching to cover can be difficult, though popping out to shoot and jumping to other pieces of cover works better. He also gets various weapons and Biotics (spells/powers) with which to kill anyone who disagrees with him. These weapons and powers, as well as melee abilities and armor can be upgraded with credits earned during gameplay. Like other Nokia exclusives, all four of these games lack the IAPs found in their iOS originals.
As the second Windows Phone 8-exclusive Nokia EA game (also the second $7 one), Infiltrator features fairly detailed 3D graphics and lavish production values. The story and even weapon descriptions in the store are fully voiced, so other than the pure combat focus, this feels just like a real Mass Effect game. Players sometimes get to choose between Paragon (good) and Renegade (bad) actions as well. Each choice can lead to a different ending and Achievement, so make sure you don’t mix and match before you’ve unlocked both endings.
Mass Effect: Infiltrator – Windows Phone 8 - $6.99 – 476 MB – Store Link
The classic arcade basketball arrives on Windows Phone in fine form! Instead of 5-on-5, NBA Jam is a 2-on-2 game. This keeps the game much simpler and easier to follow than traditional basketball simulations. The whole thing boasts a fine sense of humor, with digitized player heads atop tiny bodies and the silly, iconic voice samples of announcer Tim Kitzrow. Boomshakalaka, indeed!
Choose from all 30 NBA teams before heading to the court. Each team has several real players to choose from, each with different stats. Not all players start out unlocked; you’ll need to earn Achievements to unlock the rest.
The Windows Phone version offers both virtual and swipe-based controls. I didn’t try swipes, but the virtual controls work like a charm. A virtual stick on the thumb controls running, while three buttons on the right represent shooting/blocking, stealing, and fire (a speed burst). Instead of having to hold two buttons at once to shoot while using fire, you just hit fire and then slide your thumb to the shoot button – a fine solution for touch screen gameplay.
NBA Jam offers three game modes: Play Now (single game), Classic Campaign (a series of matches), and local Wi-Fi multiplayer. Quarters can be set to two, three, or five minutes, so games take 8-20 minutes, depending on player preference. From my brief time so far, it looks like fans of the original arcade game will love playing this version on the go.
NBA Jam – Windows Phone 7 or 8 - $2.99 – 211 MB – Store Link
Real Racing 2
Windows Phone finally has a simulation-oriented racing game (think more Forza Motorsport than Project Gotham Racing) now that Real Racing 2 (also known as the last good Real Racing game) has arrived. For better or worse, it’s also a Windows Phone 7 game, so the graphics don't come close to matching Asphalt 7's beauty. But this game does provide a full and realistic cockpit view, which actually ends up being a very immersive way to play instead of a hindrance.
At the start of the game, you’ll choose between buying a 2010 Volvo C30 R-Design or 2010 Volkswagen Golf GTI for your first car. Yes, all 30 licensed cars are 2010 or earlier models since that’s when Real Racing 2 originally came out.
From there, you’ll select from a variety of events in Career mode. Events have restrictions on what types of vehicles can enter them, just like Forza. Some events host up to 16 AI racers, while others involve just two or four cars. They pay in either money (used to buy upgrades) or rep. Career contains 50 events and a total of 89 unique races, so Real Racing 2 should provide a lengthy racing experience.
The game offers several control options, including tilt, steering via virtual touch-screen wheel, or steering by touching the sides of the screen. Acceleration can be automatic or manual, while braking remains manually controlled. As with any racing game, I recommend touch-screen controls for their superior accuracy compared to tilt.
Real Racing 2 supports local Wi-Fi multiplayer, although one reader reports that Wi-Fi didn’t work when he tested it with two phones. Let us know your experience in the comments, won’t you?
Real Racing 2– Windows Phone 7 or 8 - $4.99 – 243 MB – Store Link
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12
It might not be FIFA, but the Tiger Woods series is another heavy hitter from EA Sports. Before heading to the links, you can create up to three golfers, choosing their gender, skin color, and style and color of clothing. These are realistic looking custom golfers as opposed to the cartoonish, premade characters found in Gameloft’s Let’s Golf 2. Stat upgrades can then be purchased with in-game funds, giving you control over how your golfer develops.
From there, aspiring golfers can participate in the PGA Tour career mode, which simulates a full year of golfing events based on the in-game calendar. Tiger Challenge mode contains a variety of individual events for players to purchase and participate in, though these must presumably be unlocked first in the PGA Tour. All events cost funds to enter, so you can’t just spend everything on character upgrades.
Tiger Woods 12 brings its own unique aiming system that differs from Let’s Golf 2’s more traditional system. After choosing the spot to aim for, you’ll draw a line down to select the power of your swing and then draw it back up to hit the ball. The straightness of the line determines the accuracy and spin of your shot. It takes a little getting used to, but certainly adds an extra degree of realism compared to just stopping a meter like other golf games.
This one supports local Wi-Fi multiplayer as well, but we’ve had the same report of the mode not working. Can any of you guys test it and report back to us?
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12– Windows Phone 7 or 8 - $2.99 – 225 MB – Store Link
Thanks to TNT Judbud and Marcel of InsideGames.Ch for the tip!