Ashen (Sniper)
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Developer: Torus Games
Publisher: Nokia

Sporting a gothic texture set, arch-laden architecture, and plenty of ambient and dynamic lighting, Ashen looks a lot like Quake, except running on a tiny celphone. Red Faction has higher resolution textures, but Ashen's maps feature more polygons, and the slightly blurrier textures make for much nicer framerates. Enemies consist of a reasonable number of polygons, and, when taken with the environments as a whole, Ashen is a very sophisticated and detailed handheld game.

Ashen has the best audio I've heard from an N-Gage game. The sound effects are all outstanding, and exhibit remarkable clarity even with the N-Gage's tinny inbuilt speaker. The soundtrack is dark and moody, incredibly atmospheric, and is perhaps the high point of this entire game. The only thing perhaps lacking is variety in the audio, as it does get a tad monotonous after some time, and most of the enemies sound a bit too similar. Still though, Ashen is a treat for the ears.

While Red Faction forced players to move meticulously through each level and strategically take out enemies from around corners, Ashen can be played either methodically or in a more run 'n' gun fashion. Enemies in the game use projectile weapons, as opposed to "instant damage" ones, making tactics such as circle strafing effective. There's quite a lot of variety in the weapon selection, and the collision detection is much better than in Red Faction, which encourages you to use "splash" weapons such as rocket and grenade launchers. Maps are well paced, and feature ambushes, platforming elements, and large, open areas. In all, Ashen's gameplay is well thought out, albeit no-frills.

I was unable to try the multiplayer, but I can say, with certainty, that Ashen is a very fun single player FPS that harkens back to the halcyon days of the genre, but also brings that concept to a modern level with a sophisticated 3d engine. For those that have played Red Faction, Ashen has consistently higher framerates, and despite the former game's character, Ashen probably would make a more enjoyable game for most people. In fact, Ashen is a pretty darned good first-person shooter in general, much less on a handheld. I recommend it for any N-Gage owner seeking a solid, well rounded gaming experience.

Sniper's verdict: