Colin McRae Rally 2005 (Sniper)
Genre: Racing
Developer: Ideaworks3D
Publisher: Codemasters

It's true that the N-Gage cannot push large amounts high resolution texture-mapped of polygons without a sacrifice in framerate. So, Ideaworks3D developed a 3d engine for CMR that uses as few polygons as possible without dramatically compromising the overall visuals. The results are amazing; CMR is, perhaps, the nicest looking 3d title on the N-Gage, and runs at, literally, 100% consistent, silky-smooth framerates. It's a nice change of pace for N-Gage users accustomed to pretty, albeit very slow, 3d graphics on their handheld of choice.

CMR features some light techno during the menus, and is otherwise devoid of music. This isn't a problem because the in-game sound effects are well done, with realistic engine and turbo sounds, some nice tire skidding samples that vary depending on the road surface, and a variety of crash sounds, which, unfortunately, I heard all too often during gameplay. CMR also has a voice actor calling out the turns as they approach, and the voice samples are clear and easy to understand.

For someone used to Sega Rally, CMR has a steep learning curve; I found myself bouncing off of just about every well on every track until I got the hang of it. Once understood, the outstanding physics of CMR can be appreciated. There are also many ways to tweak your car's performance before a race, a dynamic that is not only realistic, but allows the player to, essentially, adjust the controls, such as steering and brake performance, to fit the player's abilities. In all, from years of driving in real-life snow, to me CMR seems to very accurately depict a real car's performance on less than perfect surfaces.

With a bit of practice, CMR is an outstanding race title on a system that, otherwise, is a little short in that genre. There are 64 tracks and 16 cars, several play modes, and Bluetooth 2-player support, so there's plenty to do. But most importantly, CMR is a fun game that absolutely beats the pants off of any other handheld racing game I've played, and should provide ample entertainment to any N-Gage owner.

Sniper's verdict: