Poorly titled, massively anticipated, and wonderfully realized, Raging Thunder isn’t for everyone. Those for whom it’s made, though, will find it hard to put down. More Burnout or Ridge Racer than Mario Kart, this is a serious arcade-style racing game that packs a great multiplayer mode as well.
Typical of console efforts, you race looking upon your car rather than within. A speedometer, two speed-based meters, a radar screen, a lap and time count are all unobtrusively arranged on the screen while you play. The result is a panoramic racer that presents you with long, twisting courses, and doesn’t distract with unnecessary detail. The graphics are top notch–clean, bright and smooth; the cars especially are very nicely rendered on screen. The game generates an impressive sense of speed, as well.
The gameplay is open to your preference. You can choose the method of steering and acceleration. We appreciate the specificity of the ‘touch’ setting, but we much preferred to use the iPhone’s accelerometer for steering. Those vertical meters on the left and right are turbo and draft bars, respectively, each providing a burst of speed, and each needing a thumb to use. During the race, you can collect lightning bolts to fill up the turbo meter, while avoiding skulls (those, laughing ominously, drain your turbo). Sensitivity is also customizable, and we liked to set ours very low.
Why? Well, that’s our biggest complaint with Raging Thunder: its controls and racing gameplay are pretty finicky, so there is very little margin for error within the races. A small bump, a slight curb rub with your tire, and you’ll be flung from first to fourth like you were hit with a turtle shell. We also found it nearly impossible to steer while boosting. The inclusion of a draft meter helps by allowing you to rush up and ‘tackle’ your opponent after tailing him for a while, sending him sprawling. However, turning your opponent around hardly seems to slow him down, and the pack of three opponents usually drives so close together that we hardly finished any place other than first or last. The high level of skill required to steer properly, even with the sensitivity dialed all the way down, may frustrate the casual gamer.
Raging Thunder’s game modes include Arcade, Time Trial, Championship, and a Quick Race. There are ten courses to race on, and you must unlock all of them progressively. We spent most of our play time in Championship Mode. This mode allows you to buy and customize your car, although the upgrade path is very linear. Some of the latter races cannot be won with lower-end cars, and the cars themselves have limits on improvements. Thus, re-racing completed tracks to earn more money becomes the path to final victory.
The game’s replay value derives from the Lexusian Pursuit of Perfection. Winning your championship and dominating the Arcade Mode are satisfyingly difficult achievements, and we found wiping the asphalt with the computer encouraging enough to finish the Championship Mode. However, we found the wi-fi multiplayer mode to be the most fun aspect of Raging Thunder, and we have kept coming back to it long after we took off our reviewing hats. More than a few trips to the local coffee spot ended up in physical pushing matches as we raced, no doubt bewildering passers-by. There are only three computer opponents, and their driving habits are robotic and near-flawless, so racing against another fallible human is great fun.
We highly recommend Raging Thunder, so long as the shoe fits your foot. If you dislike racing games, are intolerant of learning curves, or don’t have enough patience, you’ll probably put it down after a few minutes. Everyone else should enjoy mastering this exceptionally polished racing game .