Developer: EA Swiss Sarl
Price: $2.99 Download on the App Store
Firemint's follow up iPhone offering goes a different route than the causally inclined Flight Control that has been a consistent occupant on the Top 25. For me, Real Racing is a surprise coming from Firemint as they’ve rolled out a powerhouse racing title that is determined to shock and awe gamers of all stripes.
This game also launches at an interesting time — right as the new iPhone 3GS was released by Apple. I was lucky enough to have the privilege to check out Real Racing on both the 3G and 3GS, so I’ve be able to provide some comments on the differences between the hardware and what it’ll mean to you.
The tilt behind Real Racing is that it’s essentially a simulation racing game. Because there are several arcade-oriented racing games, I’d say there is room for a game like this to gain some heat. The game’s career mode is setup very similarly to the structure found in Sony’s Gran Turismo franchise. There are events that you compete in that are separated by the classes of cars (e.g. Hatch, Sedan, Muscle, etc.) that are required in those races. After you complete an event, two additional difficulty levels are opened up that allow you to unlock new cars. While Real Racing's career mode is the primary mode you’ll spend most of your time, there are Quick Race and Time Trial options for those short windows to play a fast race.
The question I’m sure most of you are wondering about is, how realistic is the racing? The short answer is that Real Racing can be as realistic as you can handle.
Smooth steering is handled by tilting the iPhone left or right, while acceleration is automatically done by the game. Braking is done by holding any area on the screen, and it works very well. The braking assist sensitivity level in the options menu will determine how realistic your driving experience is. When this option is turned all the way up, the game does much of the dirty work as your car automatically brakes on tight corners and bends. On the flip side, when this function is turned all the way down, you will have to do all the braking by yourself. My personal preference fell right in the middle, and it provided a satisfying control level to tackle the other 5 cars being guided by the tough A.I. competition.
The multiplayer and online options in Real Racing are ground breaking for an iPhone title. Using Cloudcell technology, users can upload their times to online servers to compare and compete with other folks that are also playing. While there isn’t any live online racing with people all over the country, Real Racing has a good substitute through online leagues. In an online league, you race a total of three courses (i.e. series) with the times being captured to sort out the leaderboard in the series. Upon completing a race, there’s a short wait to ensure all competitors get their times in before the next race starts. It worked as advertised, and I’d love to future racing games replicate what Firemint has done here. Rounding out the online features is the ability to upload YouTube video replays and have local WIFI race battles.
A few months back I hailed 2XL Supercross as the best looking game I’ve seen on the iPhone. After playing Real Racing for a few minutes, it quickly removes any doubt that a new level of technical and artistic mastery has been achieved. Everything about Real Racing is gorgeous. Not only are the game’s 12 tracks beautifully detailed and unique, they have a variety of particle effects and transparency tricks to bring the environments to life. Along with solid representations of the car models, Firemint has the gone the extra step to create fully functional interiors for each of the cars. You’ll see active gauges, shift changes, and a subtle vibration effect replicating the experience of driving a car. This may seem like a small touch, but this takes the immersion factor to all new levels. Depending on what device you’re using to play Real Racing, this visual spender can come with a cost...
As I alluded to in my introduction, I have had some time to play through Real Racing on both an iPhone 3G and a 3GS. Unfortunately for 3G users, there is a difference in performance that is impossible to miss. While Real Racing performed admirably on the 3G, the 3GS smokes it based on having twice the amount of RAM, an upgraded graphics chip, and about 33% more raw processing power. On the 3G, load times are long and there were some frame rate hiccups that somewhat hampered my ability to precisely control my car. Alternatively on the 3GS, Real Racing loads very quickly and doesn’t chug or hiccup at all. As a result, my racing times improved substantially while gaming on the 3GS. It will be awhile before a game is developed to fully exploit the capabilities of the 3GS, but I’m excited for that day to arrive based on what I’ve seen here.
I’ve given out a handful of perfect scores in the past, but Real Racing has changed my point of view on the mandatories required to earn the ultimate honor. Kudos to Firemint for outdoing themselves here, and I urge all racing fans to buy this ridiculously impressive game.