Can you improve perfection? Firemint’s sequel to the highly acclaimed iOS racer attempts to take pole position…
Real Racing is the undisputed king of racers on the AppStore. Even with great motor-sport offerings from the likes of EA and Gameloft, nothing really came close to bringing a Gran Turismo/Project Gotham-like experience to iOS devices. So, it comes down to Firemint themselves to out do their own game with the release of Real Racing 2.
When a game is as good as Real Racing, and considering the original was updated with both Retina display graphics and online multiplayer racing, how do you improve it? Well, there seems to be a general formula to that in gaming and it’s called more, more and MORE! In this case more cars, more tracks and more modes. While this can be a hinderance for some games, by taking the focus away from whats’ good an expanding on that, for Real Racing 2 everything has been finely tuned to make what was great in RR1 even better.
First thing you’ll notice is the presentation and graphics. From the menu’s to the in-game visuals everything has been beautifully crafted. The menu system is a joy to use, easily selecting between sections from car customisation, to the career mode and selecting tracks, to the multiplayer lobbies. I particularly like the ability to at any time tap your car to hide the menu overlay and allow you to spin the camera to get a good look at your car. Which ever car you are looking at, all have been rendered to a high detail, and combined with realistic lighting effects on the tracks, including reflections, shadows, bloom and lens flare and glare, everything has a high degree of realism. All that is missing here is a photo mode a la PGR.
What’s impressive is that, despite looking far crisper on iPhone 4, all this runs incredibly smooth on any device thanks to Firemint’s proprietary Mint3D graphics engine, with the icing on the cake being the ability to race with 15 cars (16 car grid) in both career and online. For a handheld game this is huge, and really gives you a racing experience only found on the bigger consoles.
The improved career mode lets you race with real cars, 30 licensed ones in this case, which again only adds to the realism. Unfortunately, despite some gems from the likes of Lotus and McLaren, the vehicle line-up lacks the pizazz of other iOS racers out there such as Asphalt 6. WHere are the Ferraris, the Lambos and the Porsches? I can see this putting off some gamers out there, especially ones who are not fans of Hot Hatches and Tourers. What cars you do get though are solid, and perfects for rising through the ranks to get to the more powerful offerings. A quick tip though is not to jump straight to the fastest car when you have the money, and instead opt for the medium car and max it out with upgrades. you’ll find that doing this will give you better handling and out perform the competition.
One aspect disappointingly lacking from the customisation though is the feature seen in the iPad edition of RR1, and that is the ability to display artwork/photos from your camera roll on the body work of your car. Much like Forza, this customisation gives you a feeling of ownership of your vehicle, and while it would be a headache for online racing, it would still be a proud moment when seeing your car at the foot of the podium all dressed up in your own design.
As with the RR1, the game is perfectly suited to beginners and hardcore racers alike. From the multitude of controls options, the best out there in my opinion, you can choose to have the game assist you in braking and steering, or turn it all to manual for the ultimate challenge. To achieve the best lap times though, you’ll soon find you’ll need to learn to drive with the minimum of assistance.
The career offers up a multitude of events from head-to-heads, eliminations, straight up 16 grid championships (the highlight) and time trials. For the most part these are fun and challenging, but my only gripe is that the AI could be more aggressive. Despite lacking rubber banding seen in many racing games, they tend to stick to their chosen path. In a game with ‘Real’ in the title I’d like to see the AI make intelligent choices, by cutting you up or blocking.
The tracks too, while lovingly designed for optimum racing with great corners and scenery, lack the punch of real world tracks like Brands Hatch, Donnington Park and the Nurburgring. Again this could put some racers off, though apart from some F1 games on iOS there isn’t any racing title out there yet offering a good selection of real world tracks.
Where Real Racing 2 really excels though is in the online racing. Over Gamecenter you can participate in up to 16 player races. The lobby system works well, auto matching you with like-for-like racers of a similar pedigree to you. Depending on what car you currently have selected in your garage will decide what class you’ll be racing with and against in the race. This also inspires you to complete the career mode, as you cannot race with the faster cars unless you own one, or a car of a similar power. The matchmaking also figures in your current control setup, matching you with other racers with assists turned on. And you can vote for which tracks to race on and how many laps. What is missing though are online tournaments. I’d like to see alerts sent out via gamecenter inviting racers to participate in online championships at set times around the world, based on a first come first served basis. This would really add to the real racing experience and build a strong community of racers of the likes seen in games such as PGR.
Overall then, and Firemint have once more crafted the ultimate racing game on iOS devices. It’s not for everyone though, and many people wanting a high adrenaline fix will no doubt opt for the more arcadey and less realistic racers like Asphalt 6 and Hot Pursuit. But, for those of you looking for the closest thing to being behind the wheel, then nothing comes close to RR2. You’ll perhaps be surprised then when I don’t give this game a full five stars, especially when the first game did. Well, a lot has changed in iOS gaming since the release of RR1, and gamers expectations of games, even on mobile devices such as the iPhone, has rocketed. What was great back then is now seen as the norm. Real Racing 2 is near perfect and out performs the original in every aspect, but it can still be improved with the missing features outlined above, that will make it truly deserving of the title of ‘REAL’ racing. Firemint will no doubt update the game during the course of 2011 with numerous improvements and added features, not to mention the release of an iPad edition. And, of course, there is always RR3!
Real Racing 2 is out now for $9.99. Get it on the