Review by Nigel Wood
The iPhone is a perfect fit for racing games with its tilt controls akin to the Wii’s remote in Mario Kart Wii, and graphics that have been compared to the PSP. So I’m a little surprised that there are not more racing games available on the App Store. So far we have ‘Cro-mag Rally’, a port of a seven year old game originally developed for Mac; ‘Crash Bandicoot Racing’ a Mario Kart clone based on the popular platforming character from the original Sony Playstation; and ‘Moto Racer’, an Outrun inspired arcade motorcycle racer. All three show promise, but ultimately fall short of being great.
And now we have ‘GTS World Racing’ from Astraware/Handmark App Store >. Can this GranTurismo style racer, finally deliver the goods? Well…… not really!
The core racing experience is there, but its an uninspired one. The main issues stem from the fact that GTSWR is a port of a mobile game (Palm OS and Windows Mobile smartphones and PDAs), and hasn’t been developed for iPhone from the ground up. So from the off we don’t get a true revolutionary iPhone racing experience.
Lets start with the graphics. From first impressions the graphics look promising, that’s until you realise that apart from a change of scenery every track is pretty much the same. Where are the spectators, advertising boards and buildings of any type?… well apart from the odd tunnel and a few indigenous trees, there are none! GTSWR employs a bit of a graphical cheat… by surrounding the tracks with hills and the odd tunnel the game never has to render any distant details. And unfortunately because of this the environments get dull very quickly.
The car models are another problem, they’re not true 3D… instead, the artists have rendered the cars at every angle which are rotated in realtime as you navigate the tracks, and as a result don’t look part of the environment. This is a trick to speed up the frame rate, and another by product of being a smart phone port. The iPhone is easily capable of rendering detailed full polygon cars.
Now on to gameplay, and as I said before the core racing is there. From the menu you can select 4 racing modes. Single race – a quick pick up and play racing experience; Challenge cup – play through 16 regions and come placed 1-5 depending on difficulty selected; Grand tour – play through all 64 tracks; and finally championship – which is similar to challenge but with no set result.
For each mode you can choose from 4 difficulty types and 3 cars, Coupe, Sports and Formula. I found the easy, normal and hard modes a little too easy, with only Extreme mode offering any kind of challenge. A big problem I found with racing in any of the difficulties is that the AI of the other racers don’t seem to get any more challenging, in fact the AI is pretty non existent, instead all the opponents seem to follow each other on one preset path. As far as the 3 types of car go, I found the Formula car to be easier to manoeuvre and offered a better sense of speed.
This brings me onto the controls, which is the one area where the game excels! The tilt controls for this game are spot on. You tilt forward and back to accelerate and brake, and left to right to turn. The other racing games implement this to a certain degree too, but GTSWR is the best example of this so far, and bodes well for any future racers on the iPhone.
So all in all GTSWR fails to deliver a well rounded race experience. Great controls let down by so-so graphics and an uninspired challenge.
Presentation & Graphics: 5
Looks good to begin with but the visuals get old pretty quick, with a distinct lack of details like buildings etc. Good framerate, but there isn’t much detail to hold it up in the first place. Doesn’t feature real 3D cars. The user interface is easy to use, but not sure about the cartoony font used, it doesn’t really fit with rest of the game design.
Good music, if a little repetative. Good overall sound effects. You can turn the sound and music off, which allows you to have your own music playing, but you must quit the game to do this.
Great tilt controls, but let down by poor opponent AI and uninspired tracks.
Game life: 6
16 locations, 64 tracks and 4 difficulty settings will take up your time, however, stick to the extreme mode, as the others are way too easy.
Game rating: 6
Racing on the iPhone has yet to come of age… it’s early days so there’s still hope yet!