By Nate Adcock on Thu, 07/23/2009
The only drawback that I could find to Firemint’s Real Racing is the iPod’s small screen. The game graphics and special effects are so good that I was wishing I could play it on a much larger screen. The sights, sounds and detailed racing scenery are all exquisite. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Read more to find out why you will want to grab this fabulously intense racing game with on-line leagues, YouTube video syncing, WiFi head-to-head action and more.
Install and Setup:
Install RR from the App store app on your device or via iTunes on your PC (link provided above). The game is around 69MB, and is compatible with both iPod touch and iPhone (2.2 or later), and I tested it with version 3.0. Remember to reset your device after installing a new program (hold down home and sleep/wake buttons for 10 seconds or so). I went with the default settings mostly, but this game has a bunch of options. In fact, to really do it justice would probably require more than one review, but I’ll try by sticking to the high points. I asked the developer if they have a user manual, as a game this robust truly should have one. Unfortunately, there isn’t a manual in this version, but here is the short list of the features below:
- Career mode - work your way through 57 events and unlock new cars/tracks
- Time Trial - work on getting the best time with a particular car/track combination
- Quick Race - just for fun!
- Multiplayer - head to head over local WiFi network
- Settings/Options - endless ways to customise the game to your liking, in particular lots of different control methods (touch/tilt to steer, auto/manual acceleration/braking)
- Leagues - compete against everyone else in the world through a massive multiplayer career mode
- YouTube uploads - upload your Time Trial and/or League laps to YouTube
- Twitter - tweet your new personal bests
When you first start the game, you will need to create a profile, and configure a few options. The game has a number of exceptional features for customizing the control and calibration of your device. Personally, I used the defaults and found it quite easy to master driving the entry level car (a small, quick, easy handling hatchback), however the defaults will automate some features, and also minimize the effect of your mistakes. Essentially, I had to do little more than tilt to steer. A racing purist is probably going to want to be more actively engaged, so I recommend that you try out the other control modes under options.
Of course, I wanted to get right to racing so I quickly clicked through all the profile, and initial setup screens without entering any information or remotely knowing what I was doing, but that was okay. With a few taps, I had selected a car and was behind the wheel. It is important to note that you can sync your racing results to racing leagues on the vendor’s web-site, etc. So, you may want to take the time to set all that up first, but it’s not required to dive in and start racing. Head-to-head WiFi playing would be another mode that would be fun to try, and is a worthy feature for practically any race game.
After the game loads up, and you have selected a race, each race will begin with scenes from various parts of the track, as well as a sequence showing the cars realistically swerving back and forth as they move into position at the starting line, not un-like in real life racing (testing tires, steering and suspension, I would assume…).
The scene zooms into your car and then to a front-facing view of the inside, and quite convincingly, looking out the drivers-side windshield at the starting block, your opponents cars and the countdown lights. I cannot rant enough about how satisfying the level of detail extends. The gauges and interior of the car down to the driver’s gloved hands (which move when up/down-shifting and steering) is meticulous. I usually pick games like this one when I want to astonish someone unfamiliar with the iPod or iPhone, so I have a few other eye-candy apps loaded, but this one so far takes the prize. From the roar of the crowd, and the screech of tires, to the excellently varied and thrashing in-game music, you will not be disappointed.
The game is typical in the aspect of progressing and unlocking new cars and tracks. You must enter in a cup or series to advance to higher standings, better cars and more tracks. To advance in Career Mode, you need to place first in a championship (not necessarily each race, just the championships overall). Car classes are unlocked as you progress through the championships, and new cars within each class are unlocked as you work through the different divisions. At any time, you can use the Quick Race feature to play the levels that you have unlocked. You can also use the time trial feature to master a particular track/car and even sync your best times instantly to the web. The game also features a practice lap mode that can be used to familiarize yourself with the track before committing to a real race.
Game and Track Graphics
This game has to have a special section so I can continue to rant about the totally awesome game graphics (chock full of excellent shots like those above and below). The track scenery—i.e. buildings, terrain, trees, etc—is very smoothly rendered and not nearly as blocky or pixely as I typically observe on many 3-D iPhone games. The tracks are varied from different locales and I can’t speak as to how accurate they are (or if they are actual tracks), not being an avid real-world race fanatic, but I can at least vouch that they are excellent. It seemed all fair weather conditions in the lower level tracks where I was struggling, so I wonder if any race levels feature rainy or overcast conditions? Again, the perspective of the course, and background objects all appear pretty much on the money throughout. The game starting animations are by themselves fun to watch, and impressively done.
The car physics are outstanding, and you will likely find a suitable control option to suit your style (hands-off tilting or touch-based). Tilt sensitivity and calibration of your unit are also options that are available for tweaking. I personally think it would be neat to be able to control the shifter manually, but you can select manual control of brake/accel. Of course, that might be a bit much to deal with. Bumping other cars and them bumping you is perfectly translated in this game, except there is no vibrate feature on the touch to enjoy a little added stimulus. As you can see from the shots, the turns provide the enhanced brief feeling of centrifugal leaning as the horizon tilts down away from the inner turn radius--another nice detail that adds to the realism of the game, and one that can also be tweaked (if you prefer flat turn behavior).
Dude, get ready to eat some wall… I suspect that the truly exciting aspect of real rally car racing would have to be jockeying for position amongst a herd of other vehicles. I suspect it only from playing this game, having never done such in real life, but RR made me wonder about trying the real thing (chuckle). Uh, for like 5 seconds until I checked the speedometer and noted how fast the car was going. When cars make contact with you, they drag along and fishtail just like you would expect, and your car will be affected in the same way. The unfortunate racer on the outside (on the above shot) nicely kept me safely on the track, while he got to meet Mr. barrier in my place as I flew through the turn!
Posting Videos and Racing in a League
After playing for awhile, I figured I’d go back and setup a free user account on the RR league website. This will allow you to sync racing data and join in league racing competition. You can even very easily post videos to a linked YouTube account (need to have an existing YT account or create one, and allow the linking part in YT). After completing a race or time trial, you can sync the results to the web, and can then go to the site in Safari or any PC browser, and select to have the video posted. This is another smartly done touch.
Real Racing is simply the best game experience I have had on my device to date. Firemint’s team honestly knocked this one out of the park!! I had one minor issue whereby after installing the game and resetting the touch, my icons got scrambled and Real Racing was indicated by the wrong app icon. This is a problem with the 3.0 software apparently and not related to the game, but if this bothers you greatly (the icon name stayed correct so not a big deal to me), you can try removing and re-installing the game and resetting your device again. I would suggest making sure you have everything backed up in iTunes, of course. Always good advice to have a backup under any circumstances. This is a highly recommended app, and will be one of my “Editor’s Choice” picks for sure. Go grab this very cool game by clicking on the link below. It is $9.99 in the app store, and well worth it.