Have you ever taken a drive? We mean a leisurely, Sunday-afternoon type drive; one where if it were a walk it’d be called a stroll, a loop around the streets your daily commute doesn’t take you. That type of thing. Do you know what we mean? Yeah, Fastlane Street Racing is the opposite of that. It’s the most realistic, console-like racer available on the iPhone, and it will either thrill or intimidate you, depending on what kind of gamer you are.
From the brushed-metal menus to the functional HUD, the entire product screams speed. For instance, you’ll breeze right through the perfunctory car and level select menus that seem to take forever in other games. Brake and gas pedal buttons flank the two bottom corners of the racing display; we found it best to keep our thumbs very close by. As in the best console racers, you’ll be pressing both at the same time quite frequently. In the unlikely event that you have time to glance at the top of the screen during a race, you’ll find compact race-status bar to let you know where you are in relation to the others. Fastlane is also super-efficient when it comes to load times and battery usage, which surprised us, given its high-fidelity graphics.
The racing physics are wonderful. We found ourself brushing the brake and sailing through perfectly executed drifts, smashing our fingers on the gas during straightaways, and generally moving the iPhone much more than was probably necessary. Your car has real heft and speed, and all of it feels within your control. Learning how to take curves and maintain speed through bends will take a lot of work, but it’s a testament to the game that it’s a progress of your skill, and the depth here is a definite positive. Our mention of Gran Turismo isn’t accidental; everything from the pristine cars (they’re not damaged during races, and if you take a brake-heavy approach, a voice will chide you to race as if insurance premiums aren’t on your mind) to the required diligence calls to mind that PlayStation masterpiece.
In case we haven’t made it clear already, we’ll say it again: Fastlane Street Racing is a hard game. You will have to earn every one of your victories. The AI cars will take better lines than you will, they’ll nudge you out of and into turns, and they’ll cut you off mercilessly. The 12 unlockable courses are beautifully realized, but even the simplest are challenging. We loved the selection of 10 vehicles, and how they were ranked not only by speed, but also by balance and acceleration. Here’s it worth noting that while you can of course pick the overhead view to race (we suggest you do to keep an eye on your car), Fastlane also offers you the chance to skim along ground with an invigorating strapped-to-the-hood camera angle. It’s a fun way to tour the lovely tracks.
Fastlane’s presentation is technically masterful. The graphics have the best combination of frame rate and acuity of any racing game we’ve played on the iPhone. The action never seems to dip below an incredibly smooth 25 fps or so. We were also unexpectedly thrilled by the realistic engine noise. In other games, a high whine or a comically low rumble often stand in for the engine’s rev, so the purr of Fastlane’s supercars was music to our ears. Outside of the pitch-perfection of the sound effect, it’s useful to the player–it helps you keep tabs on speed, and thus turns and braking. The audio tracks are generic techno that’s best turned off, though you can select one of the few tracks if it catches your ear.
Overall, Fastlane Street Racing is a marvelous racing game that experienced gamers should love. The gameplay is rock solid, the courses are interesting and challenging, the cars are beautiful, and the sound effects are great. Nevertheless, we can’t recommend this to everyone. It requires a beady-eyed concentration that infrequent or less intense players may consider more work than play; the races are on the long side, and it takes real effort to even learn how to corner correctly. We would like to see the developer make a few concessions to less experienced players to improve the title’s accessibility.