GT Racing: Motor Academy

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GT Racing: Motor Academy Review

GT Racing: Motor Academy may be a car racing game, but it offers a truckload of content. You get 14 tracks that you can burn rubber on with over 100 licensed cars from 24 real auto makers. Three game modes are offered, featuring multiple styles of races and tons of personal options, from selecting your control input to upgrading your car’s suspension. In short, you can drive it for a long time before it runs out of gas.

The tracks come in many shapes and sizes, with detailed graphics that look very sharp, save for the occasional pop-in. In most tracks it’s not very noticeable, but while driving down city streets all of the buildings will appear at the same point in the distance, making it look sort of like the track is being assembled as you cruise along. But the cars all look exquisite, with shiny paint jobs and polished chrome that gleams in the sunlight. It’s a shame you’ll be too busy keeping your car on the road to admire them.

Nice day for a 220 km/h drive.

The career mode is where you’ll cut your teeth in this game and get a feel for the physics. The first thing you have to do is get a license by completing some brief tutorials that ease you into the driver’s seat. Once you get the basics down, you’ll face sets of ever more difficult races. Each set unlocks the next and earns you credits you can use to buy more cars and upgrade the ones you own. In the After Market shop, you can pump funds into upgrading your engine, tires, suspension, and brakes. You can also add a spoiler, change out the body kit, or reduce your car’s weight.

Arcade mode is where you do one-off quick races, and you can even choose from some of the tracks and cars you haven’t unlocked yet in the career mode. Multiplayer mode allows you to race friends locally over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, or online. Our experiences with the online mode were pretty spotty, as we lost our connection more than once, and other players would frequently either lose their connection or flake out and quit mid-race.

Additionally, Gameloft has heaped on an impressive set of extras. You can watch replays of all of your races and upload them to YouTube. iTunes connectivity is integrated into the game, so you can jam to your own soundtrack as you blast through the finish line. You can even go into showroom view, where you can ogle the cars from all angles, and take screenshots with the press of a button. So when you drop megatons of hard-earned credits on an Enzo Ferrari, you can set it as the wallpaper of your iDevice and wow the ladies.

The logo on the dashboard makes it more realistic.

The biggest drawback to the game is the load times. Loading screens pop up before and after each race, and each one lasts between one and two minutes. We’ve actually turned our attention to something else and forgotten we were playing the game in the amount of time it takes to load up a track. So this isn’t a game you can boot up for a quick match during a commercial break while watching TV.

Additionally, while the physics of the game are serviceable, they don’t feel quite as tight as we’d like. Turns can be harsh, and oversteering can easily become a problem, especially when you first start playing. The options menu lets you set varying amounts of braking assistance to keep you on the road, but enabling it feels like cheating.

On the whole, though, GT Racing: Motor Academy is a hugely robust game. Gameloft threw everything they could think of into this package, and the result is largely positive. The loading times verge on inexcusable, and the physics don’t feel quite as realistic as we’d hope, but the rest of the game gels into excellence far more often than not. If realistic racing is your thing, give it a spin.

GT Racing: Motor Academy Hands-On Preview

Setting out to create a new standard and become “the first reference” for realistic racing simulations on the iPhone, Gameloft will leave behind the cannonball physics of Asphalt 5 for their next racing game, GT Racing: Motor Academy. Drawing from titles like Gran Turismo, Project Gotham Racing, and Real Racing, GT Racing certainly looks realistic, and it plays as punishingly as you’d expect it to.

The game is still a few months away, so we only had access to one car and one track: A Ford Shelby GT500 on the Laguna Seca in California. Admittedly, the racetrack was mostly devoid of details– hardly any trees dotted the sides, and there were no roaring crowds to cheer us on. With a sparse environment, our focus was drawn to the cars, which did look very nicely rendered.

In the final game, there will be over 100 licensed cars from 24 manufacturers. These include high-end, prestigious brands like Ferrari and Lamborghini, everyday models like Ford, Toyota, and Mercedes, and some oddball classics like a Model T. Several cars will feature a “branded cockpit view”, where the interiors will match each particular licensed car, right down to the logo stamped on the steering wheel.

You’ll have to earn licenses in C, B, A, and S classes to unlock new cars and tracks. We were also told there are four types of racing events: classic championships, country championships (German cars only, for example), special events like long races, and brand testing, where you’ll be paid to get a good time on a lap using a particular type of vehicle.

Importantly, GT Racing will have several options to ease newcomers into the subtleties of simulation driving, like an autobrake slider that you can adjust, an option to disable oversteering, and a green path that will occasionally appear on the track to give you an idea of how to navigate into turns. We can’t overstate how essential these are, because even with all the help provided to us from the game, we still spun out or ended up driving the wrong way down the track more often than not.

Most of it was our fault, but we were also told the artificial intelligence is still being tuned from the preview build we played. And notably, there will be online wi-fi multiplayer for up to six players, in addition to local wi-fi and Bluetooth multiplayer. Online leaderboards and ghost runs will be included, making this a game with a robust online presence. You’ll even be able to upload videos of your laps to Youtube, a feature we also saw in Skater Nation.

While it’s getting harder to stand out from other licensed racing games on the iPhone, especially Real Racing, we think GT Racing has a pretty good shot at it. The online modes and selection of licensed cars are our favorite parts of this game, and we think the career mode has promise as well. GT Racing will be available in early 2010.

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