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.