GT Racing: Motor Academy Hands-On Preview

Screens have just come roaring in for Gameloft’s upcoming racing sim, GT Racing: Motor Academy. From what we’ve seen and played of this game, it’s looking like a nice addition to the genre alongside the likes of NFS Shift and Real Racing.

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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