Race Illegal: High Speed 3D by Chillingo is a game of excess. And while excess is not always a bad thing, it feels as though the excess in this game is misplaced.
If all you want to do is race in Race Illegal, then your options are unfortunately limited at the start, because race types, tracks, and cars in the Quick Race mode are unlocked by progressing through the Career Mode, which features a story acted out by photographic heads with creepy facial animations. Whether you care about the drama of the various racing gangs and the welfare of your character’s brother (whose operation requires spending a portion of your winnings on medical bills, rather than further tuning your cars), you’re stuck with it if you want to get to the racing.
And incidentally, racing is all the story breaks down into anyway, with different goals padded out by the narrative. Strangely enough, the story mentions that the government has apparently been paid to turn a blind eye to these racing gangs’ activities, which makes this illegal racing perhaps not quite so illegal.
Don’t mind the semis.
As for the racing itself, the game offers you three options for steering: by tilt, by tapping the screen to turn, or by touching the screen to make a virtual steering wheel appear, which more or less follows your thumb as you turn it. Of the three, we found that the accelerometer seemed to work the best, even without adjusting the sensitivity.
During races, you are encouraged to use a nitro boost and even attempt to run other cars off the road. However, neither of these tactics are as effective as simply driving straight and trying to avoid running into obstacles and other cars. The boost gained from nitro seems gradual at best, and colliding with other cars usually leaves you in a worse position than they are.
Also excessive is the game’s use of lens flare. It does add a realistic touch to some of the daytime driving, but it’s distracting. At least in real life you can put on some shades, but despite all the winnings you can pour into improving your cars throughout the game, apparently there is no room for a set of Ray-Bans.
Racing with flare.
The dialogue is rather rough, too, almost reminiscent of the stilted translations found in older games from the 8-bit era. Meanwhile, your status screen shows the percent of ‘completition’ you’ve achieved.
And actually racing is no better. At times, the game will slow down or stutter during races, and in one instance we thought the game had frozen up entirely. As it turns out, it was just one particularly long stutter. During another race, the screen became an enormous blotch of green and blue for no discernible reason, and it remained that way until we figured out that switching to the rear-view mirror view corrected it. That race turned out to be a lost cause, however.
As Race Illegal: High Speed 3D was published by the same company that brought us the likes of Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, and Swords and Soldiers, we can safely say it is not a representation of the best that publisher Chillingo has to offer. When the game is good, it’s good. But that’s only as long as things run smoothly.