When you think about the meteoric rise of iOS as a gaming platform over the past couple of years, there are a handful of crucial developers that deserve much of the credit. Firemint is one of them. Besides giving birth to the casual juggernaut that is Flight Control, they also proved that simulation style racing titles could work with Real Racing. After much hype, anticipation, and frothing, Real Racing 2 is finally here. Oh, happy day!
The original Real Racing– winner of our 2009 Game of the Year award– was a watershed moment at the time of its release. While everyone else was struggling to put together a decent-looking game that ran at an acceptable clip, Real Racing was screaming fast and stunning, especially on the then almighty iPhone 3GS. Its racing action had simulation leanings with arcade touches that made the game addictive.
By default, Real Racing 2 is a much more realistic affair. Try playing this game like Ridge Racer– drifting all over the track– and you’ll be spun out looking at the rest of the field zooming past you. For you arcade fans, rest easy. By tweaking the assists, you can make the handling as forgiving as you want. We love the default setting though, and it’s great to see Firemint take the extra step to define their franchise’s identity.
Feeling claustrophobic in my phone.
Real Racing 2′s bread and butter is its Career Mode. Here is where you’ll unlock tracks and cars for use in modes throughout the rest of the game. The new user interface to navigate through the races is much cleaner, and the events show nice variety in mixing up different types of organized rules. Certain cups and series require different criteria, much like you’ve seen in the Gran Turismo or Forza Motorsport games on big-box consoles. The tracks are modeled beautifully as you have a decent range of options to explore through. Some tracks have lots of straightaways while others have tons of intricate loops and dips. Real Racing 2 does a good job of making you want to think through your car selections for each event.
Speaking of cars, all 30 of them are 100% real this time. We have all kinds of manufacturers to select from including Ford, Honda, Volvo, Chevy, and even high-end brands like BMW, Jaguar, and McLaren. There are only a handful of cars available for each brand, but it’s great to use actual cars instead of generic look-a-likes. As you earn cash from races, you can soup up the vehicles or add paint jobs to put your personal stamp on them. Most impressive of all are the real cockpit views for each car. Put simply, there is no other way to play than cockpit view. You’ll thank us later.
A.I. in Real Racing 2 is a much bigger challenge this time around. We’re not sure if it’s a combination of the more realistic racing model or aggressive opponents, but we found ourselves in much more competitive races throughout Career Mode. You’ll be bumped, overrun, and beautifully frustrated because the A.I. is preventing you from getting past them. Predetermined racing lines are annoying, and we’re glad they’re not prevalent here.
If you thought Real Racing 1 looked good, wait until you load this bad boy up on a Retina display iOS device. The image quality and fidelity of everything is a clear step above anything else out there. Even with a few hitches here and there, we experienced a very smooth racing experience. Couple that with a control scheme that takes full advantage of the accelerometer and gyroscopic functions, and you have the most immersive and responsive racing game on iOS. The engine powering Real Racing 2 is an engineering marvel; we can’t overstate how floored we are in this department.
Warning, riding on a car’s hood is dangerous.
Out of all of the awesome features being touted for this game, we were easily most curious in exploring the online aspects. GameCenter has taken over the leaderboards and achievements from Cloudcell, and like most integrations, GameCenter is money. More interesting is Firemint’s 16-player online multiplayer feature, supposedly a first for an iOS game.
After spending some time testing things out, our impressions aren’t completely effusive. For starters, performance during multiplayer matches is generally smooth with some exceptions. We noticed that cars tended to warp around the track from latency. From a design perspective, we found it odd that there aren’t class restrictions for the races in the lobby, or the ability to communicate. Due to this oversight, we frequently saw gross mismatches like puny Volkswagens in the same races as McLarens. Also, we noticed that there’s no stat tracking or anything earned from winning online races. Hopefully some type of reward mechanic can be patched in as the groundwork is completely here for a robust online experience.
Slightly disappointing online play aside, Real Racing 2 is the showcase racing game on the iOS platform. Not only is it a more attractive package over its outstanding prequel, but the sharp focus on being a legitimate simulation racing game takes it to a new plateau. This Must Have title is a serious contender for Game of the Year; it’s that damn good!