Updated: Real Racing Review

The latest 1.1 update to our June Game of the Month addresses a few flaws we noticed the first time around. The meager car selection has been improved with the addition of a fourth vehicle class: exotic cars. These cars are the most powerful available, and they brake and corner as well as they accelerate.

Two new racing events have been added to the career mode using the new exotic class cars, and the local multiplayer has seen its player limit increase to six total racers from a previous limit of two.

The A.I. opponents have been toned down by default, and there are now three different levels of aggression to choose from. We felt like they were too reckless in the initial release, so this is a welcome change. The screen orientation settings are also saved now, which is a very welcome fix.

The game has been updated for iPhone OS 3.0, and custom soundtracks are now supported in game with a small music note icon that can be accessed from nearly any menu (and at the pause screen). While being able to easily choose your own music is nifty, it came at a price. The original soundtrack has been nixed in favor of a new set of bland, boring beats. You’ll want to stick to your own tunes.

Unfortunately, we noticed some serious framerate problems on our iPhone 3G that didn’t exist before, even after a restart. Whether this is a result of the 3.0 software update or the 1.1 Real Racing update, we’re not sure, but some quick troubleshooting led us to a Firemint recommendation to switch our phone to “Airplane mode.” This solved the problem, but it’s hardly an ideal solution. With that said, the next time we started the game (even without “Airplane mode” enabled), it ran much better. At least if you encounter the problem, you’ll know how to fix it.

Rounding out the improvements in this update is a new control scheme that uses the steering wheel on the touchscreen, but with full manual gas and brake control. This finally gives you full control of the car without having to use the accelerometer if that’s not your thing.

A fantastic game just got even better with the new update. We heartily recommend it!

As ambitious as anything in the App Store, Real Racing kicks the powersliding trend to the curb and substitutes it for intelligent application of the gas and brakes. While driving on the racetrack, you’ll vie for the best lap times against both human and computer opponents.

This game wouldn’t work without good controls, and we’re happy to report that Real Racing handles better than most iPhone racers, especially when driving in the immersive cockpit view. It can still be a little difficult to navigate corners, mostly because the margin of error here is so low, and a botched turn can send you into the dirt and out of contention.

Who among us doesn’t love generic stock car racing?

By default the game will brake and accelerate for you, and a slider bar allows you to wean yourself off of this help until you’re in full control of the car. The perspective will slightly shift as you tilt to steer, making it feel like you really are inside the car as you bounce and swing around corners.

It’s great fun to blaze around the track on your own, shaving seconds off of your best lap time. Unfortunately, the time trial mode only allows you to do race one lap at a time, forcing you to restart the event for each successive lap. We wish you could race endlessly, with the game saving your overall best lap.

Uploading lap times online is simple with Cloudcell integration (Firemint’s online login system), which tracks your stats and makes them accessible in-game or via a web browser. It will also automatically upload videos of your best lap times to Youtube, and dozens of leaderboards are available to see how you stack up worldwide.

Plus, online racing leagues are offered, and you’ll have a set amount of time to race three tracks and post your best lap times for each. You’ll be ranked against others who have raced the same tracks, and although it’s not a real substitute for live online races, it’s a nice feature.

In the career mode, you’ll race against computer opponents, and this is where things become frustrating. You’ll quickly notice that the opponents in Real Racing don’t like to play nice. In fact, they behave nothing like real racecar drivers, violently smashing you off the road every chance they get.

Pick a lane!

This isn’t so much of a problem on the first set of class C races, where your speed advantage can compensate for errors on the racetrack. But as you progress further and the margin for error gets smaller and smaller, you’ll realize that even with some of the best tilt controls on the iPhone, maintaining control of the car is frustrating when you’re getting rammed.

Despite the limitations of career mode, racing fans will definitely take interest in Real Racing. The graphics are excellent for an iPhone game, and the sense of immersion in the cockpit view is incredible. 12 different tracks will give you plenty of courses to master, and they make up for the fact that there are only six unique cars to race in.

At $10, Real Racing is expensive for an iPhone game, but it comes with a feature set and level of polish that is unmatched by other mobile titles. This could easily pass for a PSP game, and it puts DS racers to shame.

Even high profile iPhone racers such as Need for Speed can’t compete with what Real Racing brings to the table. Local wifi multiplayer, track variety and the online feature set give you more to do in Real Racing than Need for Speed did, despite the lack of a storyline or licensed cars and tracks. Wifi racing is limited to two players, and while it dropped the connection multiple times during our testing, we suspect that had more to do with our router being on the fritz than the game itself.

Casual gamers might be put off with Real Racing, as it isn’t the “tilt the phone to win” type of racing game that is so common to the platform. It’s difficult, and it will take dedication to succeed. If that sounds like something you’d enjoy, we highly recommend you take it for a ride.

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