Firemint’s Real Racing was a defining moment for the App Store – it showed that true, proper games could exist on the platform and whilst it wasn’t perfect, the driving sim took the iPhone by storm and ensured that everyone stopped and listened. More importantly, it helped pave the way for other top tier games to find their feet amongst the crowd of me-too puzzlers and meant that developers could invest time and effort and still come out on top without having to resort to bargain bucket prices.
Enter Real Racing 2, Firemint’s follow-up, which released at the end of last week to unanimous acclaim; and rightly so, it’s absolutely stunning. This isn’t just a lazy rehash of the first game, R2 (as it’s known) features a completely rebuilt career mode, proper real-world vehicle licenses and graphics to die for as well as some welcome tweaks to the handling of the cars and a fair chunk of driver aids to ensure that players of all skill levels can jump right in and get onto the track with the minimum of fuss.
But first, it’s worth mentioning that Firemint have absolutely nailed the user interface. With a bold mix of hot orange buttons and steely grey boxes, R2’s menus are a joy to use and offer up a masterclass for anyone wanting to know how to present consistent, cascading, deep menus without ever making the player feel lost or disorientated (like some other racing sims around just now) – they really are gorgeous and a breeze to navigate. From the garage screens to the way vital stats are presented, this is sheer tactile perfection.
And the in-game graphics aren’t bad either. In fact, Real Racing 2 is probably the best looking game on the iPhone, and that includes the likes of Infinity Blade: the cars are highly detailed, the tracks alive with character and the framerate’s smooth for most of the game. Yes, it’s crispest on iPhone 4 but R2 actually contains two graphics engines and swaps in the best one for your hardware and in some respects 3GS owners come out on top with some lovely motion blur, despite the drop in resolution over the Retina powered 4th gen models.
It’s tough to compare Real Racing 2’s vehicles against console equivalents because the screen is so small, but it’s hard to understate how good they look both in the menus and out on the tarmac – richly modeled, transparent windows, realtime reflections, cockpit views, visual damage, smooth shadows and fully 3D wheels and lights on the higher spec phones make these cars, from the starter Golf GTi right through to the race-spec JGTC rides, the best we’ve seen on the platform by a mile. And that’s not counting the fact that R2 sports 16-vehicle races, offline and online.
How the player controls the cars is a matter of personal preference – you can choose between tilt and touch and opt for all manner of assistance, from automatic acceleration to braking and steering help; and you’re never penalised for taking the easy way out other than the simple fact that you’ll get quicker lap times and more out of the game if you choose to manage everything yourself rather than letting the AI take over the trickier aspects of racing. Likewise, you can play through the career mode on Easy, Medium or Hard – the game doesn’t mind.
The career mode is a sublime single player experience – split into tiers and then further into tournaments, time trials, one-on-one duels and special events, each individual race comes with requirements and limits (like the power rating of your car, measuring as ‘P’) but these are clearly presented and picking a car to fit is never more than a tap or two away. Visual customisation is limited to paint jobs, but performance wise each vehicle has a number of purchaseable options that vary from car to car and realistic ceilings are in place in terms of raw engine output.
The online real downer is the multiplayer mode, which whilst smart enough to match you against online opponents with similar classes of cars (which keeps races as close as possible) there’s nothing other than a simple one off race and the ever present leaderboards for time trials – some kind of tournament or cup would have been nice. Races were a little laggy too, and although most races worked just fine we did get a couple of connections – hopefully Firemint can smooth over any issues with updates down the line.
- Incredible graphics
- Gorgeous UI
- Superb handling
- Expertly crafted single player mode
- Multiplayer needs beefing up a little
Real Racing 2 is an absolutely brilliant game. It epitomises what’s possible on iPhone and iPod Touch if you’ve got time and money to invest – but make no mistakes this is up there with console games in terms of scope, depth and quality and as such it feels disingenuous to rate it alongside fellow iDevice racers. Indeed, the price point (£5.99) suggests that Firemint are looking to make some serious money back on the development of the game – they needn’t be concerned, this is an exemplary title and a showcase for portable gaming.
Nothing else comes close – buy it now from iTunes.