So often with games that have incredibly long development cycles, the final product rarely lives up to the hype that fans have generated amongst themselves between screenshots and trailers. This morning a preview build of Real Racing landed in my inbox, and I feel confident in confirming the hype. This game is unlike any racing game I've seen on the iPhone. In fact, to accurately compare it to another racing game I'd need to look to the PSP or PlayStation.
Firemint has asked that we limit ourselves to publishing hands-on first impressions until the game is released, so I really can't go in to too much detail about the game other than to say it has completely exceeded my expectations. The tilt controls of the iPhone seem to naturally translate to the motions of a steering wheel, so there is no shortage of iPhone racing games, there are just none that are as technically impressive and full featured as Real Racing.
Tilting to drive works just as well as all the other racing games on the platform, and using the default options the game has a brake assist system enabled. With this on, your driver will automatically downshift and brake when approaching corners, allowing you to focus on steering. Of course this can be disabled, and there is a plethora of other control options including full gas and brake control as well as a on-screen wheel to steer using touch controls.
The coolest thing about these options, is depending on what control method you choose, Real Racing can play like an arcade racer or a simulation racer. No matter what control method you decide on, you will have the AI opponents to deal with. Firemint has posted quite a bit on our forums about the work that went in to the development of Real Racing's AI, and they weren't exaggerating when it comes to how well they play.
Being used to racing games on the iPhone where the other racers follow a basic line around the racetrack and don't even play a part in the race aside from lining up at the start and being quickly passed, it came as quite a shock to see how much the Real Racing AI likes trading paint. On one of the first corners of my first race I was being far too aggressive with my racing line, left myself open, and one of the AI racers quickly rammed my back corner, causing a total spin-out.
Also, unless you've really got the track down and can race a perfect line, you're going to be dealing with the AI most of the race. This is not only refreshing to finally see competent AI in an iPhone racing game, but also greatly adds to the excitement of the race. I'm starting to think I may have said too much, but I'll leave you with this-
Real Racing has a career mode, single races, and time trials. All with the complete Cloudcell integration we've seen in other Firemint games. While it remains to be seen how it will be recieved by the iPhone gaming community, it's hard to find a better way to describe the preview build than "technical masterpiece."
Real Racing has been submitted to the App Store, but stay tuned for the official launch date.