Real Racing 2 Raises the Bar Even Higher for a Head-on Racing Experience

Posted: May 10, 2011 in Racer

Last year when I reviewed Real Racing, it was the hands down winner in delivering a realistic, eye-popping racer. Since then, a number of racers entered the spotlight, but it wasn’t until Firemint’s Real Racing 2 appeared that I felt driven enough to come back on the reviews circuit. Frankly, I didn’t think anyone could improve on the thoroughly entertaining experience that Real Racing brought to the iPhone/iPod Touch platform…that is, until Real Racing 2.

Often in game reviews, we get lost in the minutiae such as features and numbers of levels, but what really matters is whether the game is fun. Regardless if you’re a hardcore gamer or simply a casual player, Real Racing 2 at its core is all about fun—intense fun. Real Racing 2 is a combination of evolutionary and revolutionary, creating a familiar yet new experience for fans of the first Real Racing, while simultaneously delivering console-quality graphics and racing depth within the Mint 3D engine that would make any gamer salivate. And, for those worried about whether you’ll get your money’s worth, I don’t think you need to worry about that.

If you don’t read any further, four things set Real Racing 2 ahead of the pack: graphics, mechanics, content and AI.

Real Racing 2 offers 30 officially licensed cars which by themselves would take up too much space in this review, but to give you a taste, you’ll have a good selection of BMWs Chevrolets, and Jaguars to choose from. Visually, you’ll be amazed at the detail, colors and fluidity of the graphics. By changing views and angles, you soon develop an appreciation for the work that went into Real Racing 2. From the different vehicles to the track scenery, it’s really something to behold with Real Racing 2 as graphics and animation pop off your mobile device. Frankly, it’s the little things that Firemint does so well. Whether it’s the shading and textures that run across your dashboard as you drive under a sign or the smoke from spinning wheels, Real Racing 2 delivers that immersive, all-encompassing experience.

5 different camera angles—cockpit, chase, far chase, front bumper, bonnet—are available that you’ll want to experiment with and fortunately are easy enough change at any time during a race along with changeable replay camera angles. From little things such as dust getting kicked up to skid marks, the details are there. In the audio department, Real Racing 2 incorporates a steady stream of high-energy music tracks that get the adrenaline flowing.

Before diving into the content, we need to talk about the mechanics or controls because the success of any game especially a racer lies in the driving experience and the responsiveness of the controls. Firemint incorporates 7 control schemes, 2 of which are flipped versions and various settings for acceleration and braking. Methods A and B provide steering by tilting. Methods C and D which also offer flipped versions utilize an on-screen touch steering wheel. Method E enables steering by touching sides of the screen.

I tested the different schemes for responsiveness and ease of use, and I found them all remarkably smooth and fluid. I prefer the accelerometer controls for steering in Methods A and B. Method A was ideal when I was just getting the feel for a new track, while Method B provides more of an actual driving experience with manual acceleration and braking. The other methods provide a wheel for steering, which is equally as smooth. You can also calibrate your device, and adjust Steering Sensitivity, Steering Assistance, Anti-Skid and Braking Assistance to suit your driving style and experience level.

For racing novices (or those simply uncoordinated to a fault), Real Racing offers 3 difficulty settings: Easy, Medium and Hard. More on that later…

Of the racers I’ve played with on the iPhone/iPod Touch platform, Real Racing 2 probably offers the most variety and content. With tracks based in 15 locations, I felt overwhelmed by the diverse scenery that comes with a good mix of day and night racing. The game has 5 game modes—Career Mode, Quick Race, Time Trial, Local Multiplayer (8 players), and Online Multiplayer (16 players)—and Career Mode by itself should keep the average player engaged for quite a while. With a purported 10 hours of play in Career Mode, I’ve spent about 6 hours (yes, there is a gauge that keeps track) and thus far haven’t reached halfway into the 44 races and 83 races. Of course, time spent will vary based on skill level, but for me, that’s a lot of time spent by myself.

Career Mode is categorized into 5 tiers—Club Division, State Showdown, Grand National, Pro Circuit, World Series—each containing events which are unlocked based on prize money and reputation points earned and car type/engine class. Within each tier, there are 5 events—Cup, Head to Head, Championships, Time Trial Challenges, and Eliminations.

Cup Races—One-off races against 15 opponents
Head to Head—Races against a single opponent
Championships—Series of races against 15 opponents
Time Trial—Races with a time component
Elimination—3-lap race with 4 competitors with last place finisher for each lap eliminated

Of these, the Cup races and Championships are wholeheartedly what set Real Racing 2 apart from other racers. There simply is nothing out there beyond Real Racing 2 that brings the intensity and fun that you get from racing in a field of 16 vehicles.

Among the many things that Firemint succeeds in is providing a realistic experience. Rubber banding is sometimes an issue with racing games because it takes away from the realism. The AI in Real Racing 2 brings the right level of challenge especially in medium and hard modes, and often, I was losing patience with myself for spinning out or getting bumped off by other cars. Easy mode provides a less chaotic, albeit intense experience with racers that you’re more likely to bump off rather than the other way around.

For example, in the Cup and Championship races involving a field of 16, you can more easily steer and maneuver from behind the pack to the front with the Easy setting. You still need to drive like you have a brain, but it’s much more forgiving. On Medium and Hard settings, the AI is much more aggressive, blocking and smashing into your car and plays much faster.

Physics wise, Real Racing 2 just like its predecessor does a terrific job. Making hairpin turns feels nerve-racking, while slamming into a guardrail can provide quite the jolt. Weaving in and out of traffic just feels real and engaging, and ultimately, that does matter in the overall experience. For the masochists out there, Real Racing 2 includes collision and vehicle damage. Crashing into other cars or sideswiping guardrails will not only slow you down, but create some havoc to the appearance your vehicle. Side mirrors and bumpers will show visual damage and even fall off if you’re not a careful driver, and you will see sparks as you careen into a guardrail. This is one area I wish Real Racing 2 would have gone more overboard visually in terms of adding more smoke and engine fires, but again, that is a matter of taste.

The sound effects in Real Racing 2 are more than adequate with the vroom vroom of the engine to the skidding around corners. Paired with the high-energy music tracks, you have a pretty solid audio racing experience. One area where I was slightly disappointed is the lack of sound effects related to collisions and crashes. While there are collision noises related to crashes involving your vehicle into walls and other stationery partitions, collisions between vehicles is almost a non-event soundwise. There were times when I felt like it was more of nudge than an actual sideswipe. Hopefully, this is remedied in a future update because that would certainly complete the racing experience.

The standard HUD includes completed laps, speedometer, assists enabled and time elapsed. An optional mini-map appears in the top part of the screen displaying the shape of the road ahead as well as the location of other drivers. It’s a minimalistic design, I sometimes found it difficult to see the location of other drivers since the representative icons tend to be small.

Depending on your finish, you unlock additional tracks and earn points and money to purchase cars and customize them. From changing the color and wheels on your vehicle to boosting the engine and handling, there are plenty of ways to customize your vehicles. All of this is managed in Pitlane, which also provides access to cars bought and sold and allows for transactions to add new ones to your collection. Under Profile, you can view your racing stats such as races won, money earned, and achievements accomplished. Real Racing 2 includes 27 achievements covering milestones for rank and money to completion of the perfect race without damage.

While accessing the menu items is simple enough, figuring where things are isn’t exactly the most streamlined. While I was able to figure out where things were, I couldn’t help but feel the menus were a little clunky. For example, when first starting up the game, the interface for accessing the various areas such as Pitlane and Profile isn’t the most intuitive. In fact, you have to tap around the various boxes to figure out what they are. It’s not a big deal by any means, and you do remember where things are after a while.

Firemint set the bar last year with Real Racing, and sets the bar even higher with Real Racing 2. This is one fine action-packed, full-featured racer that hits you over the head with eye-popping graphics, counterpunches with a ton of content and responsive controls, and slaps you with an immersive racing experience. You want your money’s worth? You’d be hard pressed to find another racer that does just that like Real Racing 2 does.

Albie Meter: 5 Stars (enough said)

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