Asphalt 8: Airborne, the racing game by Gameloft, has had a lot more high-flying fun packed into the new update.
Now you can race around the new tracks in Dubai in one of five new cars: including the Mercedes-Benz Biome concept car, the Nissan GT-R NISMO, and more. Gameloft has also added a ninth season with 74 new events to keep you speeding along. Asphalt 8: Airborne now also has Twitch streaming for iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, and iPad (4th generation).
You can pick up Asphalt 8: Airborne for free on the App Store.
The only thing more daunting than reviewing a game from a significant iOS series is doing so when it’s surrounded by both hype and controversy. It’s probably fairly common knowledge at this point that Real Racing 3 has gone free-to-play, which is where the bulk of the controversy comes from as lots of fans are understandably worried about what such a change could mean for their beloved franchise. It’s also been widely publicized that Firemonkeys has incorporated what they call “Time Shifted Multiplayer” into their new baby, which is something that they feel could change multiplayer mobile games forever. These are both complex issues that warrant some discussion but the important thing to note is that Real Racing 3 is very, very awesome no matter how people might feel about it going free to play.
As the name (and the two previous releases) implies, this is a game about racing. Many of the features found in earlier releases are still around and will feel instantly familiar to veterans and fans: Tilt steering, tapping the screen to brake, automatic driving, tons (46 to start) of licensed vehicles, and showpiece visuals are all present and accounted for. However, even if someone doesn’t like the simplified auto-drive control system there is a wealth of customization options to suit their needs. Steering can be set to a virtual wheel rather than tilting, acceleration can be set to tap-and-hold, and every single assist (steering, braking, etc) can be turned on or off. There are also a wealth of race types available in the 961 included events ranging from cups to eliminations to drag racing to speed records and more. So there’s essentially something for everybody.
Real Racing 3’s spectacular visuals are without a doubt some of the (if not the) most impressive I’ve ever seen in an iOS game. Heck, they rival some console games I’ve played. Cars display damage, paint jobs actually reflect the environment around them including other cars, real world tracks have been painstakingly recreated, and each vehicle's interior has been lovingly reproduced with impressive detail. It’s a shame that the replay feature from the second game hasn’t made its way into this release since everything is so pretty and warrants showing off. However, more than the graphics it’s the sheer volume of content that really impresses me. That initial circuit I mentioned is massive. There are four different cars available to use for most of the events and a myriad of race types to keep things interesting. I’ve unlocked 24 individual events and I’m only 50% done. And it’s only one circuit out of over 25 that are available right now. All told there are 961 races included in this initial release. Running out of stuff to do will be incredibly difficult to say the least.
And that’s without factoring in the Time Shifted Multiplayer (or TSM) that allows players to compete with their friends whenever/wherever by racing against their AI-controlled time shifted double. Sadly the feature isn’t quite as robust as I’d hoped. After some experimentation and discussion both Jeff Scott and I came to the realization that Real Racing 3 uses race times to generate AI controlled doubles that follow almost perfect paths for each race rather than mirroring their human creators’ abilities, race lines, and skill. This means it’s not really like racing against friends at all as the cars don’t do anything other than follow a path at an algorithmically determined speed based on the recorded time and cars used by friends.
The system for notifications and match ups itself is also a little underwhelming at the moment. Knowing my time was beaten in a drag race is nice, but I should be able to jump right to said drag race without digging through menus trying to find it in the first place. I also feel like there should be an option to tap on a friend’s name on the main screen and see what races they’re currently leading in, rather than sifting through menu after menu looking for microscopic avatars. Not having such a feature seems like a huge oversight. With all that said it’s still a lot of fun to jump into a game and beat someone’s time knowing that they’re about to receive a notification that they’ve just been “served.”
Another hot button issue, as I’ve previously mentioned, is the freemium model. Rather than create a paywall or punish frugal iOS gamers, Firemonkeys has created a much friendlier model in theory that ties all real time waiting and premium currency to maintenance and repairs. Well, with the exception of custom paint jobs, final part upgrades, and two cars, anyway. The way it all works is that cars suffer wear and tear as they race, along with occasional body damage when things get rough. Replacing a bumper or windshield costs a little in app currency (referred to as “R$”), but it’s never so much as to offset anything earned from the race that caused the damage in the first place.
Maintenance, on the other hand, takes time. Replacing the oil - which is probably the most common task - takes five minutes, working on the engine takes about 30, and so on. Gold coins (premium currency) can be spent to speed up the process but it’s best to simply wait it out and save those coins for upgrades or new cars. Of course once players have two or more vehicles in their garage the wait for repairs is practically negligible since they can simply hop in the Challenger while the Shelby is in the shop. Once 4 or so are in the garage there will likely always be a race to run as one car should always be repaired and ready. Just be careful when starting an event because cars currently undergoing repairs will still appear in their respective challenges with the "Race" button replaced with a "Repair" button that will automatically use gold coins to instantly finish the work. I've wasted a good many gold coins this way and really wish there was at least a secondary confirmation screen (like there is for everything else) that popped up before I inadvertently wasted my precious premium currency.
In a strange way, both of Real Racing 3’s major talking points didn’t quite pan out as expected or feared. The Time Shifted Multiplayer isn’t quite as ground-breaking as I was hoping it would be and still needs some work when it comes to the social elements, but it’s still decent fun and a good way to fan the flames of competition. Conversely the free-to-play model I’d been fearing would completely ruin the experience or even stonewall my enjoyment after a certain point turned out to be surprisingly unobtrusive and easy to work around. But ultimately neither of those things is important. What is important is that Real Racing 3 is just really darn fun to play and spectacularly gorgeous. Which is all I ever really wanted from it in the first place.
Developer: GAMELOFT Price: $9.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad
Graphics / Sound Rating: Game Controls Rating: Gameplay Rating: Replay Value Rating:
It's a very good thing that I don't drive in real life anything like the way I drive in Gameloft's new GT Racing: Motor Academy HD game for the iPad. If I did, well, let's just keep it simple and say that you wouldn't want to be on the road with me. GT Racing Academy is the latest attempt at bringing a console-style racing game to the iPad, and while it's full of features it still packs a mean learning curve.
GT Racing: Motor Academy HD allows you to start playing immediately, if you wish, via the Arcade Mode, but if you're new to playing this type of racing game, it's probably best to start in the Career Mode. Similar to console games such as Sony's Gran Turismo, you must first get a lower-level license, then buy a car before attempting to win races and money. The beginning license trials serve as an excellent tutorial for the driving mechanics in the game, as you are required to accelerate fully, then stop in a predetermined area, or make a sharp turn without going off of the track. Given the control scheme of the game, these simple tasks are not particularly easy at first, so it's good to get quite a bit of practice in before tackling an entire race. As you add licenses, you unlock other races and cars, so there's a good motivation for playing the career mode for quite a long while.
And there's a strong selection of cars available throughout the game. Fortunately, these are licensed cars, so there are no lookalikes or knock-offs present. Everything from Bugatti and Ferrari to Ford and Plymouth is available, providing drivers with over 100 unlockable cars throughout the game. Once you own cars, you can tweak them to your heart's content by visiting the aftermarket store in Career Mode.
Once you've gotten comfortable with the game and have advanced considerably in your racing career, you can use your Gameloft Live account to test your skills online versus multiple opponents. While it may be tempting to jump right into the online mode from the outset, I recommend against it. Unless you enjoy having your hat handed to you repeatedly, you need to get some considerable experience offline before taking on actual humans. Once you're ready for it, however, you'll find that online multiplayer works very smoothly, and plays just as well as its offline counterpart.
GT Racing: Motor Academy looks good, though not quite as good as its nearest competition - Firemint's Real Racing HD. While the car models are generally well done, don't expect hyper-realism by any stretch - collisions won't change the look or feel of your car. Also, while the graphics themselves aren't sluggish, there isn't much of a sense of speed when racing. True to the earlier Gran Turismo comparison, GT Racing is more of a sim-style racing game than an arcade racer, so the rush and sensation of speed in the game is not as prevalent as it might be in a more arcade-focused offering. The focus here is more on the subtle driving variables that can influence the outcome of a race.
The controls are similar to other touch-screen driving games. In the default mode, you can control your car by tilting the iPad left or right, while manipulating acceleration and braking via buttons on the right and left hand sides of the screen, respectively, but there are many possible ways to configure the controls beyond the simple default. First time players will have a heck of a time just keeping their car on the road when learning how to drive. As for me, all I needed was to have my Dad yelling at me from the passenger seat and it would have felt like being sixteen again. Fortunately, the developers have included a variety of driving aids to help those of us with less than polished skills. These include traction control, braking assistance and best lines to follow when driving. All of these help tremendously with the basic feat of keeping your car on the road. If accelerating and braking prove problematic, those can be set on automatic as well. My only concern is that I'm not sure how many races you could actually win while using these aids. Still, their inclusion is appreciated.
The in-game sound effects are workmanlike, but if you don't like the music provided within the game, you can always pull up your in-car stereo (nicely represented as an Alpine system) and play playlists from your iTunes collection. So if racing while listening to the likes of Pavoratti is your thing, GT Racing has you covered.
Ultimately, it's the developers' choice to create a sim-style racing game that impacts whether or not you're going to enjoy the game. Those who are looking for an arcade-style game that they can jump right into will be sorely disappointed, if not altogether frustrated. Unlike many iPhone/iPad games, GT Racing: Motor Academy HD is not a game you play in quick sessions. True to its roots, it's a long-form game that requires patience and a fairly deep and abiding interest in auto racing. Sim racing fans will be comfortable with what they find in the game, and will be glad to see a wealth of options and customizations available for many of their favorite cars, right from the comfort of their iPads.