Game review: GT Racing Motor Academy - iPhone / iPod Touch
Gran Turismo on the iPhone and iPod Touch - who’d have thought it? But yet here it is.
OK, so it’s not actually the official Gran Turismo game but GT Racing: Motor Academy is basically the same thing.
As with many of its titles, Gameloft has borrowed heavily from a popular game on other platforms, crunching it down into a feature-rich and fun (albeit unoriginal) version for Apple’s mobile devices.
So in GT Racing there is an extensive career mode with a range of driving challenges, an array of officially licensed vehicles from top manufacturers, an emphasis on simulation rather than arcade racing, a varied selection of tracks and a raft of car upgrades.
Even GT Racing’s logo is remarkably similar to Gran Turismo’s.
It’s easy to scoff at Gameloft for basically coming out with a Gran Turismo clone (the old PSOne version), but any criticisms fade away as soon as you turn the ignition key in GT Racing for the first time and begin to appreciate the work which has gone into creating such an enjoyable and (relatively speaking) realistic driving experience in pocket-sized form.
It’s an outstanding accomplishment for a game of this scale and quality to be on the iPhone / iPod Touch, devices which many people still do not take seriously as a gaming platform.
Most of the action takes place in career mode.
Here you must gain licences by completing challenges which test various driving skills including cornering, braking and overtaking.
The licences allow you to enter race events in order to earn money for buying cars and enhancements.
It is here you begin to appreciate the impressive numbers this game boasts.
There are four different categories of events to drive your way through – GT touring championships, constructor events, driver contracts and special invitation – each containing an assortment of races and cups spread across four levels of difficulty.
There are more than 100 cars in the game from 24 manufacturers, including Audi, BMW, Volkswagen, Mini, Ferrari, Lamborghini and Jaguar.
Win some races and you’ll soon have a desirable collection of cars which would make even Jay Kay or Jay Leno envious.
In the market you can buy spoilers and body kits for your cars as well as better engines, tyres and suspensions.
Prior to races you can tune up your car’s weight balance, downforce and brake bias.
You can also give any of your cars a snazzy new look in the paint shop.
To show off your gorgeous motors you’ll want some tracks, and there are 14 of them in GT Racing including standard raceways, street circuits, snow courses and rally stages.
Take a career break and you’ll find plenty of other features in GT Racing.
In the arcade mode you can select your track and car, number of laps and opponents (up to five other cars), and type of race.
If you want to test your tracks skills against human drivers choose the multiplayer mode for either local or online play.
This game brings an awful lot of content to the iPod/iPhone’s small screens.
GT Racing offers various configurations for controls.
For steering you can select from tilt, on-screen wheel or touch keys. For accelerating the options are auto, accelerometer, buttons or a slider.
I’ve found the controls to be very responsive and refined.
With this being more of a driving sim than an arcade racer controlling the cars is intentionally challenging. Practice will make perfect but if you find you’re sliding around too much there are driving aids available such as assisted braking and traction control.
On the track there are six views to choose from, including an excellent cockpit position. One clever little feature I like is being able to change the camera angle simply by flicking my finger up the screen.
One of the major strengths of the game is the vehicle physics. All the cars feel solid and substantial without being overweight or clunky. They move around the track in a very believable fashion.
Another impressive aspect of the game is the way it conveys the handling characteristics of the different cars. There is a vast difference, for example, from a small and nimble Beetle to a meatier and twitchy Ferrari – the same kind of the difference you’d experience driving the real cars.
It’s a shame there is no car damage but at least the cars aren’t coated in invisible padding like in some other driving games. Here you get satisfyingly metallic sounds when you hit another car or crash into a wall.
I’ve left my comments on the graphics to the end because it’s in the graphics where the game’s only real problems are found.
Don’t get me wrong, the graphics are pretty good overall. The car models in particular are excellent. While not particularly dazzling, the visuals elsewhere in the game are still decent.
However, two problems emerge from the graphics’ performance.
The first is the noticeably poor draw distances. You’ll be driving along when buildings or other pieces of scenery will suddenly pop up in front of you. The upcoming road and other cars are also prone to suffering from this abrupt pop-up.
It doesn’t particularly affect the enjoyment of the racing, but it can be a little off-putting.
Occasionally choppy graphics is the second issue with the game’s visuals.
Whether it’s a hardware issue (perhaps because I’m playing on an older device) or a glitch in the game, I don’t know – but what will happen sometimes is the game will jump a bit or be flickery for a moment. It only seems to take a split second to correct itself, but again it can be distracting when this happens.
These issues (along with disappointingly long loading times during the game) are relatively minor in the grand scheme of things. The game’s good points definitely outweigh its bad.
If the problems I’ve mentioned are the payback for the sheer volume of content in the game then it’s a price worth paying. It’s just a shame the imperfections are visible enough to detract from GT Racing’s overall quality.
Regardless of its shortcomings, GT Racing: Motor Academy is a magnificent racing game – easily one of the best two for the iPhone/iPod along with Real Racing. It also offers tremendous value.
If you’re a fan of driving games you would be a fool to miss this one.
Verdict: 8.5 out of 10 – As close to Gran Turismo that you can currently get on the iPhone and iPod Touch, and that’s the biggest compliment which can be paid to this classy game.
Watch a preview video of GT Racing: Motor Academy: