Real Racing HD Micro-Review: Relief For The Driving Impaired

After watching Firemint's Real Racing HD idle at the top end of the iPad gaming charts every week since the device's early April release, we put the racer through its paces to see why it's getting so much love.

I hate racing games.

It's not because I hate driving, or a racing video game killed my father. It's just that I've never gotten a handle on car physics. I can hold my own in an arcade racer, but when any sort of realism is applied, my driving skills run away screaming. So when Crecente asked me to review Firemint's hit iPad title, I was quietly reluctant, and a little nauseous. I've attempted to review racing games in the past, and it hasn't worked out.

Still, no little iPad game was going to take me down. Steeling my resolve I took iPad in hand, and prepared for the worst. Did I get what I expected?

Loved
I Can Drive!: I'm not quite sure how I am doing it, but by gum, I can actually play Real Racing HD without crashing constantly. I'm guessing it's a combination of Firemint's excellent implementation of accelerometer-based steering, along with the fact that I'm holding the iPad much like I'd hold a steering wheel in real life, sans frequent bouts of knee driving. The fact that I turned the brake assist option up a little higher than default might be helping as well. Either way, I've blazed through more than half of the game's class C career mode events, and not once have I placed lower than fourth out of six. Taking into consideration how badly I normally fail at racing and the game's highly competitive AI, that's no mean feat. If I can play it with relative ease, your average game-curious iPad owner can as well. Now all the game needs is some eye-catching...

Graphics: Real Racing HD is an excellent showcase for the power and higher resolution screen of the iPad. It's no Gran Turismo, of course, but for a downloadable title for an (arguably) handheld device, the graphics are extremely nice. Lines are crisp and clear, varied scenery flies by smoothly as you speed around the tracks, and your racer even reaches down to shift gears while in cockpit view. Not only can you show off the iPad's potential, you can show off your own graphics talent as well, as Real Racing HD will take any photo you put on the device and make it into a car skin for any of the game's 48 cars. Speaking of which...

Hated
So Many Cars, So Little Variation: Real Racing HD contains 48 different cars spread across four classes - Hatch, Sedan, Muscle, and Exotic - and while cars of the same class may look slightly different, I've yet to notice any difference in handling between different vehicles in the same class. There's no way to tune or tweak cars outside of skinning and control options that apply to every vehicle, so it seems to me like it would be more accurate to say that the game has twelve different models of each of the four car classes, and not 48 different vehicles.

The fact that I could have done with more variety in the vehicles provided in Real Racing HD can also be seen as a positive. That I've successfully played a racing game long enough to care about how the cars handle is an amazing accomplishment, both for me and the game's developers. While I'm still attempting to figure out how much Apple's iPad platform had to do with it, Firemint has created a gorgeous little racing game that even the most inept video game driver can enjoy.

Real Racing HD was developed by Firemint and released on the iPad App Store on Apr 1. Retails for $9.99 USD. A copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Played through approximately half of the game's extensive career mode.

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