Hands-on with GT Racing 2 - Gameloft takes on Real Racing 3, and kind of wins
By Mark Brown 08 October 2013
Game Name: GT Racing 2 | Publisher: Gameloft | Format: Android, iPhone, iPad | Genre: Arcade, Racing, Sports
It might be a little unfair to paint GT Racing 2 as the latest Gameloft game that takes too much inspiration from another title. There are, after all, only so many ways to depict a bunch of super cars going around in circles.

But there's something about this new racer's blue sky setting, slick menus, and the way name tags and profile pics hover over rival cars that's just unmistakably reminiscent of a certain App Store driving game.

"We expect to be compared with Real Racing 3", admits product manager Kamen Kanchev. But he's quick to point out the ways that GT stands apart.

This sequel offers, for example, different driving conditions, like night, rain, and twilight. It has the highest variety of car brands on the market, and - here's the big one - it might offer an even more realistic racing model than Firemonkeys's game.

GT Racing 2

The cars are a thrill to drive, and even though the tilt or touch input schemes are pretty basic, you still have a lot of control over your car. It's easy to swerve around competitors, bomb along straightaways, or slice through corners.

Plus, each car feels different from the rest. Rear- and front-wheel drive vehicles have an appreciable affect on the handling, and better cars don't simply go faster than your starting motor.

"Our team spent significant time and effort collaborating with the car manufacturers in order to deliver the proper car behaviour for each vehicle," says Kanchev. "You feel a significant difference, for example, when you drive a classic car compared to a contemporary racing car".

The game is also a lot more difficult. If you turn off assists and fail to stick closely to the racing line (which is handily painted on the track, and tells you when to brake and turn), you're going to be eating asphalt for much of the time.

It's easy to spin out, lose control, and spend the rest of the race playing catch up. This is not an arcade racer, then. It's a game about learning the ropes, slowly letting go of the assists, and not firing into every corner at 200 miles an hour.

GT Racing 2

Of course, part of the game's difficulty can be blamed on the need to upgrade your car. You won't get far until you improve your motor's top speed, acceleration, braking, and handling.

You pay for upgrades with coins and you'll then have to wait for the upgrade to finish. You can't use that car until the service is complete. If you want to run multiple upgrades at a time, you'll need to hire extra mechanics (each has a brilliant name, like Dave Hammer or Compressor Bob) and they don't come cheap.

And you will want to apply a boost or two before each race. These might increase your top speed or handling, change your grid position, or boost the number of stars and coins earned. Some cost coins, others cost bucks, and some want you to hire friends from Facebook.

GT Racing 2

There are, however, no repairs. The need to endlessly fix your wrecked racer in Firemonkeys's threequel was a constant source of frustration, and it kept putting the brakes on play unless you were willing to pay.

As such, "the decision to avoid an energy mechanic like the one CSR Racing employs or a pseudo-energy mechanic like the repairs in Real Racing 3 was easy," says Kanchev.

"We all know how frustrating it is to want to race, but to be unable to without a real money payment. We decided very early on in the production process that this was too frustrating for a mobile racing user and to be avoided at all costs".

GT Racing 2 has a multiplayer mode, but it's an asynchronous dash against ghosts instead of real-time races. It also has a Clash of Clans-style team system, where you can challenge and be challenged by other players in order to earn Rating Points. Gameloft will also offer weekly hard currency prizes to the best teams.

GT Racing 2

GT Racing 2 is undeniably Gameloft's response to Real Racing 3. And, much of the time, it's pretty hard to tell the two games apart.

And it's still not going to win over racing enthusiasts who want a full, premium experience. The option to pay for boosts and wait for upgrades will no doubt put off players looking for a fair and balanced game.

But if you're down for a sharp, polished, and fun free-to-play racer that's not quite as disastrous as EA's flaming wreckage of a racer you'll find a lot to like here. It's in soft launch in Canada right now and will go live worldwide before the year is out.

Note: This hands-on preview is based on a game in 'soft launch', so any prices and mechanics are subject to change before the game's worldwide release date.
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