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Real Racing 2

You’d be forgiven for thinking that iPhone games are only simple, throwaway affairs like Angry Birds with their cute, 2D graphics and addictive yet shallow gameplay. It would be natural to be sceptical of a game like Real Racing 2 that purports to be a true 3D racing simulator. I was guilty of making that assumption, but how wrong I was. This isn’t just a tech demo or a sorry port of a console game, but an iPhone racer, built from the ground up.

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Across a career mode spanning five tiers of competition, you’ll progress up the motorsport ladder, winning races to earn points and reputation. It’s all very familiar, but that, perhaps, is the point.

What isn’t familiar is the control scheme though. A touchscreen with no physical buttons presents an interesting challenge and it’s one that Real Racing 2 deals with in an assured manner.

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The default control scheme requires you to tilt the device to steer, while acceleration is automatic and braking is manually controlled by tapping the screen. However, steering and braking are heavily assisted at first, so you only really need to guide the car round the track. This semi-autopilot mode is comforting to begin with, but won’t win you many races.

Once you examine all five control schemes and tone down the assists, you’ll begin to progress and take command of the track. Braking late to sneak past an opponent at a corner comes naturally to those who are familiar with Forza, Gran Turismo and the like.

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Once you’re used to the controls, racing on the iPhone feels more natural than on a console. Steering with two hands is much more precise than you’ll ever be with a joypad, making up for the inevitable inaccuracy of the acceleration and braking.

Technically, Real Racing 2 is impressive. While it’s a given that almost anything will look stunning on the iPhone 4 and iPod Touch’s retina display, you can’t help but be taken aback by the quality of the game’s graphics. For a mobile device, the level of detail is outstanding, with many of the sublets you’d expect from a console game. Dust bellows from behind cars as they skid into gravel traps, tire marks remain for successive laps and helicopters race overhead as the sun shines down onto the track.

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The credentials are as impeccable as you would expect from any serious racing game. 30 cars from real manufacturers, complete with vehicle damage. The ability to upgrade and repaint your car. 16 player online multiplayer. It’s all very familiar.

That, I guess, is the charm of Real Racing 2: to provide the same experience you’d expect from this kind of game, but look, it’s on your iPhone! The trick is not to provide anything new, but to provide it in a context that you might not expect to find it. This is perhaps the game’s only real flaw: a lack of ambition. It follows conventions so strongly that it’s hard to feel a slight anticlimax once the novelty of such an experience being on your phone has worn off.

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Yet this is perhaps an unfair conclusion to reach. The likes of Forza and Gran Turismo have been doing the same for years, with few complaints. To see an experience that we take for granted on consoles, on a handheld device, is an achievement worth celebrating. With Microsoft and Sony unlikely to port their racers to the iPhone, there’s a huge gap for a serious motorsport simulator. This is a gap that Real Racing 2 is more than happy to fill and is capable of doing so. For those still unsure about the iPhone’s gaming credentials, this accomplished racer is more than adequate evidence for the contrary.

9 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is the Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in November 2000. Get in touch on Twitter @PhilipMorton.

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