I love racing games. Whist I dabble in other genres on a regular basis, it's racing games I always turn to when I need a quick fix of speed, skill and thrills.... which is exactly what Race Gear 3D doesn't provide.
It's a shame, because it's a promising idea that just hasn't worked. Perhaps it's because the host platform of the iPhone just isn't powerful enough; perhaps because it's been badly programmed; perhaps it's just a poor concept for a game. Whatever the reason, Race Gear 3D is one game you should steer away from very quickly.
The idea behind the game is not necessarily bad (although neither is it the most exciting in the world). Unlike most racers you are competing against other drivers and must finish in the top three to progress; in Race Gear 3D, your only opponent is the clock and you must strive to complete each circuit in as fast a time as possible.
Sadly, the execution is just all wrong. It reminds me very much of the very similar Test Drive games on the Commodore 64. This was a game that was designed for a much more powerful machine and in order to squeeze it onto the humble C64, everything that was good about the original had to be cut. You admired the ambition, but it was never going end well. Race Gear 3D has that same empty feeling.
Let's start with the graphics which are incredibly blocky and badly-drawn. They look like a very poor early demonstration of Playstation One technology, before developers really got to grips with the power of the console. They consist of blocky polygons making up the scenery which are incredibly drab and dull, consisting mostly of greys, blacks, browns that make them deeply uninteresting to look at. The tracks show the occasional odd bit of imagination (you pass through tunnels or over steel bridges) that in a different game might generate some interest, but because they are so bland, you scarcely notice them. The car, meanwhile, looks like it was drawn by a two-year old and scarcely seems to make contact with the road surface - no wonder it handles so badly.
Worst of all, the graphics handling routines are very poor. Even when you are travelling at top speed there is no illusion of movement because the bland-looking scenery all looks so similar. Indeed, on several occasions, my finger actually slipped off the accelerator and my car gradually came to a complete stop... and it took me several seconds to even register that this had happened. That can't be right in a racing game! Graphics are glitch and don't render properly, with chunks of the track randomly appearing or disappearing, and there are massive lags in the "action" as the processor struggles to catch up.
Sound is equally dire. A few tunes play throughout the game, but none are going to linger long in the mind. The in-game tune is essentially a repetitive drumbeat which quickly gives you a headache, whilst the car's engine gives off a pathetic little whine that makes it sound like you are driving a Sinclair C5, rather than a proper car. Collisions, meanwhile, get no noise at all. Hit a roadside barrier or other obstacle and there is absolutely nothing; no loud slam, no painful screech of metal on metal; just the same on-going repetitive tune and asthmatic engine noise.
Inevitably, it's the controls that are the final nail in the coffin of this travesty of a game. There are three main options for steering: Wheel (a steering wheel you rotate in the direction you wish to travel); Stick (a slider that you move left or right) and Motion (tilt the phone to steer). In truth, it doesn't matter which of these you use, your car still handles like a dead dog. The controls are possibly amongst the most unresponsive I have ever encountered in an iPhone game and simply add to the mounting frustration. This lack of responsiveness even extends to things like menu options, which often require several (increasingly harder) presses to get them to do what you want. Has this game ever actually been play-tested by anybody who has played a computer game before? I doubt it.
Hang on a minute: I'm being slightly unfair when I say that none of the controls are better than others. In fairness, at least Stick and Wheel options work (albeit very badly); Motion control on the other hand refused to work for me at all. No matter how hard I tilted my phone, the car just kept on travelling in a straight line, refusing to budget an inch. As you can probably imagine, this made corners somewhat challenging.
Even if you are some sort of masochist and manage to get over all these issues, there's no actual game there worthy of the name. The absence of any other racers to chase down or carve you up is a serious drain on excitement. Each game is reduced to the turgid business of attempting to drive around a series of poor, badly realised tracks. There's no sense of competitiveness or tension.
What particularly makes me laugh is the game's subtitle "Feel 3D Car Racing Fun & Drive Safe") which seems to indicate this app could be used to teach people how to control a car and drive. All I can say is that if there are people out there learning to drive on this, it's no wonder all our insurance premiums are rising each year.
Throw in long loading times and you seem to spend most of your time either waiting for the game to load or for the graphics to catch up with you. Seemingly intent on seriously alienating every gamer everywhere, the developers have even included annoying in-game adverts that appear on the bottom of your screen (even mid-game). Sorry guys, when I pay for an app (particularly when you factor in the price of this one), I expect an ad-free version.
Finally, there is the cost: the asking price of £1.49 is an absolute joke. That's the sort of price you expect to pay for the more premium quality independently produced iPhone games. I was lucky and got this game for free but to have the audacity to charge that much for such a badly programmed mess is obscene. On the plus side, it does have some educational value. If any developers out there want to see exactly how NOT to programme an iPhone game, then they should take a look at this.
(c) Copyright SWSt 2012