“ Genre: Driving & Racing / Video Game for iPhone / Release Date: 2011-05-27 / Published by Mad Professor GmbH „
Since the dawn of home computer games, racing games (along with platform games and shoot em ups) have been a staple of the industry, appearing on pretty much every single gaming platform ever devised.
Conjuring up images of Mad Max, the game is set in a post-apocalyptic landscape where you must race against other Uber Racers to win vital supplies of oil (the only currency now recognised). This will allow you to upgrade your vehicle and make you more competitive in future races.
The presentation on this game will simply blow you away - it's probably the best looking iPhone game I've seen and the attention to detail is fantastic. This is something which will strike you right from the off as the ability to "look" around your 3D garage to view the various options for the game really makes you feel immersed in the gaming environment. This excellent presentation continues into the game itself which has some excellent 3D graphics which would not look out of place in a PS2 or Xbox game.
Immersive atmosphere and good graphics are definitely amongst the game's real plus points. The action is viewed from behind your vehicle, giving you a 3D perspective of the road ahead. The landscape you drive through is a barren wasteland, surrounded by ancient defunct machinery and mountains which must be safely negotiated in order to complete the race. True, the futuristic setting does look a little bleak and the predominant colours of grey, black and brown can occasionally make it a little tricky to see where clearly where the road is going (although this is helped by big green arrows pointing the way ahead, which give you a bit of a clue!)
There are some neat little touches that further enhance this feeling of immersion: take too much damage and your car starts to belch black smoke; damage the door mechanism and each time you go around a corner, your door will swing open and shut (affecting your speed as it makes the vehicle less aerodynamic). If you are heading towards the sun, the glare on your window screen makes it difficult to see the road ahead. These realistic little touches help to increase that feeling of "being there".
Sound is equally impressive. Engines throb, tyres squeal and there are satisfying metallic clunks as you send an opponent crashing into an obstacle (or hideous ones as you wreck your own vehicle). The whole thing is accompanied by a pulsating soundtrack which might not be terribly original but which suits the game's grungy atmosphere well.
The game's physics are superbly implemented and highly realistic. This is not an arcade racer where you can throw your car around with gay abandon or expect to drive at 200 miles an hour round hairpin bends without consequence. At first, your vehicle feels very sluggish and unresponsive (especially on the early levels before you have unlocked other vehicles or had the chance to buy upgrades). Trying to get it to turn feels like you have entered a wrestling match with a giant drunken bear whilst covered in cooking oil. Overcompensate on the steering or try to take a bend too fast and your car will fishtail wildly and be out of control until you ease off the gas. For anyone raised on unrealistic arcade racers, this takes a lot of getting used to; it has far more in common with driving a real vehicle of this size and weight and this takes some getting used to. Your first few games are a frustrating experience as you struggle with the unwieldy controls and punishing physics. Persevere, though, and the rewards are worth it. Once you have got the hang of the handling, a great little game starts to reveal itself.
Uber Racer is certainly a tough challenge. The difficulty level starts off fairly high and tracks get more intricate and tricky as you progress. Later tracks can be particularly frustrating; as a single mistake can see you slip from 1st to last in a matter of seconds, with little or no chance of making up the lost ground. You're helped to some degree by the ability to upgrade your car or unlock new ones which are better suited to the later tracks, but even so it will take you a while to complete. With dozens of different tracks and events (time trials, first past the post races etc.), the ability to go off-road to try and steal an advantage over your opponents and so on, there's easily several hours' gameplay here.
There is a price to pay for this level of realism, though. First of all, this is going to take up a fair chunk of your iPhone's available free space (the download is almost 300 megabytes). There are also times when there is a little too much for the phone's processor to cope with and you'll experience the odd bit of lag. This is not usually so serious as to spoil the game, although it can occasionally result in you over-compensating on the steering, if you don't realise the game has temporarily stopped for a second.
There are also some serious reservations about the controls which take a while to get used to. The danger is that some people might give up well before they master them and will then miss out on an otherwise cracking game. Personally, I found the default controls all but unusable. These utilise pressing the screen for speed (which is fine) and tilting the phone to steer (which is not). When trying to steer around some of the sharper bends, you have to tilt the phone so far that you can no longer see the screen. By the time you are able to tilt it back you have usually crashed into something and lost the race!
The alternative (switched on via the settings) is to use a small left and right arrow for steering. This works much better, although as noted above, you need time to adapt to the slightly sluggish behaviour of the car and the realistic physics. A slight whinge is that the two buttons are placed slightly too far apart, meaning that sometimes you miss the button you need and simply hit empty space, resulting in your car continuing on its current path, but at least you stand a chance with this option, unlike the accelerometer controls.
Uber Racer doesn't feature the frantic, fast gameplay of some other racers, but it does offer a more realistic, physics-based racing game that is both challenging and addictive. At only 69p to download, there's no real reason not to own this.
© Copyright SWSt 2011