The mobile gaming revolution has slowly crept its way across the many, many genres in the video game world, ranging from flight simulators, to strategy games, to role-playing games, to the kind of simple, casual-play titles like Angry Birds and Candy Crush. And while the racing genre hasn't been untouched by the rise of mobile gaming, its primary entry, EA Sports' Real Racing series, has been left without an equally entertaining competitor.
Enter 2K Drive, from Lucid Games and publisher 2K Games, which is seemingly the Need For Speed to Real Racing's Gran Turismo or Forza Motorsports. 2K Drive isn't just about the racing, though, as it brings in community racing and acts as a news source - that's right, stories from your favorite websites like Hooniverse, Car And Driver, Road & Track and yes, Autoblog, are all piped right into the app and can be read when not racing.
To find out how 2K Drive plays, we downloaded it on a third-generation, 32-gigabyte iPad. It's also available on iPhones ranging from the 4 to the new 5S and second-generation iPads through the current models.
- Gameplay is fairly simple - there are a number of championships, each made up of a number of races or events, which are then sub-divided up into three difficulty levels for each event. Races range from traditional lapped affairs, with a number of other cars on circuit, to one-on-one races, to passing competitions, in which the player needs to pass as many cars as possible. The events, meanwhile, challenge the player to complete various tasks, the first of which is taken straight out of Top Gear - avoid missile lock from an attack helicopter. The events are mostly fun, although we didn't find the races very challenging. The computer AI seems to be on a track, following the same line around the circuit lap after lap.
- While there are a number of areas that are make-or-break in racing games, none are more important than the controls - how you actually go about driving your virtual car. In this respect, 2K Drive suffers from a rather steep learning curve. If you've grown up on console-based racers, using a d-pad or control stick rather than a steering wheel, you're in for a rough few races. Thankfully, there are a number of control setups, so if you're the sort that just feels a bit silly turning the entire iPad to steer the car or can't quite figure out the sensitivity settings, there are on-screen ways of turning the car.
- We found the game's physics to be good up to a point. The cars felt natural and behaved well when driven carefully. There wasn't a lot of room for error, though, as they got out of sorts rather quickly if we were on the gas or brake at the wrong point. It wasn't unlike a normal car, we'll agree, but it happened so much more suddenly in the game. It was difficult to feel understeer developing until the car was plowing off line into a barrier.
- We only sampled a small variety of 2K Drive's tracks, which were spread across London, Tokyo, a proving ground and an off-road course, but they were an big highlight of the game. The roads were, perhaps, a bit wider than they might be in real life - we doubt there's an eight-lane road running along the Thames - but this played well with the way the cars behaved, and made our understeering a bit less troublesome.
- Graphically, 2K Drive was hit or miss. The tracks were nicely rendered, and unless we really nudged up against one of the barriers or invisible walls, the details were fairly crisp and clean. We don't have as many nice things to say about the look of the cars, though. It felt like the game's designers took a rough approximation of each car, and then overlaid an image onto it. The result is models that lack the depth and definition that really make a game feel real. We had a similar feeling about the cabin, although the biggest offender, by a country mile, were the drivers of the cars. Dig out your Nintendo 64, pop in a copy of Goldeneye 007, and look at the faces of the characters - that's what the drivers in 2K Drive looked like.
- The way the cars sound is a big part of any racing game, and while certain games, like Forza Motorsport try to make the exhaust and engine notes as life-like as possible, 2K Drive followed a different path. The cars sounded buzzy and distorted, and nothing like their real-life counterparts. After trying out a number of cars, we were left wondering if there wasn't a problem somewhere in the software, the distortion was just dominant.
- 2K Drive's $6.99 starting price might have been forgivable if it didn't try to ding us with in-app purchases, but it did. In-app purchases are used for things as significant as purchasing and upgrading cars, too. Competitor titles like Real Racing are equally afflicted by in-app purchases, but at least many don't charge you just to download the app.
- This is one of those titles that, on first inspection, seems promising, like a good way to burn time on a plane or just waste a soggy Saturday afternoon. And we suppose if you don't have access to a decent console racer or have never heard of Real Racing, it is. But its cons - weak car models, unrealistic engine sounds, and a difficulty in obtaining the resources you need to advance the game - outweigh its pros.