About This Place

First started in late 2007, Kasey's Mobile Game Review (then just a regular feature of Kasey's Korner) started as a simul-post between here and IGN. Later I realized there's no reason to post it twice, when I can use the traffic on my own site. so, here we are, in 2010, and the mobile game industry has grown a bit. What do you think?

KMGR of "GT Racing: Motor Academy"

Viper - SPEED World Challenge GT Race at MosportImage by ktpupp via Flickr
GT Racing: Motor Academy is another variation of GT Racing from Gameloft. This time, they decided to go for more of a Gran Turismo feel. The result is a pretty good driving sim that's more on the realistic side than most. Add a dozen cars, 6 tracks, 4 levels of "license", quite a few race types, and the result ain't bad!

Motor Academy gives you one car to start (a Citroen C4), and you're supposed to finish everything by buying cars and participate in multistage events. There are a lot of different race types, but some of which would be familiar to the Grand Turismo folks... The acceleration and brake test... Accelerate to top speed, then stop inside the end zone. How fast can you do it? There are even 3 levels of success... Gold, silver, and bronze. There are also "obstacle" (go through some openings in the walls, without hitting anything), curve challenge (go as fast as you can, but stay ON the track!) There's also race, duel, "tire test", and more.

You need to go to the License Dept to get your racing licenses... And there are four of them... C, B, A, and S. The events are also divided up that way. There are three types of events: GT Championship, Constructor, and Pilot Contract (test driver, I think). Each type has one or more events per class. Finally, each event is comprised of one or more races. You need to place in the top three to "finish" the race. In the first two types, you need to provide the vehicle. In the "Pilot Contract", they provide the vehicle.

You earn points for finishing the race, finishing the event, and finishing the class. The points lets you buy more vehicles, as well as for tuning up the vehicles. Strangely, I've found that a properly driven car, even one that costs less than normal, and untuned, can beat more expensive cars. Indeed, I've found AI somewhat lacking. Unless you are very lousy in driving, and refuse to learn proper braking, you should have no problem beating the AI, even on the highest levels. Money is actually not a major problem as when you finish a class in all three types of event, a free car is provided. You will need to buy some other vehicles to enter some events, of course. For example, one of the events is RUF only (RUF GT is a tuned-up Porsche 911), while the Arctic track is restricted to 4WD vehicles only.

Indeed, what's more realistic about this game than other mobile driving games is emphasis on steering and braking. On normal tracks, if you don't brake before a turn, you simply understeer and fly off the track. On the wide and snowy "arctic" track you can do the rally-style oversteer / drifting / powersliding. To help you along, you can display the "optimal path" on the track, and even speed indicators for each part of the path. Rally style turn warnings are standard. What's more, you can do brake and turn at the same time, and initiate a bit of oversteer / drifting. The AI feels to be a bit too conservative in the corners, but most drivers aren't conservative enough! Once you learned this, you can beat the AI easily by several seconds.

With 12 cars, 6 tracks, and a lot of race types, the game has a lot of challenges, as different cars and different tracks means different driving strategies.

The problem with this game is its graphics engine, and lack of AI. The graphics engine is actually 2D, similar to Outrun if you remember that far. While the tracks are 3D-ish, with some 3D-ish sideprops, the cars themselves are 2D. It's good 2D, but it's still 2D. Thus, this game automatically pales when compared to something like NFS:Shift, at least when it comes to looks. The AI is also lacking. While they accelerate like crazy (hey! I thought launch control is illegal!) they brake way too hard in the corners, and thus you usually blow right past them in corners, until you brake too hard and they pass you again, but that rarely happens. Usually, you'll have passed all cars except one or two in the first lap, then you'll chase down the leader within first third of the 2nd lap, and cruise home with like 8+ second lead unless you completely mess up the rest of the lap.

There are also a lot of factual errors. They classified the BMW M3 (2009) as a MR (mid engine, rear wheel drive) when it should be FR. They classifed the Nissan GT-R (R35) as FR (front engine rear wheel drive) when it should be 4WD. This may be on purpose, as they need a "MR" car for the "MR Cup", and they can't exactly put the GT-R up against the Ford Focus RS and the Nissan Evo X on the Arctic track. On the other hand, couldn't they just have invented some OTHER event? Also, the car "tuneup" doesn't seem to do anything. I tried tuning up a Dodge Viper (max upgrade for everything), then did the same race with an untuned Audi (no upgrades at all), and got nearly identical results: 8 seconds lead when finished. It seems the AI is pretty much a fake.

All in all, GTR:MA does brings a more realistic driving model to the genre, and by downgrading the graphics, they manage to keep the frame rates up, and that's actually more important to the driving model. By NOT concentrating on the flashy side, such as drifting and nitrous oxide charges, but more in line with GT style racing, plus some stuff inspired by Gran Turismo, they manage to produce a great driving game for the mobile. Just wish the graphics are a bit better and AI a bit better and more challenging at the top levels... and fix those factual errors!

Overall rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: great frame rate, lots of tracks and cars and events, a bit Gran Turismo like
Cons: relatively lousy graphics, car tune-ups that doesn't do much, lousy AI
Verdict: probably one of the closest imitations of Gran Turismo on a mobile

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