Since it was announced many moons ago (under the tentative name “Deliverace”), Reckless Racing has gathered a pretty large amount of expectation among the iOS gaming community. The title’s name has changed, and EA has acquired its license over the course of Reckless Racing’s long and winding road to the App Store. Now that it is out, what we have is a fun, well-realized, graphically beautiful game that is perhaps a bit light on content, but a good deal nonetheless.
The game, like many top-down racers, is a bit light on premise: You’re somewhere in the Deep South, where a variety of quirky characters race cars, recklessly. And deliver packages, also recklessly. What the game does, it does well, although the experience feels a little short due to the somewhat scarce number of racetracks. Reckless Racing’s gameplay mechanics harken back to the top-down racing games of the early 1990’s, but the game’s graphics and physics engine are decidedly cutting-edge. Essentially, what the game delivers is frantic racing action across five tracks, which can all be played in reverse. There are six different vehicles to choose from, which all handle realistically. Reckless Racing offers three different game modes to choose from: Dirt Rally (a four-lap race against five CPU opponents), Hot Lap (a time trial mode, where you can race against your own ghost or download another user’s ghost data to compete against), and Delivery (a fun mini-game that takes place on its own unique map, which has you delivering packages to various checkpoints, competing for high scores in a set amount of time of your choice.) While all the game modes are relatively similar, they offer a nice bit of variety to the proceedings, and I found them to all be fun in their own right, with none of them feeling tacked on or unnecessary. One issue however, is that there is literally no purpose to the cash that you earn in Delivery mode. It could be interesting if these perhaps unlocked new skins for the cars, secret vehicles, or some sort of unlockable power-ups, but it’s really a small quibble. There are several different control schemes to choose from, including accelerometer controls, although I find that I personally prefer the standard control method. Also, the game is accommodating to players of any skill level, since it offers three levels of difficulty for each race, and a “Beginner’s Mode” which makes the physics engine much more forgiving to error.
All in all, there is plenty to like about Reckless Racing, but some minor shortcomings prevent it from receiving the highest recommendations. It is perfect for short bouts of play, and the gameplay is addictive enough that you will likely find yourself coming back for more, but you may end up wishing there was just a little more to it.
Bee-yoo-tiful Eye-Candy: Reckless Racing is without a doubt the prettiest top-down racer on the App Store. All of the tracks are well-designed and look gorgeous, and your path of destroyed objects and squealing tire-marks are satisfying to behold on the final lap of a race. All of the vehicles are well-rendered and behave realistically. And the environments all look great, with bridges, rivers, fields, ponds, and roads all illustrated lovingly.
Realistic Physics: The vehicles in the game all handle uniquely and realistically according to their type. Dirt and asphalt handle accordingly, and road-cones and signs are a kick to run over. A good bit of the skill factor in the game comes from learning how to drift around the turns and anticipate each curve, but you never end up feeling robbed by the game’s physics engine.
A Little Variety: Granted, all the game modes in Reckless Racing involve whipping a car around a country road as fast as possible, but there is enough variety to satisfy. Online leader-boards give the player a reason to keep coming back to crawl their way onto the top of the heap, and the AI can be scaled back to make life easier for newbies, or cranked up to provide a real challenge.
Good Sound Effects: There’s not much more to say other than that the cars make satisfying engine sounds, and there is a convincing ‘crunch’ sound when you hit another car or the side of a building. But it definitely adds to the overall experience.
Not Enough Tracks: The game’s biggest problem without a doubt is its brevity. There are five race-tracks to choose from for the Dirt Rally and Hot Lap modes, and only one course for Delivery mode. All of the race tracks can played in reverse, but the fact is that you could easily race every single track in under a half hour. Since the game is reasonably priced, this is not exactly a deal-breaker, but it does leave the gamer wanting more. The iPad version of the game retails for a slightly more hefty $4.99, but includes three additional tracks. Perhaps these could be added at a later date as a free update, or even introduced to the iPhone version as optional DLC.
Imbalanced Vehicle Selection: A quick glance at the online leader-boards reveals the General Lee-esque black muscle car as the best car in the game. Nearly all of the vehicles have some merit to them, and some are better equipped to race on certain tracks than other ones, but they do feel a little lopsided in terms of power and handling. For example, I can’t really fathom what advantage the dune-buggy has over any of the other vehicles; it’s just that terrible.
Occasional Hiccups: Although the game allows you to race against opponents online, from what I’ve seen it’s far from a smooth experience. The servers don’t seem to be able to properly send you and your opponents around the track without lag and hiccups, and overall the online racing against other players could use some ironing out. In a somewhat similar issue, the game occasionally hiccups during single-player on my second generation iPod Touch, particularly during in-game collisions or while I’m listening to my own music while playing the game. It’s not bad enough to mar the overall play experience, but it can provide some minor annoyances.
Lackluster Music: While it may do it for some, I found the title menu’s background rendition of “Dixie” somewhat irksome. It’s just a little tinny, and the upbeat bass that they set to it doesn’t really match. The tunes in the game are just harmless little short banjo loops that don’t detract from the overall enjoyment, but I felt a little underwhelmed by the music overall.
While the long wait for Reckless Racing’s release undoubtedly mitigated some of the hype surrounding its announcement, what we are left with is a fun, good-looking, and fully-featured top-down racer that delivers on its premise. And for its current sale price of $.99, it’s about as good of a time as you’re likely to have for a dollar.