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Last Updated: August 2nd, 2011

In their latest addition to their "games we've shamelessly ripped off from other companies" line of titles, developer Gameloft has released "GT Racing: Motor Academy Free+" to the marketplace. At its core, it is a bastardized version of Gran Turismo that has been stuffed with micropayments to specifically eliminate the charm of Gran Turismo.

I'm not going to even try and sugarcoat the fact that you're playing a completely ripped off concept: much like most of Gameloft's  other titles, there is nothing new or original here.

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GT Racing passes itself off as a "realistic" driving simulator in the same vein as the Gran Turismo or Forza series, which are known for their tight controls, realistic physics and the ability to actually have fun. However, in the process of bringing the concept to a mobile market, GT Racing has surprisingly lost all of those qualities.

For starters, the controls are abysmal. I say this having tried each variation of the available options, trying to find the right "fit" for my play style. For every time I thought I inched a bit closer to actually being able to finish a lap, I was thrust three steps back by some oversight that could have been avoided with a little more quality assurance. Instead of typing a big wall of text, I thought I might organize my complaints into a list:

  • Turning by tilting causes the camera to roll along with you, disorienting your view. This is especially horrible in first-person mode, which, coincidentally, is the most effective way of seeing the suggested racing line you take
  • Turning by invisible buttons does not work with multi-touch. If you need to brake during a turn, be prepared to tap both buttons back and forth, or have one not respond. Also, these buttons are "all or nothing" affairs; it would be nice if they eased you into a turn instead of jerking the wheel all the way to the side.
  • Turning by visual steering wheel is a nigh-impossible affair, as there's no indicator as to where you should put your finger. The radius as to where it takes input is ill-defined, and has trouble in recognizing fine movements.

gt6

Get used to seeing this. A lot. I failed by leaving the road.

Coupling these problems with the camera issues (like I said, forget about seeing that racing line unless you're in first-person), the game is pretty damned frustrating to play. It's a pity, as Gameloft has somehow managed to secure the licenses for a number of real-life manufacturers, and have rendered the cars very beautifully.

If there's on thing I can commend the developer for doing right, it's making the things you're driving look accurate. Even the interiors are branded correctly, as I spent a lot of time wishing I could bang my head into the Toyota badge on my steering wheel in frustration.

"Oh, but how do you get these wondrous cars?", you might ask. "How would one as lowly as I drive a Bugatti Veyron? What happens if I don't feel like unlocking licenses or actually doing challenges?"

The answer, children, is micropayments. Unless you are prepared to grind out challenges for experience until the end of your days, the cheapest way to unlock cars is to pay for them, which is through the game's "cash" system. Again, it pains me to see a developer lure people in with the marketing that their game is "free," yet try to screw you over with "pay to win."

  gt5

gt3 gt2 gt4

The fact that the Veyron costs 450 "cash" and the in-game store goes up in weird increments (50, 135, 300, 1,000, 5,000) is downright insulting; that's right, you are unable to purchase the exact amount for the car without going over.

In order to buy that car, I would need to spend a whopping $16.97 in order to afford it. The micropayment system is so screwed up that I'd need to buy 50 ($1.99), then 135 ($4.99) and finally 300 ($9.99) to purchase it. This is specifically designed so that you cannot buy credits economically.

Now, let me ask you something: are you willing to spend almost twenty whole dollars in order to buy one virtual car in a game that controls horribly?

Are you willing to give your time and valuable SD card space to a game that needs over 700mb of extra download in order to play?

Are you willing to put your phone on "never sleep", because if your phone's screen shuts off, the download interrupts?

Are you wiling to reward a developer whose lack of creativity and failure to understand the value of virtual goods are setting a horrible standard for the price of microtransactions to come?

For your sake, I hope the answer is no.

Matt Demers
Matt Demers is a Toronto writer that deals primarily in the area of Android, comics and other nerdy pursuits. You can find his work on Twitter and sites across the Internet.

  • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

    This is probably the most extreme case of virtual currency rape I've seen on Android so far. There's no way I'm going to spend that kind of money, so games like these are totally useless to me personally. I hate paid DLC and I don't think any game with in-app purchases managed to appeal to me as opposed to leaving an unpleasant taste in my mouth instead.

    • http://twitter.com/mattdemers Matt Demers

      Keep in mind you can grind out the in-game experience to get the car. It will probably just take a hell of a long time to do so.

    • Jon Garrett

      this is yet another reason why people download cracked apps.

  • JoshL

    I have not played this game in particular, but I have purchased Gameloft games and I can say that the additional download definitely sucks. If your internet stutters for a moment, the download will fail. If your screen turns off during downlaod, it will fail. Sometimes, if your download gets to 50% it will say it failed, but actually be fully installed. Crazy sh*t.

  • scottishwildcat

    Pity... I actually quite like the IPad version.

  • Vivec

    $17 to unlock a car in a crappy rip-off game? How much are they charging for 5000 points? $100?
    Are they our of their minds?

    It's much better to get an psx emulator and play real Gran Turismo 2.

    • Mesmorino

      For $100, you could probably get a proper console and a proper racing game to go with it

  • SpottedNigel

    It's a method of getting money. Until it gets in the way of actual gameplay, it's an annoyance and not a deal breaker (to me, at least).
    I also disagreed with their review of Ball-Hop since it was mostly complaining about how you had to spend real money to get items. Yes, there is a whole table/theme that you can pay for, but there is plenty to unlock on your own. The part where it hinders gameplay is how the ads cover up the score board. It's still completely playable, but it IS annoying.. but yet again, at that point, you've paid nothing.

    • Matt Demers

      The thing is, horrible design decisions or gameplay should not be able to be excused by the fact that a game is free.

      It's like someone promising you a free hot dog, handing you the bun, demanding you pay/work for the weiner and then saying "Hey man, you got something for free! Stop complaining!"

  • David Ruddock

    Racing games will never work on touchscreens - not with any of the present control philosophies in existence.

    The more realistic you make it, the harder it will be to make do with the already woefully inadequate precision basic touchscreen controls provide.

    Until truly sensitive touch pressure sensitivity and extreme gyrometer accuracy are achieved on smartphones, these kinds of games are utterly pointless - no matter how big the screen you're touching.

  • GraveUypo

    is this serious? isn't this game like over 1 year old? i have it for a long time, its not the "free+" version, but it's the same game without the microtransations. and it plays quite well imho. controls are quite good and the game just feels solid for a mobile game. it's indeed a shameless rip-off, but that doesn't make it bad by itself, specially when the original is so good. this is in my opinion the best "serious" racer for android so far. i had NONE of the reported issues with controls or camera.

    the camera inside the dashboard does NOT roll when conering with tilt controls and in my opinion its not even an issue at all on the other cameras. might annoy some, but not to the point to make the game unplayable like you suggest. other racing games do that too you know.

    the "Turning by invisible buttons does not work with multi-touch." part is probably because you're using a 2-point multi touch device and acelerating already uses one of those points, so you can either brake or turn with the remaining one.

    come on. i'm not saying this game is perfect, but at least it's way better than this review. (trying to be nice here.)

  • NikiSk

    I am using galaxy sII and I have to say I have all the problems mentioned in the review. I aslo completely agree with the review, it's just not worth it, even for free. Gameloft have to step up with the gameplay experience if they want to succesfully compete in the mobile sector.

    I still think that there is a huge gap between iOS and Android games in terms of quality. I am not sure why this happens, but it's hurting to an extent the platform. iOS have Gamecenter, they have support from big companies like Epic(Unreal engine), ID software, they have Real Racing (probably the best mobile racing game) and so on and so on. I am not saying that there aren't any quality games for Android, but the triple A games are really lacking. Unfortunately I find that the Nvidia tegra exclusivety to be a bit of a failure and the Xperia Play is close by. With their exclusivity they are not helping the platform, probably only hurting. It's a shame that Google is not trying to bring in some more quality and extend the gaming capabilities. I hope the future is brigher for Android, because It is the platform, which gives the biggest freedom for the user.

    PS. Be warned my english suck, I use it mosltly for reading. :)

    • GraveUypo

      funny... maybe its me. but i like the game in general.
      about android AAA games... seriously, i haven't crossed a single one that deserves that rating yet. gameloft only makes "b+" games at best, and from other softhouses, the more well-made ones are usually casual. i would seriously welcome some more ue3 love on android. fortunately it think that's merely a matter of time.
      that aside, one can't argue tegra / xperia play exclusivity is retarded and only hurts the plataform and the developer.

      ps: ah, about the huge in-game download. that issue i DO have. with ALL gameloft games. i hate it so much.

  • Vince

    I had this game downloaded on my phone for the past week. I've been meaning to do the "after market" download but keep forgetting. After reading this review, I promptly uninstalled the game. What a piece of crap. Gameloft and their unoriginal titles can suck it.

  • Ronald

    With racing games I like freedom of customization. No customization, I'm not interested. Especially since its a pain to get the nice cars. If I wanted to drive a stock chevy cobalt then I would just drive mine.

  • NYC_Dave

    I see this more as a testament to the fact that Android still has a long way to go in real quality games

  • RockingmyEvo3D

    Great game in my book.

  • http://android.com android

    Why are you complaining? You still got a free bun. You should know that nothing in the world is free.

  • Vedran

    Well, i find this review a complete crap, as a mater a fact this game is pretty good, especialy part with controls by tilting, I manage to drive all licence challenges for gold medal with little or no problem without any assist and was pretty suprised how good is phisical model an how control works well, didnt invest a penny in game and already have 3 pretty good cars. It's thruth that if you want majority of good cars you should pay some of this micro payments, but you have some nice cars for pretty good prices for in game money which you gain by winning races. Game is rip off of Gran Turismo, but that is for me a good thing, because GT is one of best racing games. All in all this is by far best racing game for android platform if you are looking for realistic racing. When you master controls game is reall rewarding

  • Tiree

    i had EXACTLY the same problem with the invisible buttons and multitouch, with one not responding, OMG i though i was the only person, and yes the camera roll is annoying as hell, and the steering wheel does suck, the only thing wrong with the game in my opinion is the controls.