Review: AE GTO Racing
Driving games have always held a fascination for gamers, especially on mobile devices. A good driving game keeps players coming back for more, shows off the graphical ability of a platform, and allows developers to prove just how good they are. It's also very easy to get everything wrong. Unfortunately AE GTO Racing falls into the latter category. It is utterly average in every respect, and that's no longer good enough for a Windows Phone game.
Version Reviewed: 1.0.0.01
Find the listing for the app in the Windows Phone store, and be prepared for excitement. Then forget that, because for all the blurb of powerful racing car apps, lane cutters, traffic lanes, and mentions of Ridge Racer, when you start playing AE's GTO Racing you find that it's nothing of the sort.
What we have here is another infinite running game. You have your three lanes of action (here based on a road) and a variety of obstacles (the other cars, lorries, and buses on said road) to navigate around. The longer you can survive, the higher your score and the mileage odometer. And your mileage will help you unlock more cars and more road courses in the game.
I'll give AE credit, the copy editors have actually managed to make AE GTO Racing sound very attractive in the directory listings and website pages. It was even enough to make me look past the screenshots, or at least rationalise away the graphics to expect something more than was on offer.
But no, the realisation started to dawn on me that this title was more Temple Run than Outrun. Perhaps the only concession to driving is that you cannot be in a fixed lane and simply swipe to go into another lane, you tilt your smartphone left and right to drive into these lanes. That means it is possible to straddle two lanes and be knocked out of the racing by a vehicle in either lane. Neither is slicing between traffic an option - you are going to need to be very precise in your tilting to get anywhere in the game.
Oh, the sides of the road are dangerous as well, so avoid them unless you want another ruinous end to a run.
Everything is competently programmed here, the controls are responsive, and what you are being asked to do is clear enough to the player. But there's no sense of grace or passion in the design. AE GTO simply exists, and nothing more.
The graphics are doing their best to be realistic, but have no sense of life around them as you are driving up to and around them. The road is incredibly straight, with gentle curves at occasional points to break up the monotony but you don't actually have to do anything to steer around them. And while your choice of vehicles are brightly coloured, their scale compared to the road and other obstacles just feels wrong.
You have power-ups for your car, which let you boost ahead or clear the road in front of you... neither of which quite fit in a game that is trying to look realistic. While the idea of a flying car might seem a novelty to some, the ability to jump forward in an infinite running game to boost your score is neither new or novel. It's simply a way of trading part of the currency for a one time boost on the score. You also have a special weapon, which will clear one vehicle from in front of you. If you have fast enough reactions to see a vehicle, realise you are blocked in, can line up the shot, and fire, all in enough time, then it might prove useful...
But I come back to game design. These are elements seen in countless other infinite running games. They feel they are included here because they are expected, not because they fit naturally into the world created by the developers. The tick-box on 'power-ups' has been checked off, and on we go to the next requirement.
The game play and the presentation of the freemium elements matches the same freemium model seen in countless other games. You play the game to get the basic score/currency (with the occasional pick-up of the big valuable one). You can grind lots of games get enough currency to buy the next level, or you can short-circuit the entire process by paying cash.
There was a time when this was a novelty and the fact that a gaming title had such a payment method would make it stand out from the crowd. That time has long since passed, and now this system is a tired 'here we go again'. AE GTO Racing has to stand on the strength of the game and have the impressions of the action counter the nature of the revenue stream.
Technically competent, but with no soul or hook, AE GTO Racing is an example of what happens when you have all the elements of a game, and you find out that your recipe doesn't work. There are infinite runners with better graphics, more variety and challenge, and nicer ways to implement a freemium model. AE GTO adds to the 'games available' count in the store, it looks great, and there's nothing actually wrong with it. It's just that I can't find anything good to say about it beyond the simple fact that it is available, it doesn't crash your phone, and, er, that's about it.
Reviewed by Ewan Spence at