It’s been a long time since I played a hardcore drag racing game. As a matter of fact I cannot remember anything that consisted only of drags. Most racing game that we encounter these days consists of multiple events and game types with little or no space for the old school drag racers. But with the launch of CSR Racing for the iPad, Natural Motion Games took head to head drag battles to a whole new level. In this review I am going to cover an in-depth analysis of the game in terms of its gameplay, graphics, overall appeal and other key elements. So, let’s get started and find out why I am so addicted to CSR Racing so badly and what’s that one feature that I can’t wait to be released on a future update.
The Structure of CSR Racing
When I say game structure I mean the functionalities and other gameplay elements of CSR Racing. This racing game binds all their elements in such a flawless fashion that you will appreciate the developers and designers in each and every step. Since CSR racing primarily focus on one single style racing event, the game makes sure that players have plenty to explore and never feels the gameplay to be monotonous. Once you open up the game for the first time you will be presented to choose from a limited set of Tier 1 vehicles. After your initial selection is over you are given a short gameplay tutorial explaining the core concepts of drag racing and making sure that you are familiar with the in- game controls.
The entire journey in CSR Racing is divided into several tiers of cars. As you progress from one tier to another vehicles are better, faster and events get a lot tougher. At first every tier has its own city map where you can browse through various events that lets you earn some cash. This money can be put to good use by upgrading your vehicles with brand new transmissions, engine, tires, nitrous etc.
Now you must be thinking, are these upgrades useful? Yes, they absolutely are for your progress throughout the game. In order to successfully complete each tier and move to the next one you need to defeat the local boss, for that tier. In CSR Racing, bosses control various regions each representing a particular level of the game. Cars are also classified based on these levels. As you progress through the game you unlock better faster cars that are ready to compete with tougher opponents. In total there are five bosses and you need to defeat their accomplices in every level in order to qualify to race with the main boss. To make things more challenging a boss needs to be defeated thrice in order for you to win the entire event. Boss cars are ultra-customized piece of machine so you need to make sure that you drag race in other events, gain some cash, use them for your upgrades and finally build your vehicle with enough power in order to stand a chance.
A small story accompanied by a lovely level design really adds to the overall appeal of the game, tempting you to defeat the local drag-stars every time you lose to them embarrassingly. There are other normal events like ladder, daily wall, challenge race, restriction races and regulations for every level that lets you earn cash and increases your driver level meter on top. The normal races are pretty much similar where your difficulty also increases with the prize money. For example, the last few races of the 24 drag series ladder events pays you heftily making sure that you have plenty of cash to start racing in the next tier level. All the gameplay elements in CSR Racing totally make sense and nothing seems out of the way, everything that appears onscreen I related to some gameplay aspect or another. This is truly one of the best thought out racing game on the market.
The Economy in CSR Racing
Even before I explain the in game economy I would like to mention that CSR Racing is completely free to download. Once you start playing a couple of races you will notice that you are earning cash for every win. Cashes are used to purchase a number of performance upgrades divided into categories like engine, transmission, nitro etc. Another vital component of the economy is coins. Coins are harder to achieve as you need to level up, beat a boss or share this application with friends in order to stack them into your driver arsenal. Coins are also used for unlocking things far more exclusive like high tuned card, special decals, and vanishing the annoying time for some upgrades. The most vital reason as to why you should keep some backup coins is the fact that CSR racing has a gas meter and you need to wait for further racing or refill it with coins once it’s over. Sharing the application with friends in email, Facebook or SMS also refills your gas but by just one bar per share which I think is kind of annoying after a while.
So I think coins are extremely vital if you want to progress faster and aim for setting new records in Game Center. Cash and coins are a part of in-app purchase that offers a very decent price and I have been tempted to buy them at several occasions in CSR Racing.
Occasionally you will be prompted with lucrative deals for cars that takes up your coin and then there is this mechanic that asks for them to tune up your engine for higher performance. Until now, I found out that although the game can be finished without additional purchase of cash and coins but it takes a long time, especially at later tiers to accumulate money for your next vehicle upgrade. Now, there are lots more going on in CSR Racing economy system but this post is primarily a review and not a spoiler so I am just gonna avoid that part.
The Basic Gameplay and Graphics
Once you are done upgrading and selecting your car, it’s time to test your drag skills on the tracks. The basic gameplay is pretty simple and you will soon find yourself getting hold of it fantastically. There is a big RPM meter on bottom of the screen with gear up and down handles extending on both sides. At the start of every race you will be presented with an accelerator this used to control the initial shift. Controls are extremely accurate with realistic consequences. If your RPM meter crosses the green area it will lead to a wheelspin start that significantly reduces your speed. Once the drag racing actually begins there is no need to control the accelerator. All you need to do is press the gear up button at the exact shift time. To help drivers, the RPM meter turns green and prompts you will a bold text that says “SHIFT NOW”. Shifting at the right time is crucial because your car needs to have the right momentum to gain its potential speed. In-game you will appreciate the fine tuning installed behind each and every car, as no two cars are the same and they all have their pros and cons. For example I saw how a Mustang takes time to gain its initial speed but it outclasses most of the cars at high gears.
One thing which I didn’t like about CSR Racing is the same exact scenery for each and every race. There are these 1/4 mile and 1/2 mile races where I felt that the scene kind of loops itself after a few meters of actual textures and models. Thanks to the intense gameplay and awesome environmental effects, you hardly get a chance to appreciate your surroundings. The cars are beautifully rendered and look stunning on the new iPad. As a matter of fact each and every car have their own distinctive sound which plays a key role for timing your gear shifts. Races get more and more difficult as you advance and there is this intelligent camera that tracks all your drag duels in a movie like style. In case of close finishes the scene will actually slow down allowing you to embrace the last few moments before the cars actually hit the finishing line.
Once you defeat a boss you are presented with a whole lot of cash and coins. However, the boss will soon challenge you where the condition is, if you win you need to give these coins back but if the boss loses then you get his/her customized car. Here he game developers incorporated an intelligent stuff to gets some money out of you. In order to gain the boss car, you need to buy a super nitro pack that costs real money or else you don’t even stand a chance. It is really upto the user to decide cause in any case you need to buy coins to get yourself an equivalent vehicle from the store. Such intelligent integration of real world cash based purchase is something you will occasionally notice throughout CSR Racing.
Multiplayer integration Inevitable
One thing that surprised not just me but an entire community of CSR Racing gamers is the fact that there is no multiplayer to it. The entire gameplay structure is designed to give users an immersive multiplayer experience and it is certain that the developers are working on an update to integrate this much awaited feature in the future. Let us not forget that CSR Racing is a brand new game announced first at WWDC 2012 along with the game center demo. If you watched the full event you might have noticed that a fully suited driver came on to the stage and defeated Craig Federighi (nicknamed Hair Force One) in his game center profile. Craig declared that CSR Racing was a new title and their developers are working on this drag racing extravaganza for a quick release date. In this context I would like to believe that a multiplayer adventure where you can race your friends would take things to a whole new level.
I believe this review turned out to be a bit longer than I expected considering I am talking about just a free to play game that is less than a 100 MB in size. But the guys at alien games did a fanatic job in designing each and every little element from graphics to gameplay to music. It’s the non-multiplayer functionality that causes a bit of frustration otherwise I would have given it a 10 on 10. Overall, I do promise you that you will find this game very engaging and at times addictive. Go download this one for your iPad if you haven’t already and you will be delighted with the experience.