Every year Apple likes to use games in its keynote speeches to help highlight some new piece of technology or software. In the past they’ve used games like Infinity Blade and Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy. At the WWDC this year, they showcased CSR Racing, a game by Natural Motion, the developers behind the Backbreaker series, and it’s fairly obvious as to why they did this: the graphics in CSR are stunning. Some of the best we’ve ever seen in an iOS game. Unfortunately, when you strip away the pretty paint job, what you’re left with is a rusty and annoying in-app purchase (IAP) system that takes away a lot of the fun.
CSR Racing is an attempt to bring drag racing to the iOS world, and it’s pretty easy to just jump right in and play. There’s a bunch of different racing options for you to choose from. There’s regulation racing where you race against yourself to get better times.There’s Ladder races where you race against progressively more difficult opponents, and there’s also Crew Battles where you face off against an entire posse of gearheads individually until you finally get to their boss. There are also challenges and Daily Battles which you can only do 3 times per day. There’s 5 different tiers (or worlds) for you to play, so there’s actually quite a bit of content to burn through.
“Your cartoon cat decal intimidates and frightens me.”
Once you choose your car and the race you want, then it’s off to burn some rubber down the race-track and gameplay is super simple. As the countdown is going you can constantly tap the accelerator to rev your engine and get a better start, and then once you’re racing all you have to do is tap on the gear-shift at the right times for a smooth ride. If you managed to make enough money to buy some Nitro, you can also use that at the right times to give you a little extra boost. A typical race last about 20 seconds or so and it’s just straight down in one direction.
It’s a pretty simple concept and the game could actually be a decent way to kill some time if it weren’t for the ever present IAP system that’s riding shotgun with you the whole way. Upgrading cars, paint-jobs, buying cars, tune-ups, repairs…all of these things cost money, and some even cost gold which is even more difficult to come by then money. You do make money and gold in game by winning the races, but hardly at a rate fast enough to satisfy. And the game lets you know it. You are constantly being bombarded by characters in the game telling you to buy this awesome new car that you can’t possibly afford, or upgrade your engines or tires or buy other parts or mods to pimp your ride.
“Hey, I’m drivin’ here!”
Your options for ‘grinding’ to gain money are even limited as you can only race a certain number of times before you’re forced to wait. This is represented by a gas-gauge in the menu. Every race takes away an amount of gas and once that gas is gone you have to wait for it to be full again. Of course you could always just spend some real money and bypass the waiting period! The game also makes obnoxious use of social media by always pestering you to post your score or tweet about something awesome you did, and if you do these things then you’d get some gold.
CSR Racing is a perfect example of a game shooting itself in the foot. It was never intended to be a deep, involving game, but rather a fun diversion for a few minutes. The graphics are amazing, the sound effects spectacular and the gameplay can be extremely addicting. But the constant bludgeoning from the IAP system is truly toxic and off-putting. For a game that is nothing more than racing in a straight line over and over again for a matter of seconds, the fact that you spend almost as much time being asked to buy things as you do playing the game is simply not that much fun.