Before we go any further (because if you’re like me, you sometimes skip to the screenshots and get carried away), let me make it clear that CSR Racing is a drag racer — meaning that you only control gearshifts and NOS boosts; there’s no steering, braking or running opponents off the track. And while that may sound like too little gaming, let me assure you that the developers have made eked out enough fun from that simple gameplay mechanism to make this a title worth checking out.
CSR Racing puts you behind the wheel of some of the world’s favorite drag racing production vehicles, gives you access to a bevy of upgrades to take your ride to the next level, and throws you into a world of fast-paced races that are over before you can blink — are your reflexes up to the task of beating out the best track times?
Boss Alien, the folks behind CSR Racing, have put a lot of thought and attention to detail into this title, from the slick and usable UI to the surprisingly-not-annoying tutorial, to the quality game art. The vehicles in this game are stunning, looking as good as those from the EA stable and doing the actual models justice.
CSR Racing features a bevy of beautiful rides to choose from, including cars from popular American makers like Chevrolet, Dodge and Ford, and foreign delights from Audi, Bentley, BMW, McLaren and Pagani. All cars are available throughout the game, provided players can afford them with in-game currency.
There are five tiers of races which vary in difficulty, and vehicles are labeled according to the tier of races they’re suited for, based on factors such as their power, tire grip, and weight. Each of them also handle differently on asphalt and learning their ideal gear shift RPMs and other idiosyncracies is key to winning races as you rise through the ranks.
As soon as you’ve won a few races, you’ll have enough cash to spend on upgrades to improve your car’s performance, such as gearboxes, tires, engines, vehicle bodies, nitrous oxide and more. The store is easy to navigate and gives you a clear idea of how purchased upgrades will benefit your ride. I highly recommend picking up NOS as early as possible because you’re really going to need it. You can also customize your car with body paint and decals, and using the latter actually scores you extra cash when you win races.
Even though all you can do in CSR Racing is pump the throttle to start at the ideal RPM, shift gears on cue and activate NOS, the timing and strategy in upgrading are what make this really fun. Races are sadly just 10-15 seconds long, but those few moments are strangely exhilirating, thanks in part to the cool camera that shows both cars from one side as they nose past each other to take the lead.
As you advance, you’ll see where you’re having a hard time knocking milliseconds off your times, and that’s where some planning comes into play — if you’re dealing with a lot of wheelspin, you’ll want to get better tires and stay away from the weight-reduction body packages, and if you’re losing out because your car is underpowered, you could get new engines, intakes and turbos to help things along. There’s also a mechanic who can tune your ride to give you an advantage over a few races.
There are a few different race types which vary in difficulty and prize money — but they all play the same, except for a few half-mile races. You can take on Regulation races with your own car to practice and earn cash, make a name for yourself by climbing the Ladder which presents progressively tougher opponents and more money, and if you want to try out some other cars, you can check out the Daily Battles which you race using loaned cars.
As you gain experience and upgrades, you can try out the Crew Battles, which pits you against five challenging racers who you’ll have to defeat to advance to the next tier. These opponents really bring it, so you’ll want to trick out your car as much as you can afford to before stopping in for a race. Plus, you’ll need to beat the crew leader multiple times to get ahead, so make sure you don’t spend too much on paint jobs and save up for more NOS instead.
All That Glitters…
CSR Racing is thoroughly enjoyable all through Tier 1 even if you don’t spend a dime on it, but you’ll find that the game’s little hints towards spending a little real money become more insistent
as you go along. It’s one thing for upgrades to cost in-game cash, but it’s entirely another to make cars available for purchase in gold, which is ridiculously scarce in CSR Racing.
I spent all the cash I earned racing on upgrading my car, just so it would be fast enough to take down Tier 1’s Papa Biz, but wound up being too broke to buy a Tier 2 vehicle. You can’t sell your tricked-out car either, so it’ll just lie in your garage doing nothing. And did I mention the game displays crummy ads every once in a while too?
Here’s the thing: I understand that CSR Racing is free, but I don’t see why I have to spend money just to get through the game. In-app purchases should be designed such that they help paying gamers have a richer experience via unlockable upgrades or advance faster, but they shouldn’t slow down non-paying gamers either — that’s a tactic I don’t take kindly to. Why do game developers think I want to engage in some sort of commercial transaction every time I sit down to play?
CSR Racing is, all said and done, one of the most well built games I’ve played on a mobile device. However, the developers have baked in too many game currency dependencies that will keep many a gamer from enjoying this title fully. I’d be more than happy to pay $5 or so for a game like this with licenced vehicles, and maybe even a little more if it featured multiplayer mode. If you don’t mind in-app purchases, this is a solid drag racer that you’ll come back to often and find yourself honing your skills on. In fact, I’d recommend this even if you don’t intend to spend anything on it. Buckle up and floor it!