When NaturalMotion's CSR Racing first appeared on the App Store, we mistook it for a driving simulator attempting to unseat Firemint's Real Racing franchise, another Gran Turismo-inspired clone to toss onto the pile. Turns out, it's anything but. This free-to-play iPhone and iPad game is all about drag racing, where one-on-one competitions last less than 30 seconds, yet there's a solid amount of depth underneath the hood that'll keep players tweaking their muscle machines for hours. Whether or not they intend to spend money upgrading, though, could make or break the experience.
That said, CSR Racing pits players against one computer opponent per race. You view the action from a spectator's position, with the ability to follow your chosen ride down the street. To that end, each race is a mini-game of sorts, where the key to victory involves shifting at the precise moment the app instructs you to shift. The short window of time to achieve this, however, makes CSR Racing a bit trickier than expected. Kick things into second gear too early or late, and you may lose a race mere seconds after it began.
With this in mind, it's all about purchasing the ideal car from a handful of manufacturers (Audi, Nissan, BMW, Chevrolet, Ford, GM, Mini) and then acquiring the necessary upgrades to gain that all-important edge. It's here where CSR Racing shines, since you're able to change a car's tires, gear box, engine, intake, turbo, nitrous and the body, where each adjustment will affect vehicle performance. In addition, and this is more for aesthetics, you have the option of swapping out paint jobs and creating custom license plates.
Naturally, those aforementioned upgrades are expensive, and you'll need a sizable amount of virtual loot to compete against the toughest street racers. You earn money winning races, but it'll take a huge amount of grinding to do this, and even then, you may slam into a figurative wall. On that note, the developers baked in-app purchases into CSR Racing, giving you the chance to pick up more cash or gold as you see fit, with prices that range from $2.99 to $99.99. Hell, you'll even need money to pay for gas. That's right, your car's tank eventually goes bone dry. At least on the positive side, filling up won't break the bank.
Admittedly, spending real dough is where we sort of have a love/hate relationship with this game. Although we appreciate NaturalMotion's decision to release it free of charge, there comes a point where IAP feels like a necessity to progress, instead of being an option. Seriously, hiring a mechanic to tune our car for three pieces of gold? Come on, now.
At the same time, there's no denying CSR Racing's appeal to gear heads. Not only that, but it's quite impressive visually, with realistic automobiles, detailed (albeit repeating) tracks and excellent lighting and reflection effects. The game looks drop dead sexy.
On that note, CSR Racing isn't the best driving game on the App Store, but it's still one players should check out, especially if they're huge car fanatics. Now all we need is head-to-head online/offline multiplayer, and we'll be set.
What's Hot: Free-to-play and gorgeous drag racing title, solid lineup of cars to choose from, having to refill one's gas tank is a nice touch, plenty of available upgrades.
What's Not: Heavy reliance on in-app purchases, no multiplayer whatsoever, could use more cars.