Race Track Rivals review
Race Track Rivals is a new Facebook game from Digital Chocolate. Unlike many of Digital Chocolate’s other recent titles, it is not a strategy game; rather, it is a 3D racing game featuring the opportunity for users to create their own content, and is available now in open beta on the social network.
Race Track Rivals is a simplistic racing game designed to provide quick, accessible automotive thrills and asynchronous competition to its players. It is split into three main components: the races themselves, the pit lane and the track editor. The track editor does not become available to players until they have reached experience level 4, but this does not take very long.
In a race, players simply have to use the directional keys on their keyboard to steer their car, the spacebar to brake and one of several different keys depending on the configuration to trigger a nitro boost for a sudden burst of acceleration. Nitro is only available in limited quantities, but can be replenished by driving over glowing blue powerups on the track. Each race sees players competing against three other opponents and unfolds over three different laps. The player’s opponents are “ghost” cars based on other players’ best recorded times around the track rather than live opponents, and as such this means that there are no collisions between cars — driving into another car simply causes one to pass through the other. The reason for this implementation rather than live synchronous multiplayer is to ensure players can always immediately get into a game. There is no sitting around waiting for matchmaking with online opponents — players are able to get into a race immediately, regardless of the time of day and the number of people online. After a race, players may optionally make any of their opponents a “rival,” which allows them to more easily keep track of their performance and even compete in custom competitions designed by them.
Between races, players visit the pit lane, where they have a variety of options. They can upgrade their car with new parts, customize its appearance and purchase consumable “booster” items; they can also research new parts and car types to unlock new options; and they can repair their car. This latter feature is one of the game’s more frustrating aspects, but also forms the backbone of its monetization strategy. Essentially, simply using a car to compete in a race damages it, and once it reaches a certain level of damage it is no longer usable until it is repaired. If the car is even slightly damaged, it cannot be visually
Repairs take a period of real time to complete, during which time the car cannot be used, or they can be carried out immediately with hard currency. When the player only has a single car, like they do early in the game, this means that the game is essentially throttling their play and putting a paywall up in front of them in a similar manner to an energy system. If the player has more than one car, they can simply switch to a new vehicle and drive that for a while, but it’s quite some time before it’s possible to earn enough money to afford one of these. This system is similar to that which Firemonkeys is intending to implement in its upcoming free-to-play mobile racer Real Racing 3, but the difference here is that there are only three different vehicles available in Race Track Rivals, while in Real Racing 3 the player will gradually build up a large garage consisting of a significant number of cars.
The track editor component allows players to create their own challenges and publish them online. Creating a track is a simple matter of slotting together a selection of predefined pieces and ensuring that it makes a complete circuit. It can then be published online, at which point it becomes available for other players to race for 12 hours. Players are able to customize the race, including the maximum “performance index” (a figure representing the upgrades and boosters installed on a vehicle) for competitors, the race fee and the prize fund size. It’s possible to re-race a custom competition as many times as the player wishes, assuming their car is still in working order.
On the whole, Race Track Rivals is a pretty good game. Its asynchronous multiplayer competition works well and there’s plenty of content to keep players busy for a long time, though the tracks are rather same-y at present due to the limited number of tiles available to create them. It could also do with some performance tweaking here and there — there was a fair amount of sound stuttering both when browsing the menu screens and in the game, though this did not happen consistently. The “repair” system is a little frustrating and could be made much less so by featuring a wider stable of cars and making them easier to acquire, but it’s an understandable inclusion to help the game’s monetization. Overall, though, Race Track Rivals is a good addition to the somewhat underexplored racing genre on Facebook, and it will be interesting to see how many users stick with it in the long term.
Race Track Rivals currently occupies the 100,000+ MAU tier with a rank of 1,075 and the 10,000+ DAU tier with a rank of 1,349. Follow its progress with AppData, our tracking service for social games and developers.
A good addition to a relatively untapped genre of social gaming.