This problem is well solved in CSR Classics, where the drag racing is taken to a fictional “strip” (think Las Vegas). Players buy, improve, and race cars from a large catalog of classic cars, from traditional muscle (Ford Mustang, Chevy’s Corvair and Nova, and the awesome Dodge Challenger to name a few) to high end classics such as Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, and BMW, with a ton in between. Cars can be purchased in either “loved” or “unloved” condition. Loved cars look and perform a lot better than their unloved counterparts. As for myself (and many people who have become involved with CSR Classics), I prefer to buy rusty, sweaty, beat up relics and race to win money to upgrade them, making CSR Classics much more than simply a racing game, but one of collecting and building as well.

The racing dynamics in CSR Classics are deceptively simple. To begin a race, the driver (that’s you!) taps the gas pedal to bring the needle into the “green zone” on the tachometer, trying to keep it there as the counter runs down and the race begins. Starting a race in the green zone provides a “perfect start,” which makes life a lot easier. If the needle is to low in RPM’s your car struggles to get up to speed, while if you over-rev your engine before the start, you spin your wheels, losing valuable time until the wheels find their grip on the pavement.

One the race begins, everything remains based on timing, as you must try to achieve a “perfect shift” through the gears. A fraction of a second early or late can cost a race, especially when racing more difficult opponents. Race difficulty ranges through Easy (you can make a lot of mistakes and still come out on top), Challenging (a mistake here of there is overcome-able, but don’t make a habit of it), Hard (be on top of your game or you’ll go home a loser) ans Extreme (I’ve never beaten one of these and don’t even bother to try anymore.

As I’ve said, timing is everything in CSR Classics while on the drag, as there is no steering, braking, or acceleration (except for the start) to worry about. The range of difficulties of the races helps to keep your interest, however, as do the different types of races available.

In the “career” mode, you attempt to rise through the ranks in better and stronger cars, spending your cash to improve what you have and to buy new rides. Within each tier are a variety of races, including ladder races, restriction races, crew races, and manufacturer or car-specific events. CSR Racing also provides an “online” mode where the developers say you can race against real life opponents. This is somewhat disingenuous, as you do in fact race against other real-life players in ladder events for cash, reputation, and prizes. What you cannot do, however, is engage in a real-time drag race against real-life opponents, which is a bit of a drag (pun intended).

Like all games, CSR Classics has its share of problems. The two most glaring are the replay factor, which I have run into from time to time if I’ve played a lot recently, but I keep coming back. Let’s face it, there’s only so much timing and tapping a guy can do before things get a little boring. But, for me, a little time off and the lure of new cars (which NaturalMotion routinely adds), brings me back.

The other major drawback is one common in every “free” game that I have ever played, namely that at some point the developers make it very frustrating to NOT put money into the game. CSR Racing does that through the use of “gold,” which CAN be won in races, or earned through completing free offers, but that is an extremely slow and tedious process, especially since there are some truly awesome cars that can only be purchased with vast amounts of gold.