You could call Zynga’s latest release a drag — but that’s just because its all about racing another beastly car down the line for the win.
The mobile and social gaming company released CSR Racing 2 today for iOS and Android. The sequel from the NaturalMotion studio adds a bushel of social features and loving treatments of some of the world’s most amazing cars (and mundane ones as well). The first has more than 190 million downloads — over 2 percent of the world’s population have played it. Zynga is beginning to find its footing in the $36.4 million mobile gaming market, and free-to-play releases like CSR Racing 2 mix bleeding-edge graphics, tons of customization, and the publisher’s traditional social gameplay.
In an interview last week at Zynga’s HQ in San Francisco, NaturalMotion CEO Torsten Reil (whose daily driver is a Mini Cooper S that he recently tuned to 285 horsepower) gave GamesBeat a demo of CRS Racing 2 on an iPad Pro, showing off what he calls “beyond console” graphics at resolutions beyond what the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One can duplicate at this point.
“It’s using the full resolution of the iPad Pro [2,732-by-2,048 for the 12.9 inch model he demoed on], obviously much more than HD, much, much higher resolution, running at full 30 framerate,” Reil said, later noting how the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One can’t output these resolutions. “But if you look at the reflections on the cars, we spent a huge amount of time trying to get those right. We have different shaders for every single different part on this car [the “humble” Ferrari 488 Spider].” These models look photo-realistic, down to the carbon weave.
“We have one person who’s responsible just for making the paint look correct, a paint expert,” Reil said. “It needs to look like you actually own the car.” NaturalMotion licensed specific paints from specific manufacturers, and it made new tools to pull off the graphics (two of the engineers gave talks at the 2016 Game Developers Conference on how to make mobile graphics pipelines, Reil said). He boasted about how his team has pulled off car decals on mobile before console devs (Reil said it’s coming to the next iteration of Need for Speed).
You take on other players in drag races, timing your start to give yourself a boost before you speed from the line. In CSR Racing 2, you can also form crews (think multiplayer clans from other games). You can win money and experience (respect points) for your teammates, so a win for you is a victory for everyone. You can take earn perks, which give you special gear and more (and assign crew mates to tackle these). The top five players in a crew can show off their cars in the team’s hangout area. And crew championships, some of which have car restrictions, offer special prizes you can’t get in the single-player and standard multiplayer modes.
The restrictions in crew championships also bring in a strategic layer that other mobile games with “clans” don’t offer. One might be restricted to Italian cars with front-wheel drive, Reil offers as an example. If you drive a Fiat Barchetta, but others don’t have one, you can tell your teammates in the crew chat what cars to get (like a Fiat 500) to qualify for the event.
Crew leaders can also send out messages as push notifications — something clan leaders can’t do in most mobile games.
“From the get-go, it’s designed as a multiplayer, social, player together and against each other game,” Reil said. “Crews are rather central to the game to win prizes and earn cars you otherwise wouldn’t be able to get.”
It also adds a great deal of depth. You can tune these cars to amazing levels as you try to squeeze out as much power as possible — even mucking with the tire pressure or adding after-market parts from makers like Rocket Bunny. You must take weather conditions into account. You can also customize the cars, swapping out trim packages, paint jobs, spoilers, tires and wheels, and more — CSR Racing 2’s options for this are better than many car manufacturers’ configurator websites.
This customization was important to Reil and the NaturalMotion team. He’s a car guy, one who’s been buying car magazines for decades and keeps a 20-year-old Porsche 911 as his weekend fun car. Yet many sports cars are out of reach for me, a CEO of a successful gaming company. He wants to get a bit of the feel of owning one, and he wants to make sure players get that feeling, too.
“You want to feel what it’s like to race a car like this,” Reil said. “But you also want to feel what it’s like to own a car. A lot of this is about car ownership, not just the racing itself.”
CSR Racing 2 also has an amazing selection of vehicles — including some of the most coveted sports cars in the world.
“CSR2 makes it possible for our fans to experience what it means to buy, customize, and race a Pagani,” said Pagani Automobili S.p.A in a canned statement. “With only 100 Huayras ever produced globally, we’re excited to bring our supercar to the fingertips of auto enthusiasts in CSR2.”