Racing Tank review: a mobile kart racer crashes and burns
C. Custer | On October 3, 2013 at 9:00 am
On Wednesday, Vietnam’s Steam Studio (no connection to Valve) launched Racing Tank, a mobile kart racing game for iOS and Android. The game is free (it’s supported by in-app purchases) so I took it for a spin to see whether it’s a worthwhile diversion or just another kart-racing catastrophe.
Right off the bat, I want to say that Racing Tank deserves some credit for getting the freemium monetization thing right. It’s very possible to get enjoyment out of the game without paying for anything, and that’s something a lot of freemium games fail at. Steam Studio deserves credit for getting that right.
With that said, there are a lot of problems with Racing Tank from a gameplay perspective. It’s basically a kart racer; you choose from one of 20-plus tanks (they seem to control about the same from what I could tell) and take them out for a race against bots on one of five different courses. The courses are lined with obstacles and weapon pickups, and you have to try to blast the other tanks as you’re racing. It’s all pretty familiar territory except for one thing: respawns are not infinite. If you get hit with weapons too many times, you will straight-up die and lose the race instantly. You can also kill other tanks if you hit them enough, knocking them out of the running entirely for that race.
Unfortunately, the controls leave a lot to be desired. You can steer the tank, and control weapons that you pick up from the track and fire like any other kart racer, but your tank is always going forward; there is no way to control your speed or to reverse. This makes for frustrating times when you crash the tank and it continues to accelerate at full speed into the wall you just hit, and this frustration is compounded by the fact that the steering controls are a bit wonky whenever you’re in contact with something. In fact, all the controls are a bit wonky — I’d often find myself having to press the fire button several times before a weapon fired.
The courses have some infuriatingly tight turns given that it’s not possible to control your speed or brake your tank at all, and the frustration that causes can be compounded by the fact that often when your tank gets hit with something, it’s not clear what it was or how you could have avoided it. I often found my tank unexpectedly flying up into the air (a sign I’d been hit with some weapon), but in several dozen races I never figured out how to avoid all of these attacks. Nor did I figure out how to avoid occasionally driving off the course and getting trapped out there with no easy way to get back on track.
It’s definitely possible to have some fun with Racing Tank, but from a gameplay perspective it’s not the most engrossing mobile racer you’ll ever play, or even close. You’ll have a tough time playing too many races in a row without getting frustrated, and with only five tracks and no multiplayer options, it’s not going to hold your attention for very long.
Graphics and sound
Racing Tank isn’t the best looking game you’ll ever play on your phone, but it’s not the worst either. It reminds me quite a lot of a PS1 game; there’s a lot of flickering and texture popping and nothing looks all that pretty, but at the same time the graphics are never distractingly bad and it’s easy enough to follow what’s going on. The game’s UI is pretty intelligently designed and I never had much trouble following what was going on. All in all, the game looks competent, but certainly not amazing.
The sound is another story. I think there may still be a few bugs in the system here, but I played several races where the background music completely failed to play. That silence only served to highlight the repetitive and very-cheap-sounding sound effects, some of which were so bad I wasn’t sure what was happening: is that my tires squealing or a weapon firing? In other circumstances there’s simply no sound at all; when I drove into a pit of lava my fiery death was accompanied by complete silence: no music and no sound at all.
There’s no real story in Racing Tank, and but the game does at least have a semi-coherent sci-fi design about it in the way all the tanks and racers are presented. Many of the courses, too, have elements that fit well with the tank racers. If I had to describe the theme and content of the game in one word it would be: unremarkable. There’s nothing bad about it, but there’s also nothing about it you’re going to remember after you put it away.
Racing Tank could be a decent time-waster if you’re really into the idea of speeding tanks battling it out and you like the concept of perma-death in a kart racer. Otherwise, though, you’re better off getting your mobile racing jollies elsewhere, at least until the folks at Steam Studio have had some time to work out some of the kinks with the controls, graphics, and sound to turn this into a less buggy experience.