Glu hits the freemium motor track in Rogue Racing

Free-to-play games have a tremendous potential to be fantastic deals due to their optimal price tag. That said, there is often a challenge in finding that sweet spot between how much in-app content need be purchased without limiting the game in general. Glu Mobile’s new iOS release, Rogue Racing, walks that line a bit hap-hazardly. Well-paced and visually appealing for a free mobile racer, it presses a bit too hard in trying to get players to pay-to-play in a way that hinders the experience.

Hosting a feel not terribly dissimilar to the core of Need for Speed, players of Rogue Racing will find themselves amidst city streets and the world of illegal street racing. As far as the driving goes though, it does require some getting used to. Players will get to opt for one of four control schemes that make use of different steering mechanics such as sliders or tilt controls. Each one differs enough to satisfy different play styles, but all do feel a bit sensitive at first. Regardless, once a handle is gotten on everything, it’s not too bad.

It’s disappointing that the game has no real drifting mechanics (to a degree, such activates on its own with high speed turns, but little real control is granted), but it does offer a decent racing style. The environments are of a good size and quality, and each race is relatively quick and fast-paced feeling. Along with the need to dart in and out of the occasional bit of traffic, it’s not a half-bad experience.

Unfortunately, the quality aspects of Rogue Racing are often overshadowed by the screaming presence of premium content. As players race, they earn experience and money to spend on new, unlockable cars and aftermarket parts to improve their vehicle. Though it takes a little while to afford even one part, that isn’t so much the problem. The problem is that all the other vehicles in a race are physically faster than the player early on.

Rogue Racing

To paint an example, users could have a lead, make zero driving errors, and a car several seconds behind will still pass them most of the time. The prospect of losing isn’t the terrible thing though, it’s the fact that new players are set at a distinct disadvantage; and one that isn’t even slight. Free-to-play games are supposed to be enjoyable in their free form, using that enjoyment to coax users into spending more in order to make it more enjoyable. Instead, Rogue Racing penalizes its players. Consider it like positive reinforcement versus negative reinforcement. That former is what freemium games should use to coax premium purchases.

The other major downside is that there is a very limited number of levels to race on. Players start with only two (a third can be purchased), and even though there are different roads in each level to race through, it becomes tiresome to see the same environments over and over again. Such is made even more annoying by the fact that players will have to repetitively race several times to earn enough money for the noted upgrades.

Rogue Racing

For what is present though, the quality is decent. Once the playing field has been leveled, the races can actually be quite intense. As an added point of style, the NPC cars play surprisingly dirty. They do not simply try to pass players. Instead, they will ram anything in their way and even often send busses or semi-trucks out of control to deter approaching racers. Whether or not this is an intentional design is hard to say, but it is pretty cool all the same.

Rogue Racing has other perks too. Along with a great visual design, the sound is equally high quality and players can even sync up the app with their iTunes library. Along with this, there are several customization parts that users can purchase to completely change the look of their cars. This includes things like decals, paint jobs, and even neon lighting.

Despite its plusses, whether or not a person will like Rogue Racing will depend upon whether or not they like freemium games in general. For what it is, the Glu Mobile title is enjoyable with decent controls, a quality style, and some interesting AI design. That said, it does have the typical repetitiveness of free games, and the app feels like it actually punishes players for not making purchases. It also doesn’t help that the number of tracks are unacceptably limited. All things considered, Rogue Racing feels about average at best.