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iPhone  header logo

Big Win Racing

For: iPhone   Also on: Android, iPad

Making a loss

Product: Big Win Racing | Developer: Hothead Games | Publisher: Hothead Games | Format: iPhone | Genre: Casual, Racing, Strategy | Players: 1 | Networking: wireless (network) | Version: Europe | App version: 3.7
Big Win Racing iPhone, thumbnail 1
North Americans enjoy NASCAR, while Europeans like Formula 1.

Where one group of people prefer high-speed vehicles whipping around oval circuits for hours on end, the other prefers high-speed vehicles whipping around tracks with more than one type of corner.

For hours on end.

It's this former kind of competition that is the subject of Big Win Racing from Hothead Games.

The App Store description promises that I can create and build my own dream car, compete against others in world championship races, improve my driver, and more.

It all sounds promising, so why not join me for the next week as I put the game through its paces.

First impressions

When you begin playing Big Win Racing, you're given a starter deck of cards. These cards form your racing team and consist of mechanics, a racer, a sponsor, and so on. You then go out onto the track to learn the basics of play.

You select whether your driver will race aggressively at the risk of crashing, cautiously at the risk of losing position on the grid, or a mixture of the two.

There are Big Impact cards, and you can assign up to three to make the race (theoretically) that little bit easier. These give buffs to your car and driver, such as keeping them from harm for a whole race, or giving the engine just a little more power.

After a race, you can then use any Boost Cards you have to improve your team and car, and then take your winnings and buy more packs of cards. Your team will gain more fans after each round, and these acts as a form of XP.

At the moment, I'm having real trouble identifying the factors that govern performance. My racer is finishing in all sorts of different positions - whatever I do, it doesn't seem to make a difference.

IAPs explained
As you'll have already guessed, most of the game revolves around you spending money, and there are two forms of currency allowing you to do exactly that: Coins and Bucks.

If you want 50 Bucks, it'll cost you £1.49 / $1.99, but you also gain them slowly through ticking off achievements and levelling up. Coins are won in races, and can be purchased with Bucks. Both currencies are used to buy limited and single-use cards.
During one race, I played three Big Impact cards, including one that looked like it was quite rare. I came 7th. Immediately afterwards, I tried again with and used no Big Impact cards, and finished 2nd. When I tried again, I came 6th. Then, 1st. Then, 8th.

Same crew, same car, same track, different results.


Day 3: Big money

According to the author of this article, it cost $225,000 per race in 2010 to compete in a big-name NASCAR car if you were an independent team.

I feel like the experience of being gouged by a large corporation in exchange for solid performance during championship-level motor sport racing is replicated well here in Big Win Racing.

You don't have to use Big Impact cards every single race, sure. But I've found after a few days of play that you're generally more likely to win if you do.

So, you buy packs of cards and your winnings from races are consequently eaten up rapidly. Thus, you are forced to decide whether you want to spend real money on your team.

There's enough content here to encourage you to reach into your wallet, of course - there are plenty of cups to win, and special events in which to take part. You can share replays via Everyplay and you can compete against real-life racers.

And if you keep coming back, you'll be awarded extra packs of cards. But even with this additional boost, or by plonking down cash for more cards, it's unlikely you'll get enough cards to compete effectively for very long.

Then, you start losing more races than you win. Then, you run out of energy and can't continue playing. Then, you question if you might be a sucker.

Day 7: Slots racing

Over the the last few days I have saved up all of the card packs I've been awarded for free, and spent all my premium currency on tip-top boosters. I've edited my team so that it's the best I can field, and I've improved their stats with extra bonuses.

I've created the greatest team available to me and improved their chances of winning each race with as many Big Impact cards possible.

Yet still I can't consistently finish in the top half of the pack.

Everything's a crapshoot in Big Win Racing. The cards you're awarded when you buy them in packs are random; the position you finish in isn't under your control; the probability of your engine breaking down is impossible to discern or change. It's all luck, frustration, and paying real money on cards you use once and discard.

I've also run up against Renewals, a system wherein you can only keep your pit crew and drivers for a certain period of time before they become useless, even though you've likely poured a lot of resources into improving them.

Big Win Racing is a perfect example of why so many people are venomously opposed to the free-to-play model. This kind of pay to (hopefully-improve-your-chances-to) win stems from the oldest and most basic form of freemium - it isn't fair, it isn't good value, and most importantly it isn't entertaining in the slightest.

The game is polished and quite attractive, but you feel the hand of the economist in everything you do in Big Win Racing, and its reliance on luck strongly dissuades you from investing - monetarily or emotionally.

How are you getting on with the game? You can tell us and the rest of the PG community about your experiences by leaving a comment in the box below. Click here to learn about our free-to-play review policy.
Big Win Racing
Reviewer photo
Peter Willington | 3 January 2014
A cynical race team management game, Big Win Racing has you spending like Bernie Ecclestone, but any other similarities to motorsport are largely accidental
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