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iPhone  header logo

Speed Kills

For: iPhone   Also on: iPad

A slow death

Product: Speed Kills | Developer: Black Wing Foundation | Developer: Holy Warp | Format: iPhone | Genre: Action, Racing | Players: 1 | Version: US | App version: 1.1
 
Speed Kills iPhone, thumbnail 1
This is a freemium game review, in which we give our impressions immediately after booting a game up, again after three days, and finally after seven days. That's what the strange sub-headings are all about.

Speed kills - this is a true statement.

According to the UK government-run site THINK!, in 2009 more than 4,000 people were killed or seriously injured in speeding accidents, and a pedestrian is four times more likely to die when hit by a vehicle travelling at 40MPH than at 30MPH.

A serious subject matter, and one that lends its name to Speed Kills. However, as this is a freemium video game I suspect that grave edutainment will take a back seat to zippy gameplay and in-app purchases.

This is all conjecture, of course, so let's find out for sure over seven days of play.

First Impressions

If a developer were ever to ask, "would you rather our game loaded quickly or had high fidelity visuals?" I would opt for speed every time.

IAPs explained
Credits start at USD 0.99 for $10,000, and go all the way up to a whopping $500,000 for USD 9.99.

Vehicles can get rather expensive, but you get what you pay for: I could purchase a $120,000 anti-gravity monstrosity, and its sheer speed would undoubtedly have given me the edge in races.

You also spend Credits on upgrades and weapon re-stocks. If you really get into Speed Kills, the IAPs are a rather good value.
If you make me wait tens of seconds to play your game, that's not conducive to the quick-fix burst of gaming I want when I've got five minutes to spare. Speed Kills is very slow to get going, with multiple load screens to wait through before you can get into the main game.

If you're more patient than I am, the payoff is that Speed Kills looks and sounds great. The industrial rock and metal soundtrack blends with the apocalyptic visuals, and whether it's selecting your vehicle and series of races to take part in or racing down a scorched-future track, it's hard not to be impressed by what the studio has accomplished.

It does feel like you're racing RC cars, though, thanks to the camera's high position, which doesn't quite fit in with the rough and tough tone. In addition, though the menus look great, the options are all quite small on the screen, making selections a little cumbersome.

What I'm not enjoying at the moment are the racing controls. The default scheme asks you to direct the car's acceleration with a virtual thumbstick. It's not ideal, as it suffers from the age-old problem of giving you no physical feedback, so you've constantly got one eye on the arrow surrounding your car that shows the direction you're pushing in.

Day 3: Slowed down

I've got used to the movement controls now, but using weapons effectively is still a pain. There are virtual buttons for projectiles, traps that you drop behind the car, and spurts of Nitro. Again, it's all too easy to tap the wrong item.

The game itself is less easy, for a number of reasons, the most prominent of which stems from the freemium model. Credits are used for every purchase in the game, and although you gain them with each race you finish you don't earn them fast enough to stay competitive with rivals.

This means you'll be repeating whole tournaments just to afford the upgrades you'll need to keep up with the pack. It also cheapens the skills you'll need to acquire during the play - if you have a faster vehicle than everyone else, you're almost guaranteed to win.

To alleviate this a little, you're awarded extra money for destroying opponents and picking up credit bonuses on the track. It's a neat incentive to keep playing, scuppered somewhat by your vehicle's manoeuvrability.

It seems as though there's a slight delay between pressing in a direction and moving in it, meaning that you can't react as quickly as you'd like.

This makes avoiding bombs, grabbing collectibles, and correcting your direction when you're rammed by a competitor that much more difficult. So much so that I've found that simply ploughing straight through races works much better than swerving to nab power-ups.

Day 7: Pit stop

Jon Jordan invented a phrase, so I'm going to do that too. It's a phrase that will describe the feeling you get when you think that a game's structure and AI is programmed in such a way as to build up your confidence a little before throwing every cheap trick at you until you're beaten, often at the very last minute.

I'm calling it Gamer's Bane.

Speed Kills is incredibly frustrating at times: you're way out in the lead, you make one tiny error - like knocking into the inside wall of a corner you've taken a little too sharply - and the physics engine throws a wobbler, holding onto you for dear life.

You try to escape, but with no reverse the game thinks you're trying to move forward while turning 180 degrees. You shake free. You're facing the wrong way. You do this three more times before pointing yourself in the right direction. You finish last. You lose. You quit the game.

Often cars will ram you into the walls as they pass you by, and you rarely seem to come out of two-car collisions on top. I've even had moments where I've destroyed a car in front of me only for it to respawn several car lengths ahead of me on the track.

I wouldn't mind the grind of ekeing out free cash to be competitive if I didn't feel hampered by the controls and the general bias towards AI drivers. As it stands, Speed Kills is a tricky game, with weak handling, and the developer would like you to pay for the privilege of being "better" at it.

Speed Kills is a game I'd really like to like. I love racers, I think the art direction is pretty keen, and the music really is superb. But it's bogged down by naff controls, lack of challenge, and - paradoxically - extreme difficulty.

Oh, and those excruciatingly long load times. By the end of this week I was playing casual games on my PC while waiting for it to boot up. When you're turning to home computer games to pass the time between stages of a handheld game something has clearly gone very wrong.

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.
 
Speed Kills
Reviewer photo
Peter Willington | 12 March 2013
Speed kills - in this instance it's due to a lack of it, combined with rubbish controls, long loads, and grind-heavy gameplay
 
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