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Despite securing the official (and lucrative) NASCAR license, Eutechnyx’s most recent offering on the App Store isn’t a racing game, strictly speaking. Instead, NASCAR: Redline is more like a career management sim: as a fresh-faced rookie in the Sprint Cup Series, you must win races to finance new car parts and pit crew training sessions to climb to the top of the standings.
There are two phases to a Redline race. In the planning stages, players will research and equip new parts and "tune" their engines through a series of onscreen prompts, while races consist of adjusting tactics (which range from "Hold Back" to "All Out") and making pit stops. Crucial turns in each race are navigated through finicky quick-time events, but the bulk of Redline consists of budgets, car parts, and menu screens. That’s not necessarily a condemnation – career modes are common and well-liked additions to most sports games – but Redline is a muddled entry to the genre.
Sports management games hinge on a sense of forward progress and player agency, and with enough time, patience, and upgrades, Redline players will start winning races and climbing the standings. Because so much of the actual racing is hands-off, though, parts selection, tactics, and well-timed pit stops determine the outcome of each race. These systems are a bit opaque; whether you’re performing well or poorly, it can be hard to determine why, sapping some of the fun out of upgrading and tinkering with your car.
Season mode lets players control their favorite real-life racer, but it’s less engaging than starting from the bottom – the best racers’ cars are already maxed out with gear, so there’s less impetus to perform well. Unfortunately, Redline borrows an in-app purchase-centric model from earlier free-to-play racers, despite its premium price tag. Some upgrades take up to 30 minutes to unlock, but a quick injection of real money can expedite the process.
The bottom line. The relationship between player decisions and race results can be hard to determine in NASCAR: Redline, while vestigial in-app purchases put the brakes on what could have been a solid lightweight sim.
iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch running iOS 6.0 or later
Sharp visuals, a popular license, and a unique approach make NASCAR: Redline stand out from other App Store racers. Quick-time events are responsive on touch screens, so getting them right is satisfying.
In-app purchases are unnecessary and frustrating, and some of Redline's mechanics feel aimless and unclear.