Despite the overabundance of titles on the market, NetEase has decided to throw its hat into the ring with Racing Master. And we’re glad it did – because Racing Master just might become a genre-defining mobile game.
NetEase recently held a short, closed beta for the upcoming title, giving players a chance to check out the game before its unannounced launch. A few features were still locked away – including an intriguing Story Mode – but much of the Ranked and Casual multiplayer offerings were on full display. After spending several hours racing around tracks scattered throughout Chicago and San Francisco, I walked away excited for the game’s future and curious to know more about its upcoming plans.
Racing Master aims to be a realistic racing sim. To that end, the closed beta provided access to several officially licensed vehicles from Ford, Chevrolet, Mazda, BMW, Aston Martin, and more – each with its own performance and upgradable stats. Your first car falls in the C Tier – mine was a Ford Focus RS – although you’ll unlock faster, more exciting cars as you take part in races and level up. The core of the Racing Master experience is its racing mechanics, which are second to none on mobile. Races start with a few moments of “ghost-like” action, meaning you won’t be able to bump into other racers until the short timer reaches zero. This gives you uninterrupted driving time – letting you show off your skills and jump ahead of the pack without anyone sending you into a tailspin.
In order to win a race, however, you’ll need to do more than have a good start. Racing Master focuses heavily on drifting, and you’ll need to learn how to pull off the fun technique if you want a shot at first place. Drifting is far and away some of the most fun I’ve had in any mobile game – it’s simply that good. Tap the handbrake button, press the direction you want to drift, and you’ll send the car sliding around each curve. As you get better, more nuance is thrown your way, letting you pull off back-to-back drifts or continue sliding for an extended period of time. Mastering the drift is essential to victory – but Racing Master keeps things fun as you learn its intricacies. New courses were regularly introduced during the closed beta, new cars were thrown at me at a steady clip, and several game modes kept me interested in playing through the entire week. My personal favorite was Ex-Pursuit, which splits players up into three groups. One section is given slow cars, but they can get a head start on the competition. Then there’s the mid-tier group, which also gets a slight head start but has considerably faster cars. Bringing up the rear is one player with a supercar – although they’re forced to wait several seconds before joining in on the action.
You’ll then spend the next two minutes frantically trying to stay ahead of the cars behind you – with players getting eliminated for falling behind. It’s an incredibly fun experience, and one that both keeps you on your toes and forces you to stay calm and put your best foot forward.
Racing Master also comes with the usual assortment of Casual and Ranked matches, although neither does much to move the genre forward. No doubt the matches are fun – thanks to the buttery smooth driving mechanics – but each race during the beta offered nothing more than the standard racing fare. Challenge random opponents, race as fast as you can, earn points for placing higher, and slowly achieve the next rank. It’s not groundbreaking, but it serves its purpose. When you’re not on the racetrack, you can head into your Garage to customize each vehicle in your roster. Racing Master offers a surprising number of ways to trick out your ride, from upgrading its engine and tires to painting individual sections of the car. It’s unclear how often you’ll need to drop real cash for these upgrades, but it’s great to see a robust customization menu offered to the community. Half the fun of racing games is personalizing your ride – making it not only recognizable in the replay booth, but proving that your upgrade scheme is better than everyone else.
All told, I can’t find much to dislike about Racing Master. My time with the beta was brief, but left me wishing to get back behind the wheel once more. The only place it might want to spend more time is in the Tutorial section. The novice tutorials work fine, as the mechanics don’t need much explanation. But advance to the more complex sections and you’ll be left scratching your head as to what it wants you to do. Tutorials do come with short videos to help push you in the right direction, but I found most of these to be vague and unhelpful.
Instead, I simply did my best to complete each tutorial track as fast as possible – and it would often say I “Passed” the training, despite leaving me confused as to what I was supposed to have learned.
For a game still in beta, that’s a small complaint. NetEase and Codemasters have already proven they’re on the right track with Racing Master, and I’m excited to see where it ends up. Its adrenaline-pumping racing is only the tip of the iceberg, with deep customization, a variety of game modes, and an upcoming Story Mode. And with Codemasters’ history with the Grid and Dirt series, odds are good Racing Master won’t disappoint.