Like so many, I’ve never thought of a mobile phone as a hardcore gaming device. Sure, you can play relatively simple games like Words With Friends or Angry Birds while you wait for your number to be called at the DMV, but if you want anything with realism and legitimacy, you’ll need a console or a high-powered personal computer, I thought. And so even with advent of a series of drag racing-themed mobile games over the last handful of years, I never gave it any consideration. But then again, I also have high standards. Allow me to explain.
I was in high school and college during the dot-com boom, when dot-coms weren’t the only thing booming. With the graphics processing power of personal computers on the rise, start-up developers from coast to coast were churning out PC gaming titles left and right. It was a wonderful time if you were into auto racing, as true, hardcore racing simulations, from NASCAR to NHRA to IndyCar lined the shelves at big-box retailers. These 3D games were highly immersive, realistic, and for the first time, allowed you to compete over the web against others from around the world. They were challenging to master, the physics were nearly spot-on to the real thing, and the tracks were 3D-mapped to near perfection. It was as close to the real thing as one could get without leaving the house.
The Burnout Championship Drag Racing series of drag racing simulations led the way in the late 1990s, followed by a number of NHRA-themed titles and later games produced under the IHRA banner. Each had varying degrees of realism and challenge, but all were highly addicting, and between those simulations and my later exploits in sportscar and Formula 1 titles, I racked up more time in front of a computer screen than I’d want to know. But I must admit, I got to be pretty good at it.
It’s been more than a decade since I touched any racing simulations, and it certainly wasn’t going to be a mobile phone that brought me back.
Then, one day on a whim, I downloaded the Doorslammers 2 app onto my iPhone to see what all the hub-hub was about. I’ll admit my expectations weren’t high. Without a steering wheel, a gas/brake/clutch pedal or even a keyboard, how good could it be? But my mind was quickly changed.
As you first open the app, Doorslammers 2 prompts you to create an account to help store your game data so you can move from device to device if needed. The main screen provides you with a simple set of options, include driving assistance on/off, music on/off, and your choice of camera angles for racing. You’re provided just enough cash at the outset to purchase one “Builder” car and some minor upgrades.
Now, this is where it really becomes evident that this is no ordinary, half-assed mobile arcade racer. Every one of the cars — and there are a lot of them — are impressively modeled down to the finer details, and the ’55 Chevy, third-gen Camaro, Chevy C-10, Fox-body Mustang, Chevelles, Monte Carlo’s and Buick Regals and on and on….there’s no question whatsoever what they are. As you scroll through the expanse of cars, you’re taunted with the “Restored” and Turn Key” versions of each car. The “Restored” models can eventually be purchased using cash acquired from racing and various achievements, while the “Turn Key” cars require an in-app purchase (read: real money).
As an aside, Doorslammers 2 is sometimes criticized for its use of in-app purchases for the more desirable cars — but keep in mind, the game is free, and it takes a team of programmers, 3D modelers, and IT professionals working full-time to bring it to life and maintain it, so a meager $9.99 to purchase a couple of your favorite cars is a penance for all the hours of fun you can have. You’ll blow 10-bucks on two beers at the local watering hole and have nothing to show for it one trip to the restroom later. A ’69 Camaro Pro Mod? That’s the 10-bucks that keeps on giving.
But moving on….
I began my quest with a builder car: a rear engine dragster. “That’ll be easy to make fast,” I thought. Each of the builder cars has 250 horsepower and runs right around 12-seconds-flat out of the box, so there’s little difference between them.
One of the other attributes that impressed me —beyond the realistic modeling of the cars — is the extra effort put in to make their appearance likewise realistic. Many games out there, as you change the engine combination or the tires, the cars still look the same. Those developers cut corners assuming you don’t care. But in Doorslammers 2, as you switch from 275 radials to big slicks, moon caps to double beadlocks, screw and roots blowers to nitrous or turbo, bullhorn to zoomie exhaust, the appearance of the car changes to match. It’s not a big thing, but it shows they care to make this thing as realistic as a mobile game can be.
Included among the cars are a number of real-life machines: Kye Kelley’s Shocker, BoostedGT’s Mustang, James Love’s Street Beast, the FarmTruck, Craig Sullivan’s Superbird Pro Mod, and — shameless plug — even the Dragzine Radial vs The World C7 Corvette.
There’s also a endless array of paint schemes and wheels you can use game cash to buy to customize the car.
I’ve got my dragster now and I’m ready to rock. I click race on the bottom right of the main menu, choose Practice/ Test And Tune, and off we go. The last menu gives a quick rundown of the process: right pedal is throttle, left pedal is the brake, throttle plus brake does the burnout. OK, got it. I’m given a choice of lane and away we go.
From here, you can adjust only tire pressure. Using the gauge situated below the tach in the top left to monitor tire temperature, I do a burnout. The dragster, much like the real thing that doesn’t have front brakes, immediately surges forward as the boils the tires, requiring one to turn them out near the staging beams to get them up to temperature. The door cars, as I’ll later get into, can burn the tires in the water-box and result in much shorter burnouts.
Using the shifter, you can click the car into reverse, back up, and put it back into gear to roll up to the beams. Again, in a nod to the efforts for realism, you can just barely flicker the stage bulb or dive all the way in and see a distinct result on your time-slip. As the light turns green, you release the brake, shift through the gears as the shift-light comes on, and get on the brakes as you pas the 1/4-mile stripe. That’s really all there is to it as a beginner.
As you make runs, the game awards you cash, for such trivial things as making successful burnouts, courtesy staging, your reaction time, shifting, and making safe stops. The money really piles up quick, and before you know it, you’re back in the garage buying a pile of upgrades to go quicker and faster.
The best upgrades out of the gate, in my opinion, are the line-lock and delay box, the former of which which will allow you to leave the line at RPM, and the latter which you can use to dial-in your reaction time so you can leave off the top bulb like in the real world.
Armed with those upgrades and a few others that got me down into the 10s, off I went into the online bracket racing lobby to toe-it-up with others racers on iPhones and Androids. Using the delay box and making a bunch of practice runs, it’s not too difficult to get your reaction times into the double-oh range consistently. With my relatively slow car that had me leaving first 99-percent of the time, I was almost unbeatable, going on long win streaks. But again, highlighting the real-life characteristics of the game, as I purchased more speed upgrades and went quicker faster, the less consistent the car got and the more rounds I lost.
I would definitely consider Doorslammers 2 challenging, but much like the real world, not any more challenging than you want it to be. The benchmark would be the Burnout series of games — in it you could get into bore and stroke, valve size, valve lift, compression ratios, intake pressures, and so on. It was highly advanced. Doorslammers 2 is advanced and provides a real challenge to go fast, but far from overwhelming. But admittedly, the most fun I’ve had is terrorizing people with a slow-as-a-slug, rust bucket of a bracket car.
The primary tuning variables are shock compression/rebound, rear gear ratio, transmission ratios, torque converter launch/stall/shift RPM, and instant center/ballast position, and wheelie bar height. You can also mix and match engine parts to alter the horsepower and torque curve to match your setup. there are also boost and timing curves for small-tire cars that adds another layer of complexity.
If you want to run in the 6-second range, it’s fairly simple with some in-app-purchased power adders. If you want to go deep into the 5-second zone, that’s a little more difficult. I’ve made an untold number of runs tweaking to go quicker, only to find myself spinning the tires, doing epic wheelstands, blowing the engine up, or just simply going slower with every adjustment. I tip my cap to the guys that have put in the time to run 5.40s and 5.50s.
The power adders — screw blowers, roots blower, centrifugal blower, and twin-turbo, nitrous, really bring the cars to life. Each has its own exhaust tone, and each drives like the real thing: the blower cars you just drive; the nitrous car has to be purged to get the nitrous pressure up to target; the twin-twin-turbo car requires you to buy dual rotor brakes, spool the turbos, and bump into the beams.
The game itself is good, but it’s the online play that makes it addicting — because it isn’t you versus predictable artificial intelligence, but you against real people with real racing strategies and driving tendencies. And it really shines in the bracket racing arena.
Right away, I saw racers trying all ranges of approaches — double-bulbing to throw me off at the tree, dialing their car down to wheel me to the stripe, dialing 20-seconds and motoring downtrack, only to park their car a few inches from the stripe. Without real cars and real engines in play, it becomes a hell of a chess game.
One can also compete in single heads-up contests or, for those inclined, in the online competitions held each and every evening with qualifying and laddered eliminations.
High on the list of features of Doorslammers 2 are the range of classes and race settings the developers created: you can switch between 1/8- and 1/4-mile; pro tree and full tree; there’s no-time racing, grudge racing (wherein you can bet game cash), 6.0 Index, Outlaw Drag Radial, X275, Nitrous X, Ultra Street, Outlaw Pro Mod, Insane Pro Mod, and Radial vs The World. Each has strict regulations on the car, the tire, power adders, and so on.
According to Doorslammers’ Jason Sellars, there are more than two million accounts on the second iteration of the game alone, and in my experience, there are enough racers online at any given moment to find competition 24 hours a day.
In closing, Doorslammers 2 is far more realistic, immersive, and addicting than I ever would have expected for a mobile game, and it’s completely changed my opinion of mobile gaming. It’s not just a gimmicky Need For Speed-like arcade racer, but something I immediately started coercing my fellow racing buddies to download so we could link up for some online chess….err, bracket racing. And if you’re really driven, there’s