Drive or Die 3 is a singleplayer arcade-y endless racer, in the vein of games like Zombie Highway (minus the zombies, of course). Basically, you start with your car (in third-person) and an infinitely expanding road, and have to drive as far as you can.

It’s not easy, though. Obstacles are quickly introduced (most being other cars and caution cones), which become harder to avoid colliding with as your car speeds up gradually. A gas gauge also comes into play, which must be refilled by driving through gas stations on the edge of the highway. Damage your car by hitting too many obstacles, or run out of gas, and the race is over. As far as getting better cars to race with (no incremental upgrades), DoD3 scatters golden coins across the road, waiting to be collected. Pick them up to build up your cash to buy better cars. (Yes, you can get the coins through In App Purchases. Ugh.)

It’s fairly familiar stuff, so DoD3 throws in a couple of gameplay changes to liven up the experience, starting with “boost”. Driving in the oncoming lane(s) of a level will begin to fill up a “boost bar”. When topped off, you can tap the boost button to make your car scream ahead on supercharged exhaust and become temporarily invulnerable. This turns the game into a Burnout-esque minigame of “hit as many cars as you can to get gold”, and much like its inspiration, it’s fun here too. The way that boost is mixed with the gas gauge is also interesting, since gas stations are always on the right side of the road, and boost can only be acquired while driving on the left side. This makes for a challenging balancing act to play with. Go for boost, and you risk running out of gas. Go for gas, and you miss the invulnerability the boost offers, which comes in handy as your car speeds up and the obstacles/other cars come faster.

Instead of just having each level be a repetitive copy of the previous in everything but setting, the game modifies almost every level with different objectives. The “Classic” mode is just your standard endless racer, but modes like “Driver’s Ed” (drive through a caution cone maze) and “Death Race” (smash as many cars as possible while in boost mode) offer fun tonal changes. It’s nice to see that the game tries to keep some variety in the modes, instead of sinking into monotone complacency.

It sounds like the game is off to a great start, but flaws pop up early, starting with the controls. The tilt sensitivity is noticeably lacking here. It’s not broken beyond repair, but it is in need of more improvement. Making a wide, swerving turn to avoid oncoming traffic can be quite a feat to accomplish, often requiring you to angle your device much farther than is fit for gaming, and turning while boosting is just as difficult. This can be quite irritating, especially during missions (like Driver’s Ed) that give you little room to maneuver. More often than not, you’ll end up smacking into obstacles that could have been avoided if the tilt-sensitivity was better. And unfortunately, there’s no other control options.

The overall polish is also lacking. Aside from the control issues, the graphics are underdeveloped, and the sound is lukewarm. Oh, and there’s no way to pause mid-race aside from locking your device. That can get awkward if you need to stop during a good run. There were also some bugs in the gameplay itself, mostly in the collision detection department. I would sometimes pass through cars I should have hit, and sometimes gold pickups and gasoline icons refused to be collected when I ran into them. Exploits can be issues too. On a few levels it is too easy to drive on the edge of the left side of the road (and since one level takes away all gas stations, if your car has a good gas tank, you can just boost to the Gold with no problem). It’s not a huge issue on the levels that have gas stations, however, since you need to keep crossing back over the road to collect the gas.

As far as the In-App Purchases go, they’re pushed in the usual way. You don’t “have to” buy them, but since some levels remove all gas stations, you’re forced to rely on your car’s gas stat. If your stock car has a low gas capacity, you’ll run out of gas well before you reach the required distance for certain levels’ gold medals. You could save your collected gold for a car with a better gas tank, but the price jump to the “good cars” is noticeably hard to acquire solely on your in-game cash. This isn’t very problematic, since DoD3 is solely singleplayer focused (aside from the leaderboard). And since you can unlock each level by getting just a Bronze medal on its predecessor, you’ll be able to experience all the levels without needing to spend your real cash. I do have to slap the game on the wrist for including IAPs (and I have to call out the devs for having a million in-game gold valued at $99.99 real cash. Just no, devs. Don’t ever do that again.), but I do have to recognize that as long as you’re not obsessed with getting the gold, you can still have fun with it. (One more time though, devs. $99.99? NO.)

In Conclusion

I did feel challenged, I had some fun, and I saw a lot of potential. But recognizing it for what it is, DoD3 gets a delete. It’s got some good, basic gameplay, sure, but the iffy controls, bugs, a ridiculously costly in-app purchase, and a missing “final coat” of polish keeps Drive or Die 3 from achieving its full potential.