Posted: December 16
Got this from the humble Sega bundle recently, originally for (hoping for, and later on became true) Sonic Generations. I have always liked racing games in general and the Mario Kart series. I went into this game not expecting much... boy was I wrong.
Being honest, at first, I couldn't see how this game was good despite hearing that it was. The drifting felt strange as a Mario Kart player. The speed boosts obtained didn't seem very significant. I couldn't beat the 2nd hardest difficulty for my first session or so in the game... and this was early on in the "world tour" mode.
Then, I tried time attack for the first time. I was initially disappointed by how you were only able to do one of the three laps in a normal race; I wanted to run the full 3 laps. However, in the end, I've come to accept it as okay.
Anyway, I saw one of the top ghosts going unbelievably fast (to this very moment, I feel mostly certain about it being a cheat of sorts). So I tried getting better. After easily beating the "medium" ghost, I saw the hard ghost as my goal. After some struggling, I beat that, and... an expert ghost comes out. While not nearly as fast as the top lap times, I could not keep up.
The game had more things for me to learn than I thought. On top of track layout, there are things like: Switching drift direction mid-chain. Air tricks. Transform boosts. Utilizing the small hops in the terrain/water as a car/boat for an extra trick, while drifting. Risk boosts in a plane. Boost levels beyond the stated 3 from drifting. Using a boost/drift boost to evade the remote control item. Holding drifts or not drifting on certain parts of tracks for more speed than if I let go of a boost. Being able to drift while not holding the accelerator to make tighter turns. Those are the things I learned in my 28 hours according to steam, 20 hours in game time "journey". In that order as well.
As a fan of racing and going fast, all this was a grand learning experience. The tracks are very good overall; I loved how each lap could (and usually are) a different experience. It's a shame they even brought back 4 old tracks (20 total) from the previous iteration of this game where there's only a car section. Those are by far my least favorite tracks, since they feel so bland and boring.
It's also a shame there are only 20 tracks too (1 more if you count DLC I believe). (No I don't count mirror versions). The 16 tracks that nearly all change each lap are amazing to go through the first time. Then, after learning all their intricate details, maximizing your speed in each is great fun. They are all beautiful and fairly colorful. I want more; double that. Sumo entertainment (makers of this game) can make great tracks.
That doesn't even touch on the actual game experience as a whole.
World Tour, the "main" mode features a variety of race types to help get you to understand the game's mechanics. From regular races with items, boost-only races, shooting at a tank, and dumbed down time attack ghosts, there's a lot to go through. You don't even unlock the ability to do the hardest difficulty until you complete most of the mode in the first place. This is a mostly good thing to me at least. I definitely would not have had any chance of winning had I not learned from struggling with the 2nd hardest difficulty.
You unlock nearly all characters from World Tour mode as well. For a grand total of 23 (no DLC), each feels similar enough as a whole, but each one really does have slightly different characteristics... even if 2 characters stats are the same. As you use each character, they can "level up" to obtain mods, which alter their stats a bit. The best ones, especially when you play the game seriously, are locked behind obtaining the max level and/or progressing in World Tour though. You likely won't set great time attack records without them. This is a mostly good thing, but I feel the unlocks for the best mods should not always have been last.
Then there's your standard grand prix mode. Since I completed the vast majority of world tour on the hardest difficulty before touching grand prix, grand prix wasn't so bad. However, the computers definitely cheat. You cannot outrun them no matter how fast you are versus the world. They also will throw items at you at bad times in most cases. A lot of the time, you will have to shoot the cpu ahead of you just before crossing the finish line to obtain first place. Mercifully, the AI does seem to have leeway on which one is "fast" for the race, so you can still take 1st overall if you just race well.
Speaking of items, they're very standard and a lot less powerful than in other games of this type (...well, Mario Kart series). They work in a close/relatively close race, but if one gets far enough ahead, hardly any items will be able to stop a player from racing as well as they can. Great in single player (not that you'll ever be able to utilize that since they cheat), but multiplayer kind of suffers from it.
Multiplayer has some players, but not much. It's not the most fleshed out option. It's also an older game now, so that's expected. It's kind of a slow process overall, but the races run more smoothly than expected even if someone else has a seemingly worse connection. Sadly, the largest race I've been in only consisted of about 6 players. I got into a lobby that was full, only to have the game crash before the race started. While it was fun, it doesn't have much longevity. Now that I am proficient at all tracks, skill/track knowledge makes a rather large difference in how well you do online. As mentioned previously, only a couple items, if that, can affect a far-ahead front runner. With a large enough lead, the leader will most likely keep extending it if racers behind don't have the skill to keep/catch up.
The only truly negative aspect of this game, if that, would be some silly achievements. Having 4 people play locally is out of the question, given the lack of controllers/keyboards/usb ports. Investing more money just for that would be silly. Then there's luck based things, like hitting from a long distance. I wish to 100% achievement the game (as I've 101% completed the game), but they really add nothing to the experience.
Overall, for how cheap I personally got this game, it's a great purchase with enough surface allure and depth to keep you playing, should you choose to get into it. I would definitely have paid a bit more for it (I'm a cheap gamer nowadays). It's a somewhat old game now, but it's definitely worth your time to check out if you're a fan of racing.