worth playing | Switch/PS5/PS4/XSX/XOne/PC Preview – Formula Retro Racing: World Tour
Formula retro racing was released by Repixel8 in May 2020 and aimed to become a spiritual successor to Segas Virtual Racing. It performed well with F-1-style cars with an intentionally low-polygon aesthetic, but was overshadowed by a few months later Hotshot Racewhich was similar but inspired by Daytona USA. Undeterred, Repixel8 has returned Formula Retro Racing: World Toura game that aims to improve on the original in many ways.
Much like its predecessor, the game’s catch lies in its aesthetics. This is intentionally a game where everything is low poly. Textures are flat and angles are sharp, but there’s a vibrancy thanks to the use of bold colors for cars, tracks, and even the sparks. Using a low count on a modern game engine gives the benefit of really high frame rates, so the big win is very fast races with very responsive controls.
There are a few tweaks that make the experience feel better. For starters, you can drive both F-1 and stock cars of different varieties and from different eras. Most of the differences are aesthetic, but you’ll find that F-1 cars don’t drift. Drift mechanics are now simple, as a quick release of the throttle and pedaling again in a turn is enough to propel you sideways. The damage system has returned, but it takes a lot of hits before your car is damaged enough to explode. You can’t exactly drive recklessly, but you can crash into other cars and walls every now and then and you’re still fine.
World Travel has four game modes. Arcade plays just like its namesake, with some sensibilities of yesteryear. You get a rolling start at the end of the field, no matter what car and track you choose, and the goal is to finish the race in the given number of laps. As in many classic racers, you race against a clock that ends your race when it reaches zero, but passing checkpoints lengthens the clock. Finishing a race in any position earns you points, and those points are automatically used to unlock the next track in the list, until all 18 are open. It’s straightforward, but prepare to work hard to get first place. The game makes it almost impossible to get that rank unless you drive perfectly enough to beat the best CPU driver.
Free Practice and Eliminator modes are self-explanatory. The former lets you race on any of the previously unlocked tracks to get a better feel for the layout and learn how to take turns without taking damage. The latter is essentially a survival mode, as you try to last as long as you can before time runs out or you fall to last place at the end of a round. They’re fun distractions, but not something you’ll spend a lot of time on.
Grand Prix mode is a little different. It’s the only mode in the game that supports four players in a split-screen format. The frame rate is not affected, and the high speed is maintained, so you don’t have to worry about downgrades. The races start in the traditional starting grid and not with a rolling start. Unlike Arcade mode, there’s no timer and it’s much easier to compete against the AI, so placing in the top 10 is almost certain unless you set the round count too low. It’s great for those who want the arcade sensibility minus the obstacles, but the downside is that the arcade mode unlocks don’t carry over like the rest of the game. It makes sense since the scoring system and track order are different, but it means all your work in arcade mode is for naught.
One thing gamers might not have expected is the VR support. Thanks to the game’s low-polygon aesthetic, VR makes sense as it’s reminiscent of early attempts at the technology in the ’90s, but at a higher frame rate to enhance the experience. As with the main game, the frame-rate is solid and the rich colors stand out well on the headset. It also means the speed is fast enough that you’re likely to get sick unless you get used to the free movement in VR.
There are a few items that require some work. While the AI is varied enough that you’ll run into some bad drivers in every race, there are too many who take a drunken approach and skip all over the track to wreak havoc. There are also some inconsistencies in taking damage, as some courses penalize players for going a bit off track, while other courses are totally fine with that.
The game has already been listed in verified status, but those curious to play it on the Steam Deck will find that it is perfectly suited for the device. There might not be much to tweak on the options screen, but given the low-polygon visuals, running at a solid 60fps at all times is a breeze. Load times are virtually non-existent, and while the D-Pad control can be iffy, the analog stick, triggers, and buttons work flawlessly. Battery life is also exceptional, easily giving you six hours of play on a full charge, making it a title of choice for those looking for fast-paced racing action on the go. The only flaw is the lack of cloud saves, which means you’ll have to unlock everything twice if you’re playing on a different computer.
Formula Retro Racing: World Tour is currently in Steam Early Access but already has the potential to be a sleeper hit. The handling and the feeling of speed are well done, as well as the low-polygon graphics in combination with a high frame rate. The pacing ensures that everyone can unlock a ton of tracks before they get stuck. The multiplayer might be local for now, but it’s a ton of fun, and the VR mode is great for players who aren’t prone to motion sickness. The hints on the Steam page say it shouldn’t be long before the game is fully released and we can’t wait to play it when it does.
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