Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Wii U review: Fast Racing Neo

In an era where futuristic arcade racers like F-Zero and Hydro Thunder have largely disappeared, Fast Racing Neo seeks to reignite that spark of wonder and excitement these titles of yesteryear once offered. At first glance, Fast Racing Neo might look like a direct F-Zero successor under a different name and from a different developer. The game boasts a dozen hover racing vehicles, tracks vary from desert domains to space stations, slick ice-capped mountains, mining facilities connected by giant tubes, and jungle vistas with ninety degree inclines.

Each of these vehicles handles a bit different from the next. Some are quick on acceleration, but have lower top speeds, and vice versa. Some handle sharp turns on a dime, while others have longer and heavier frames that force a larger turn radius. But each vehicle is capable of blazing through gorgeous environments at incredible speeds, all without dropping the framerate below a perfect sixty frames per second. It’s a bit of a shame that the vehicles can not be given alternate color schemes, but their names and designs do well to pay homage to the era of gaming that inspired them.

Track layouts similarly feel the part of F-Zero GX’s offerings, and are, in some cases, even more challenging when attempted at the higher speed settings. Not unlike Mario Kart, the Subsonic, Supersonic, and Hypersonic ‘difficulties’ have less of an impact on the capabilities of the opponent racers’ A.I., but rather increase the speed at which everyone zips along the track. Fast Racing Neo avoids a ‘rubber-band’ catch-up system, so there are rarely rival racers that follow closely behind you for the four tracks within any single cup. This of course also means that you as a player still need to shoot for the front of the pack, as the overall rankings are less predictable than in other arcade racers.

Fast Racing Neo controls with buttery-smooth precision, though as mentioned, no two vehicles control in quite the same fashion, so it may take a few runs to get the feel for which vehicle is best suited to your personal play style. Similarly, each course dishes out something new as you progress, and the best way to beat the competition is learning a track’s ins and outs through a trial-by-fire approach. Fast Racing Neo, oddly enough, also gives a nod or two to Ikaruga and other shoot-‘em-up games, with the incorporation of a color-shift system. Certain boost and jump pads are blue, others orange, and you must shift between the two on the fly to make the most of these. Jewels scattered across the track, meanwhile, will fill up your boost gauge, which you can then utilize whenever you so choose.

In the event that you crash while attempting a jump, the game quickly respawns you at the section of the race track closest to where your machine exploded. You are granted a small amount of boost to try and catch back up with the competition. An unlockable Hero Mode ups the difficulty even further, as it demands players manage their boost meter as a shield meter as well (not unlike the F-Zero series), as well as finish in first place to further progress. It’s a bonus mode for the most determined of players, those who haved proved their skill by completing all of the previous difficult settings.

Fast Racing Neo does include online play, wherein players vote from a limited selection of courses. Their vote is then cast into a pool with the votes from each of the other players, and selected roulette-style, not unlike Mario Kart Wii’s online selection process. However, there is currently no way to vote for the difficulty/speed setting, and the game appears to default to the lower end of that. Despite rather bare-bones menus, the game makes up for this with vehicles and courses being covered in gorgeous, shiny visuals, making Fast Racing Neo one of the best looking titles on any console this generation yet. The techno soundtrack is a great, adrenaline-pumping match to the game’s sci-fi setting, and further cements Fast Racing Neo as a worthy successor to a genre that has largely fallen into obscurity.

My rating: 9 (out of 10)

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