Spiritual Successor to WipEout Picks up Pace – Pacer Preview
Anti-Gravity racers are a style of game that was very popular in their day, particularly the WipEout series, with other notable inclusions like F-Zero and even Hi-Octane. Unfortunately, numerous attempts to bring the style back, such as Redout and Formula Fusion, never hit as big as hoped. Pacer is actually the follow-up, or more accurately the renamed and improved version of Formula Fusion, building up and expanding on the original.
This is the aim that developers R8 Games Ltd have set out with and despite the fact that I'm possibly the worst person alive at Anti-Gravity racers. Not only did I finish last at every race I had during my hands-on at EGX Rezzed, but I also didn't actually finish any of them. I was that far behind the others that finished the races, the game decided after about thirty seconds that it wasn't even worth me finishing. Go me!
Despite my being absolutely abysmal at the game, I can fully appreciate Pacer and its ambitions, with the quality already visible. From what I've seen, it's what you could expect from a AAA title, never mind that of an indie developer. Granted, this is an indie developer with talent that has worked on the WipEout franchise, as well as other high-profile titles like Mass Effect and Motorstorm. One thing they are pushing for is 60FPS with 4K visuals and they seem to have achieved that.
The optimisation didn't finish just with the art and visuals. To improve the feel of the game, the physics of the game have been completely remade to improve the efficiency of the hovercrafts(?) and how they handle while you're racing around. To be fair, despite the fact that I seemed to be inordinately attracted to every single wall of the tracks, everything was as responsive and quick as you would expect. You're travelling at stupid speeds so you probably need better a reaction speed than my addled brain is capable of. I spent more time hitting the walls than could ever be reasonable.
Though, I will say, it wasn't all as a result of my inability to navigate my way through the track at a higher speed than I could comprehend, about ten miles per hour. There was one time, surprisingly, that I wasn't actually in last place. Until the start of the last lap that is. I was hit by a weapon from the person behind me and that was that. I never did recover. As you could expect from the type of game, there are pickups that litter the tracks, from weapons to shields, as well as boosts that give you a temporary speed increase.
As well as making improvements to the visuals and physics of Pacer, R8 indicated they have worked a lot on revamping the single player mode of the game. I wasn't able to actually get hands-on with any of this, but what was stated to me did seem to be something that would work out for the best. There's actually a story, or stories, to be more precise. You'll work your way up from being an unknown pilot, signing for a team where you would run through that team's story. Only there are multiple teams, each with their own style of doing things.
From what I remember - though I could very easily be wrong here - completing a team's story will also enable you to unlock customisation options from that team for your craft when you're going online. What I know for sure is that Pacer has a number of customisable options, with five crafts that can all be altered in cosmetics and weapons. The developers are also committed to releasing more content both as free and paid DLC further down the line.
The features of Pacer, as seen on the Steam store page, as follows:
- 8 tracks with night and reverse variants - 30 racing scenarios in total
- 5 fully customizable Craft
- Garage for customizing Craft, setting Weapon load-outs and tweaking handling
- 10 Team Skins to choose
- 6 Race Modes: Quick, Time Trial, Clean, Speed Lap, Elimination, Endurance
- SinglePlayer Campaign with 5 racing classes to play through: from FF4000 class to Elite. Meet “The Beast” in a 1 on 1 challenge to win rights to the rarest of Skins.
- Online Multiplayer - 10 pilots - Lobby Host chooses Speed Class.
If there's anything I did have an issue with, it's the environments. While the game has very crisp and clean quality and very high definition, there's little to shout about when it comes to the surroundings of the track. It's not that they're ugly, just not exactly eye-catching in any real way. Either it's a futuristic city or there's a mostly brown environment with blue sky. Granted, this does seem to be a part of the game that has been optimised to reach the 60FPS, 4K, the developers are after.
At least this is what they seem to be aiming for when it comes to the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X anyway. Pacer will be coming to the PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles. With an expected release at the end of June, you don't have long to wait until Pacer hits your platform of choice and you start hitting every wall in the game.