There are many options found within the racing genre. You’ve got the standard track based affairs, the slightly more adventurous rally bashing and then the good old open world extravaganzas that allow you to jump behind the wheel of your favourite vehicle and explore to your heart’s content.
Similarly, the options in regards vehicle choice is also huge. Standard cars top the list for most gamers, but in and amongst the multitude of racing titles on offer with the latest generation of gaming are those which let you ditch the steering wheel and instead strap yourself firmly into the cockpit of an anti-gravity, futuristic ship.
LIGHTFIELD though is a bit of a unique one. At first glance you’d expect it to be going up against the likes of Wipeout and the many clones the king of anti-grav has spawned, as the ideology that it delivers is most definitely similar. But then, in LIGHTFIELD, the track really is an open playing field – leaving you to race wherever, whenever, and however you want.
You see, LIGHTFIELD will have you racing on the walls and on the ceiling, on all sides of tunnels and across some of the most bizarre sci-fi architectural pieces the development team at Lost in the Garden could come up with. And as long as you hit the multiple checkpoints which are placed between you and the finish line, how you actually manage to get there is pretty much up to you.
Your ship however – the only ship in fact – is a bit of a snail in terms of racing pedigree, and it isn’t until you ‘snap’ your craft to the nearest solid structure will it become the raving racer you initially expected, allowing you to begin building up speed and momentum. It is with this snapping ability, and the chance to occasionally jump from structure to structure, where the real skills lie. You’ll find that twisting and turning like a madman is pretty much par for the course – as is getting completely lost – and it won’t be until you fully master the controls and fast reflexes needed will you ever see yourself progressing or opening up future track options.
As a hyper futuristic anti-gravity racer with a huge parkouring style twist, LIGHTFIELD comes with three game modes – Race, Time Trial and Multiplayer. Each will pretty much have you doing the same as the other, leaving you to make your way from the start line to the checkered flag as quickly as you possibly can.
As you would expect, Race sees you pitting your skills up against AI opponents over a set number of laps, whilst the time trialling option allows you to just fire out hot lap after hot lap as you hunt down numerous ghosts which all come with their own super speedy lap times. Everything you do earns XP, which in turn unlocks further racecourses for you to try and master, and as you learn these tracks and find yourself doing well, you’ll begin to find yourself placing high on the worldwide leaderboards. It is these leaderboards which are a huge part of LIGHTFIELD.
Whilst racing is usually the bread and butter of the competitive world, in LIGHTFIELD, I’ve found that the Time Trial opportunities are too good to ignore. Even without the draw of gamerscore for completing 20 laps in a row, the precision needed, and the overall appeal of the time trialling system, as you hunt down the Beginner, Advanced, Pro and Hyper times, is just too big to ignore. If you’ve got a friend or two who also has the game, then ensuring you come out on top with bragging rights is a bit of a big deal too.
Multiplayer works pretty much the same as the solo Race and Time Trial modes, but this time round you can have a friend to join you. Whether this be a local companion via the four player split-screen mode, or by inviting your mates in from the online world matters little as it’s great to be able to show off your anti-gravity skills to one another. In a strange call, the online multiplayer mode is limited to just friends though, and I’m not sure why the developers have decided to lock things down and limit you to only playing the game with those already on your friends list. Similarly strange is the fact that you need to close down and re-invite your mates whenever you want to change track layout. Just open it up, give us some racing options and let us compete with others please guys!
But LIGHTFIELD doesn’t stop there, and away from the speed of the racing comes a strangely addictive exploration mode that allows you to just sit back and relax for a bit. With hidden stars and secrets dotted around each of the huge track layouts, the draw of finding that next secret, gathering up the much needed XP in the process, is just too big a deal to turn down. Snapping to the track and utilising speed is pretty much removed whilst you explore every single nook and cranny, and it’s a lovely to be able to take your time to explore the well crafted, superbly designed arenas you find yourself racing in. Whether or not I should have found myself initially preferring the exploration to the actual racing is up for debate though.
On the whole, the racing found in LIGHTFIELD is fast, smooth and damn addictive. There are times when the odd stutter kicks in, and this is hugely frustrating when you find it coincides with a fast corner, leaving you to smash headlong into a brick wall. As you would expect, this severely limits any chance you may have of hitting a fast lap, and with time trialling at the forefront and centre of things, sees the enthusiasm for LIGHTFIELD slip just a little. I’ve lost count at the number of times I’ve been scooting along on a hot lap only for the game to freeze up for half a second and put me on the back foot. Thankfully no single lap of any track is awfully long mind, with the vast majority seeing point to point completion over in just a minute or so. It therefore isn’t the biggest deal in the world, but at the same time, any stutter is annoying.
Similarly, I’m not sure who from Lost in the Garden was responsible for lap time recordings, but the system that controls it all is far from perfect. Strangely it seems that times you set in races are sometimes separated from those set in time trialling, whilst should you pay the ultimate sin and decide to get a mate on board, setting a fast time in the process, it may well be wiped from the face of the earth forever.
It’s also a little disappointing to see no form of ship upgrade system, or even multiple ship types being included in the game. Granted, this may then skew all proper time trialling efforts, as the same old upgrades would no doubt be used over and over again, but it would be nice to have had the chance to learn how to control other craft and would deliver an extra string to the light filled show.
With beautifully bright, hugely abstract visuals, a pumping soundtrack, a superbly well designed menu system and a huge amount of addictive racing across well detailed tracks, LIGHTFIELD is most definitely one that the racers out there should give a go – especially if those racers are more obsessed with bettering lap times than racing actual opponents. The opportunity to mix the game up by slowing down, or speeding up, proceedings is a nice touch but it’s disappointing that the odd stutter and glitch appears. The multiplayer scene is also a massive letdown, but should you be able to look past that, then you’ll find a hugely addictive anti-gravity racer with plenty of appeal.