There are all manner of great racers out there, with many of them letting us nail the apexes in the fastest street cars, explore the world in the sturdiest of off-road machines, or just rub metal with our opponents in the hope that we hit the finish line first. They come with a huge array of vehicles to use, expansive open worlds to navigate around, and real world tracks which look so good that we could well have been teleported pit side by the latest technology.
Rival Gears Extreme Showdown – or RGX: Showdown for short – is not one of those games. It allows us no chance to explore, we rarely have to hit an apex, and the range of vehicles is minute. Instead what it gives us is a futuristic racer in which cars have evolved to a point where wheels no longer exist, throwing us into a 1v1 drag experience and requesting we nail our boosts, dodge oncoming traffic, and make it across the line before any opponent – with a one hour long tournament structure holding it all together and helping distinguish the best from the rest.
For what it does do, RGX: Showdown does pretty well, but once you’ve got your very first drag out of the way, you’ve pretty much seen all that the game has to offer, as it then repeats the same old idea time and time again until the clock stops, leaderboard placings have been confirmed, and some experience points or rewards can be dished out. From there, it drops us straight into another hour of tournament madness, with the exact same objective in place… nail the throttle and cross your fingers.
Split over 5 different car classes – classes D through A and into S – the only real difference that comes about from each is the speed in which you go about things. Starting off in the lowest class, your vehicle is a rather nifty speed machine, and as you power up your boost, dodging between traffic like there is no tomorrow, you’ll probably sit back and wonder how on earth anything can get faster. But with each race and every experience point earnt, you’ll slowly work your way up the global leaderboard and towards the unlockable faster cars. Get access to one of those at the end of the hour, and a further, faster, class will open its doors to you. By the time you are found running through proceedings in the A and S classes, you’ll be afraid to blink, knowing that any slight mistake, and any slight interruption in your concentration, will see you crossing the line in second place. And we all know that unless you’re first, there is pretty much no point in even bothering to turn up.
Even though the menu system that plays out prior to each heads up is a fairly lengthy affair, each race itself is over in less than a minute, and this is where the draw of the one-hour tournament structure comes into play. See, it’s fairly simple to rack up the races, earning combos and extra points for every chain of wins to allow leaderboard progression. Hell even if you don’t win, a minute of your time wasted is really not felt too much, pushing you in to another race as the addiction takes hold. Initially this draw of quick fast racing is a real time waster, with minutes flying by as you attempt to move up in the world, but then ultimately the overall repetition of RGX: Showdown comes to the fore, and with little in the way of change between the classes, and a fair old whack of randomness eating away at you, it does all become a bit tiresome.
It is probably the randomness that sees the power of Showdown wane in the long term. You see, there is just a little niggling doubt in the back of my mind that races are in some way predetermined prior to you blasting away from the rolling start and trying to perfect your initial boost. There are times when you can run through a race without hitting a single piece of traffic, pretty much perfecting your boosts and feeling like a superhero, only to come out a mere millisecond or two ahead or behind your competitor. Similarly, you can smash your way through every car that comes your way, slowing you down and ensuring your time is a poor one, and then still finding yourself in with a fighting chance at the end. It’s a strange feeling, and one that I’m not overly comfortable with, especially seeing as this is a game that tries to play on the true meaning of man versus man in a drag race to the finish. Is it pre-determined, or has the rubber-banding been turned up to 11? I don’t know, but it certainly makes for some tight, fast racing; albeit still coming across as rather fake. I’m pretty sure that the development team at Shortround Games have also substituted the human element that was promised for AI competitors, and when you’re selling a game on the back of ‘Be a part of hourly online tournaments where you go one-on-one with opponents from all over the globe’, then AI opponents aren’t exactly what you have signed up for.
Yes, I understand the draw of the smaller games on the online circuit is a tiny one and the player base on some of these is pretty much non-existant, so something has to be done to keep things ticking over, but it just feels like Showdown has gone too far in the direction of artificial intelligence and races that have been decided long before the chequered flag.
If you can get past that though then it’s good to see some rather clever ideas imported into RGX: Showdown. For instance, the addition of four various mods that can be added to your car prior to each race are good, letting you add in a higher top speed, faster acceleration, better handling or more nitrous power for when you feel you need it. These can’t be used all the time though and a rather stingy mod credits system ensures that you really do need to hold these back for times of need. The question is, do you think you can get through the next race intact and without the need to waste precious mods? When you’ve got a huge win streak and score combo on the line, these are tough decisions to make.
It’s also good to see racers given the opportunity to unlock different vehicles with each tournament conclusion. Should you reach the specified amount of points within each hour, you’ll be granted access to a number of new vehicles, either in that class or in others, letting you try to own the next field in a new car. The problem is that other than a slight visual change, there isn’t an awfully big gap between each in terms of speed, acceleration, stability or nitrous, and this means that you’re just as well off with one of the early vehicles in each class as you are in the shiniest of beasts; negating the real need to climb the leaderboards for anything other than personal pride.
Being completely honest, with the opportunity to race in a first person viewpoint, it makes absolutely no difference to me what each of these cars looks like either. Yep, those running the third person cam will no doubt disagree, but even then, the sheer speed of each race and the concentration required as you dip in and out of the traffic flow really does mean there are better things to worry about then what a car looks like. That’s probably for the best too, because whilst the visuals aren’t poor, neither they, nor the audio, will ever set the world alight. But then, this is a game that could quite easily work with a couple of single pixels flying down the drag strip, and it’s good to see that smoothness of the race has been placed higher on the importance list than what it all looks like.
Any gamer knows that there are a ton of great racers out there, but unfortunately RGX: Showdown is not one of them. This is a game that comes with a severely limited premise and even though it’s initially very addictive, the repetition that it brings eventually wins over any racing dreams. With more time spent in the menus than on the track, little feel that you are ever racing a real-world person from around the globe, and even less ability to distinguish the various classes, it won’t be long before you hop out of these speedsters and into a vehicle elsewhere – one that delivers a much more rounded experience.