We’ve already enjoyed the delights of many huge and fantastic titles this year, but if there’s one thing that’s been missing in 2019, it’s the racers.
Sure, we’ve had the incredible rally simulation sequel DiRT Rally 2.0 and MX vs ATV All Out returning once more, but if you were to look back to this time last year, we’d already seen multiple racers by this point, so by those standards 2019 is surely slacking. In an attempt to kick things off though, developer 3DClouds.it and publisher SOEDESCO are here to save the day with the latest speed thrill – Xenon Racer. As a fan of all things racing, I found my spot down on the starting grid to see just how good, or bad, the latest track racer is.
So, the reason for it all is simple. It’s 2030 and two years since the World Prototype League announced that the magnetic levitating vehicle championship will begin. Due to this announcement we have seen all vehicle manufacturers come together to create one final unofficial championship – one last hoorah for the four-wheeled racing machines we’ve known for so long. It also allowed an early chance to test the new xenon gas power that would be powering their ERS battery operated levitating vehicles of the near future.
That’s the general gist of things, and that’s why you’re racing. Sadly though, as exciting as that all may sound, the overall experience you can expect to get out of Xenon Racer isn’t quite as enthralling as it is on paper.
When booting up the game for the first time, players are quickly thrust into a very forced tutorial, one which teaches you the controls bit by bit. This is fine of course until you realise the controls are super simple, and then it’s simply a case of feeling like you’re having your hand held. Far. Too. Tightly.
You see, Xenon Racer isn’t your typical racing simulation experience. It has no in-depth handling or physics model, and it isn’t going to punish you for the slightest slip on the steering wheel or for hitting that apex to hard. Instead Xenon Racer is aimed at the more casual racer, the arcade racer, the fan of all things fast and furious who wants to be able to relax and simply enjoy some racing. Initially I’m all for that, but fail to keep me occupied and bring an experience that feels repetitive and, dare I say it, slightly boring, and I, like many others, will simply lose interest. Unfortunately, that’s what you’ll find here, as there is little to keep you occupied beyond the opening few races.
There are number of options to choose from when it comes to getting started though and I guess the most important of these is the Xenon Racing Championship; the career mode of sorts and the place you’ll spend the majority of your game time. Aside from that there are options for Fast Race, which is nothing more than a no messing around option that allows you to get straight down to business, alongside Split Screen, Online and Edge Mode. Split Screen and Online are pretty self-explanatory at this point in the gaming landscape, whilst Edge Mode is a endless practice type affair.
There is however also a Garage and an ‘Extra’ option available, which allow for vehicle customisation and a view of all unlockable content available in the game, as well as the opportunity to watch the most impressive part of the game again – the opening intro video.
As the go-to mode, the Xenon Racing Championship mode sees players put pedal to the futuristic metal to compete in a number of different events with the hope of eventually winning the World XRC Hybrid Prototype Tournament. And yes, that’s a pretty fancy unofficial name.
From the start of this championship, you must progress through multiple events that appear in a Mantis Burn Racing style event web before eventually progressing all the way to the WPLA Final in Dubai. This will see you travelling across the world with events taking place in Boston, Tokyo, France, Shanghai, Miami, Lake Louise, and the aforementioned Dubai.
Sadly, whilst each of these locales sound rather exotic and exciting, the layout of the few different tracks in each location leaves a lot to be desired, with sharp and near unmanageable corners proving the most exciting part in an otherwise dull track design.
The gameplay itself is a strange one too, feeling a lot like a mixture between PS1 classic Ridge Racer and Windows Store exclusive, Asphalt 8. If you were to mix those two up, it doesn’t paint a pretty picture, and neither does the experience in Xenon Racer.
From the very first moments on any given track players will either break away from the pack and fly off upfront, or watch their opponents blast off to never be seen again – dependent on which difficulty you have set – all happening as you race along, with a limited number of camera options that fail to include a cockpit view, and rely on boost pads and drifting to charge the kinetic energy in your ERS battery in the hope that you can remain competitive throughout the race. That doesn’t sound awful I know but it’s not exciting either. What’s worse however, is that if you fail to master the drifting mechanic, which at times proves a struggle, chances are you won’t be making the next corner and will instead pile your futuristic-yet-suave looking four-wheeled racer straight into the barriers – just as A.I. opponent Dave Sharp shoots off ahead.
This in turn will see your car take damage, something which in most racers would prove a worrying factor as you’d have steering and engine issues to worry about. Fortunately this is an arcade racer so none of those usually daunting issues are present, however that means the damage indicator is a completely pointless inclusion altogether. Should you happen to cause enough damage that you lose all 100 damage points associated to the ‘health’ of your car, then you’ll find nothing more sinister than simply refreshing on the track with all 100 health back and intact a few seconds later. That’s fine if you don’t want damage to impact the racing experience, but if that’s the overall plan, why include a damage system at all?
Now whilst much of Xenon Racer on Xbox One is a struggle, there is one thing that I approve of and that is the sheer amount of customisation opportunities presented to make your car stand out. From the Garage option, you can change a number of different things including the colour, wheel design (although it actually means tyre), rim design, front, middle, and back wings, window tint and the type of ERS battery installed. The latter of these push the focus towards one of three categories: Boost Recharge Speed, Boost Duration and Boost Power, all of which are important given the reliance of boost to be successful on anything other than the easy difficulty. Whilst there are a decent amount of options here though, nothing you apply ever really makes much of a difference beyond the visual look of the cars, and it would have been nice to have seen some engine modification of sorts.
Finally and onto the audio, and it’s worth mentioning that unless you’re a big EDM fan then chances are the soundtrack isn’t going to be for you, given that EDM record label Monstercat are the creative minds behind the OST. For me though, it eventually gets to a stage where the thumping beats are simply too much, but if you’re a fan of this modern music, then this is one area the game will likely please.
Overall and if you’re after a racer, then maybe head towards one of last year’s many releases, you know, like the incredible Forza Horizon 4. As for Xenon Racer, it doesn’t match up with modern racers and is sadly one that will probably be forgotten pretty sharpish.