Over the years many racing titles have vied for the crown of being the ultimate racing game; the likes of the Forza Motorsport series, its open world cousin Horizon, the pure F1 and rally experiences created by Codemasters and even the latter’s rebooted GRID series all immediately spring to mind. And for various reasons each could well be considered the ultimate racer. But now there’s a new kid on the block and this one, by its very name, promises the grandest of racing options. Is Ultimate Racing 2D really worthy of the title though?
Well, by now you’ve probably had a quick glance at the screenshots accompanying these words and have probably fairly swiftly been able to make up your own mind in order to decide the answer to that question. But hidden away beneath the simplicity of the visuals and frankly utterly dire audio is a racing experience that may well appeal to many. In fact, credit has to go out to the team at Applimazing for having the balls to move away from the mobile scene and to throw this old school top-down racer out onto the hardcore console market. For while it’s in no way the ultimate racer that the title suggests, a fair bit of fun can be had from it… at least for a little while.
Ultimate Racing 2D runs as a top-down racer – no surprises there – pushing you through no less than 35 different racing classes and more than 40 tracks to ensure that you get the chance to become that ultimate racer. With roots embedded deep in the mobile scene, this extended version of the hit mobile title Formula Racing 2D provides much more content for the buck requested, but even then manages to fall short of what is expected of a modern day console experience.
From the get-go it’s obvious that the budget behind this title is a small one, and that comes across initially in terms of the visuals – both in the basic but workable menu screens, and then how the full racing action plays out. With tiny cars placed onto a track, before requesting you to take your own specific motor around as fast as possible, at no point would any gamer preferring to spend their time with an Xbox One think of this as anything other than serviceable in terms of the visuals. And even then that would be pushing it. It’s without a doubt one of the simplest looking games available from the Xbox Store, but that does at least ensure that the game runs nice and smoothly throughout. Rarely will you see any form of bug, glitch or tear disrupting the action.
But just as you begin to align yourself with the simplicity of the visual vibe, the audio that kicks in is nothing but atrocious. With 35 car classes to enjoy – although admittedly not all are ‘cars’ – the sounds that emit from the racetrack as you go about your business pretty much boil down to a variety of engine screams, pitched higher or lower as the development team have seen fit. Throw in some tyre squeal and the odd sound of metal bashing on metal and it has to be said that the audio system in play is by far the weakest element of Ultimate Racing 2D.
So, this is a game that is not off to a good start, but frankly it shouldn’t be judged on visuals and audio, and it’s nice to see that things pick up – a little – from there on out.
Working mostly as a single player experience – although local multiplayer for up to 8 players is in place should the need arise – to become the ultimate racer you’ll need to partake in a number of races spread across multiple modes. The now standard Quick Race is available for anyone wishing to waste a minute or two honing their skills, letting you pick a vehicle class, specific team from in that class and a track of your choosing, before taking down all opponents across your specified number of laps – all the way up to a giddy 250 laps should you wish to do so. With a spectator mode in place for those too lazy to actually compete themselves (I mean… seriously?!), and qualifying options, tyre wear, boost and a variety of weather elements available if required, there’s certainly a bit of depth to what Ultimate Racing 2D brings. Most of these options merge over into the very basic Championship mode, and the much deeper, much more relevant, main Career too.
It is the latter of these in which the vast majority of your time in Ultimate Racing 2D will take place, with an Event Mode, Season Mode and Coin Mode available for action. Again, the Event Mode is the deepest of these, giving you the chance to work your way from the bottom of the racing ladder in the Go-Karts, through Quad racing and Speedway Trucks, into Monster Trucks, Police Cars, Speedway Bikes, and proper Formula categories, eventually ending up as a Formula A driver. With 35 classes in all, it’s going to take you some time to reach that pinnacle of the racing scene. Whether you prefer to buy your way through these classes with in-game coinage, or wish to run with the fixed options that the development team prefer to push out, is your choice, but personally I’ve found that taking part in races, earning cash and slowly but surely purchasing quicker cars and classes is the most exciting route to take.
The Season mode which sits alongside this does pretty much as you would expect, hammering home a number of seasons in which you are given career objectives to nail. Alternatively, the Coin mode asks you to earn, spend and unlock your way through the vehicular classes.
All of the racing on track in all of the modes available in Ultimate Racing 2D is exactly the same as the next – fast, frantic racing that comes with a decent degree of rubberbanding. Well sized tracks are also present to ensure the field is consistently kept tight. And when you start considering that tyre wear plays a key role in what happens, as does changeable weather conditions, it’s great to see that a bit of strategy and tactical nous plays a part at times. Remember back to Lewis Hamilton’s initial championship winning season in 2008 when the field were split on tyre strategies and the Brazilan weather caused havoc? You’ll get that feeling here with Ultimate Racing 2D, with much of your success dependent on being on the right tyres at the right time. And if truth be known, there’s nothing better than nailing a tyre call, hitting the optimum pitstop, and carving your way back through the field as others start to struggle with grip.
The F1 vibe that is hammered home is also well apparent in a few other areas too, and I’d go as far to say that the team at Applimazing are quite obviously big F1 followers. For instance, the team colours that are available see the fastest cars in Ferrari red and Mercedes silver, the midfield teams coming in a glorious yellow or papaya glow – Renault and McLaren – whilst the likes of F1’s own Pink Panthers, Toro Rosso, and even the Alfa’s and Williams are all cleverly designed. Obviously with no license as such, name changes are more than commonplace, but as someone who grew up with the racing titles of the early 1990s and who enjoyed seeing Nijel Mainsell, Crashhard Banger and Ayrton Sendup on the Super Cars 2 grid, I don’t mind that at all.
Even more interesting are the tracks on which the action takes place, and again – without licensing – some clever artistic flair has had to come into play. This means that whilst Albert Park in Australia can’t be called Albert Park, the Australian track bears a striking resemblance to the F1 season opener, as do the tracks from Monaco, Canada, Austria and more. It’s quite glorious how much detail has gone into making these simplified tracks still be instantly known, and should you have spent time with the motorsport scene you will be delighted to get the chance to take in everything that is delivered in a top-down, massively-shortened experience. This enjoyment is enhanced as historic icons have been included, with the Green Hell of the Nordschleife a visual delight.
Due to these many factors, Ultimate Racing 2D on Xbox One is actually quite decent fun and, believe me, from the initial five minutes of hands-on time, I couldn’t ever have seen myself saying that. Whilst the audio is nothing short of dire, the visuals just about do the job intended of them, and then the simple yet enjoyable racing allows it to move up another notch or two. Well priced, full of content and even delivering a local multiplayer option, you won’t be wowed by what this brings to the motorsport scene, but it’s worth a look if you’ve exhausted all other racing options.