Futuristic anti-gravity racing. Shields that can become damaged by collisions and damage from other racers’ weapons. Airbrakes to help you navigate corners. Getting progressively faster as you hit boosters dotted around the circuit. Thrust for extra speed.
Is this a retrospective review of the classic racing game Wipeout?
No, but you’d be forgiven for thinking that it was. This is Pacer. Pacer is the new game from indie studio R8 Games. It’s a combat racing game where the aim is to win at all costs, destroying or out-racing your opponents.
I have to say I was intrigued about this game. I loved Wipeout on the original Playstation, and if this game was anything like it, that would be pretty cool. So I sat down, loaded the game and had a good bash at it.
To be honest with you, there really isn’t a story here. You are a racer and you want to win races. You have a choice of vehicles, weapons and styling and you can upgrade it as you unlock options from the races you enter.
You can quickly play against 9 AI racers or go multiplayer and take on real racers.
Once you’ve selected your game mode, your vehicle and weapon options, it’s time to get racing.
You have a choice of tracks, some of which can be raced on right away and some unlock later. You take to the starting grid and line up against your foes. After a short countdown it’s lights out and away we go.
The game was originally going to be called Formula Fusion, and it’s clear there is a nod to Formula One. There’s also a nod to Mario Kart with power ups littered across the track.
The biggest influence on this game, by a country mile, is Wipeout. It would be entirely unfair to call this a clone, but let’s just say it’s a heavy influence on Pacer. A love letter, if you will. A throwback to the classic genre. The game mechanics, the look, the vehicles, the weapons, the boosts, the shield and damage all come from the classic that Pacer is trying to align itself with.
It’s fair to say that Pacer isn’t breaking any new ground here, but it does have a few unique points.
In terms of game modes, there are a few to choose from. You can choose standard racing, Endurance (which is how far you can go with checkpoints and timer boosts), Storm (in which you are being chased like a battle royale Stormfront) and more.
The only thing I wasn’t too happy about in terms of game mechanics was the controller layout. The standard configuration is that X is your accelerator and Square is your airbrake. This would have been much better if they were your right and left triggers.
Music and Graphics
Pacer’s graphics are lovely. Fresh designed tracks, lots of neon. It looks fine when going faster (even at insane speed) and the tracks are well designed and vary in look. Really well done here by the developers.
However, what really makes this game shine is the music. A full, fresh OST by Tim Wright (who produced the music for the Wipeout series) is a lovely touch here and firmly puts those rose-tinted glasses on you. It fits well with the feel and look of the game.
I particularly enjoyed the immersion between the pulsating music and the fresh graphics while playing this game. You get a bit lost in the rabbit hole and a few hours are gone before you notice it.
If you were looking at Pacer being something new and evolving the genre, then you’re going to be disappointed.
It was supposed to be, and is, a love letter to the Wipeout series. Viewed from that prism, it’s an unqualified success. It blends the best bits of the series with a few unique twists. It’s clear that there is a lot of love for Wipeout here, as well as the other influences mentioned earlier.
I had a lot of fun blasting racers, getting 27 overtakes in a single race and still finishing 5th. A few times I got destroyed by AI racers and it was a good way to spend a couple of hours.
It’s well worth having a blast at it, even if you aren’t from the original Playstation generation.