Xenon Racer has finally exploded onto our consoles in a big way. Developed by 3DClouds who brought us All Star Fruit Racing last year this drift based racer is a lot less cartoonish and a lot faster.
Published by our friends at SOEDESCO, this game had so much promise and certainly peaked my interest when it was announced a while back, but does it live up to expectations?
If we go back over the course of gaming history we can see certain aspects of other games in here; it is played a lot like Namco’s classic Ridge Racer having to drift around corners and be able to master that drifting to be able to succeed. Then throw in to the mix the slight futuristic feel that WipeOut brought us and you are getting close to what to expect. The issue I did find with the game was the drifting, something which has been highly advertised before release. You have to drift in order to build up your ERS (Energy Recovery System which is found in the likes of Formula 1) and then you can deploy a burst of speed once it has been filled, but the drifting in the game is not easily achieved and feels far from natural whereas a lot of other racers have pulled drifting off to perfection. I think the main issue is that there are multiple ways of instigating a drift in the vehicles; lift off the accelerator going in to a turn and then gun it again should start the car drifting, or a slight dab of breaks should start the drift as well as the use of the handbreak. The problem is that none of these methods starts a drift easily at all, I found myself going into corners and after multiple presses of the handbreak the car begrudgingly got its back end out and did eventually drift, but that method slows you down a lot and you lose time to other cars and in such a high speed game it increases the difficulty ten fold.
Set in 2030 during the era of flying cars (!) a one-off championship for [traditional] wheel based vehicles is about to take place, and to keep things as eco friendly as possible, the cars are electric and boosted with Xenon gas which is where the game gets its title from.
Ignoring the issue I had with the drift mechanics, the game is genuinely beautiful to behold and for such a fast paced game I didn’t notice any drops in framerate which I did expect to see somewhere along the way. The detailing on the cars alone is something that the developers artists should be immensely proud of, but the looks are the cars are not just there for aesthetic purposes, everything can be tweaked (once you have unlocked various parts for the vehicles) which can help to increase or decrease various elements, such as speed, acceleration, drift and handling. Finding a perfect balance for these cars is the trick to the game.
The tracks within the game are set all over the world and do look good, however I did get the feeling that they were all very similar to one another with just a different backdrop included. The street circuits did start to get a little monotonous for me but that being said, I did enjoy what I was doing even if I did struggle to win races on more than one occasion. The joy of this game is that just by playing through the single player championship you will really struggle. You need to play through all of the various modes within the game to actually unlock those all important upgrades for the cars as you wont be able to get them all just from the championship.
The overall presentation of the game for me was confusing. I wouldn’t say it was quite up to AAA standard but it was certainly better than an indie title along the same lines. The sounds of those electric engines, the crashes and the accompanying electronic soundtrack are great, however the electronic announcers voice isn’t needed. I would have felt better if it was your pit crew talking to you instead.
Xenon Racer does boast an impressive amount of content within the game, OK its nowhere near what you get with the likes of Gran Turismo, but still, it is enough to keep people happy. Obviously there is the championship mode which has a lot of races to work your way through via the championship ladder, Fast Race mode then allows you to challenge tracks on your own that you have unlocked (Yes, not all the tracks are available from the start). Time Attack, Checkpoint Attack, Elimination, and Free modes allow you to practise your racing skills more. Then, of course, you have the trusty old split screen mode in which you can race head to head with one of your friends, but take the game online and you can race with upto eight other human racers. Beyond the races themselves there’s an impressive 18 vehicles to unlock as well as 7 locations with different tracks and variations on those tracks so that you aren’t racing the same setup of circuit every time. Finally as I mentioned above there are loads of parts for the cars that you unlock the more you play.
Unfortunately I don’t think this game will appeal to the masses. The difficulty is actually quite tough and don’t think that dropping that down to easy will make a difference, it really doesn’t. The drifting in the game is awful and you will be crashing into the sides of the track more often than not in corners and once you do its hard to get the car back on track at speed until that corner has ended which damages your car. Yes, there is damage within the game, but its more than just visual. You have a damage count of 100 on your car and once that hits zero (which it will do every single race) your car slows to a stop and then resets on track allowing 2 or 3 of the AI cars to fly past you and then you struggle to make those places back up. The issue with all of these factors is that you don’t get an exciting race. You either fly so far ahead of the pack that you just go through the motions for a few minutes until you win, or you are left so far behind that there isn’t a hope in hell of you catching to overtake again. The game needs to be somewhere in between to give us some excitement from the racing allowing us to go wheel to wheel with the competition.
Overall, I really did like the game but it needs a lot more work doing on it to make it a contender against other race games and I just cant see it drawing in a crowd of fans which is a pity. Sadly a 6/10 is the best position the game can achieve.
**PLEASE NOTE: AIR Entertainment were kindly supplied with a review copy of the game by SOEDESCO. This has in no way swayed my views on the game as our Review Policy states**