Fight against time in this old school arcade racing game. Race in 14 circuits in 9 diferent scenarios with four cars with different characteristics. High speed at 60 frames per second.
Racing games have been a difficult sell over the past few years with most video game players only recognizing one game per console as worthy of a purchase: Mario Kart for Nintendo, Gran Turismo for Sony, and Forza Motorsport for Microsoft. It's a real shame, too, as truly excellent titles such as Sega Rally Revo and Pure fail to obstain the kind of revenue their developers deserve. Martyn Chudley, Creative Director of Bizarre Creations, noted that his company's recent racing effort, Blur, was aimed at correcting this growing problem. Why does the market allow for numerous successful titles in all other genres save racing? Perhaps it's because as graphics have come of age, the differences among the titles are not instantly perceivable as they once were, leaving little cause to buy outside of the racing game mega-franchises. Maybe it's due to the public's demand for quantity over quality, something racing games have struggled to deliver in any satisfying manner to a market which wants their games to last for dozens of hours but balk at the thought of replaying something because it's fun. These are issues which RIC Games' FS racing will face as it makes its presence known on the Xbox 360, finding itself both competing against public perception as well as other racing efforts on the system.
If FS racing has any chance to succeed, it will be due to appealing to consumers' sense of value and quantity. While FS racing will not last as long as Mass Effect 2 or Forza Motorsport 3, it does off 14 full fledged courses for a pittance of 80 points. Designed by Joseba and Richard Gorospe, FS racing features nine distinct, enormous sections of winding tracks and soaring heights to race through. Each section is dropped in a rather unimaginative grid which lacks unity but still provides a tremendous amount of variety of backdrops for this budget racer. While the transition from metropolis cityscape to farmland to volcano and so forth is jarring, they nonetheless make for terrific sightseeing while cruising around on these elevated, floating tracks. The scope of the game is extremely impressive for an indie game and one at such a low price, and racing along a typical route can take up to ten minutes as the tracks circle and wind their way through the enormous pastiche of backdrops.
While the lack of cohesion in the environment is more of a style issue, the jittery graphics is a visual problem which pops up throughout the game. While racing, polygons glitch and pop-up enough to be noticeable while racing, and the graphics take a turn for the ugly during the overhead replays as the water effects and draw distance appear to be too much for the game to handle when the camera rises to show off the scale of the tracks and settings. It's not too bad while racing, at least so much that it becomes a distraction, but players will spot how the tree trucks twinkle along the highway as the sort of clip into the polygons at a rapid rate. FS racing does maintain a constant 60 frames-per-second which is excellent, but I wonder if that might be too much for the game to handle. In general, FS racing looks excellent, and while legitimate graphic complaints do exist, they are largely minor given what the RIC Games has accomplished here. While the texturing on the buildings can get fuzzy looking, it in no way makes speeding and twisting through the over-sized skyscraper checkerboard any less impressive. The graphics only truly become hideous during the replays when the great undulating waves while racing over the lake become a haze of blue static for some reason.
Replays can be triggered at the end of each race, and the game records the best local time on each track per vehicle used. There are four futuristic Formula-1 racers to choose from, each representing a difficulty setting and some slight handling adjustments. The cars frankly feel largely the same though, and it's the huge reductions in the timer which distinguish them the most. FS racing is similar to Outrun where the goal is simply to make it to the end of the track without running out of time. Annoying drones litter the track and only serve as obstacles to dodge and pass, not actual racing competition. FS racing is a single player experience, and although it succeeds at delivering a large amount of content with its 14 tracks and grand environment, the racing itself is rather lacking. The cars are glued to the tracks, and a good sense of speed is never present. Anyone who has played XNA Racing Game, the sample racing game for XNA development, will find a lot of similarities in the way the car handles and how stiff the physics engine feels. Striking another car or veering off track stalls the racer and activates a shield; sometimes clusters of drone cars will knock the player in a vicious cycle of getting hit, slowing down, and constantly getting rear ended and unable to do much about it until the track swerves or the AI suddenly decides not to ram the player's car from behind. While the game employs a stiff timer penalty with such stalling, the lack of crashes and odd way the player is prevented from leaving the track give the game a sterile and rather dull feel.
I was looking forward to FS racing, and it remains an impressive racing title in scope and arguably the channel's best offering. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if the content and low price are enough to overlook the lack of excitement found in the actual racing. It's not a bad game by any means but is a bit underwhelming when playing, particularly in view of how well the game succeeds in other areas of content. The generally impressive graphics and track variety make FS racing a bargain at 80 points, but the real question will be if it's a bargain people will look forward to play.