You've got the ultimate racing car, and an unlimited road to drive on. What else do we need to say? It's all about driving. Fast. No brakes, no limits.
I'm embarrassed to say I bought Blueprint Racer 4-D, an old and now delisted Xbox Indie racing game I got to support the Developer because it looked amazing and was only 200 points. I'm embarrassed by the purchase because I shortly learned thereafter that Blueprint Racer 4-D was simply a reskinned XNA demo simply called Racing Game, one of several demos available upon joining the Creators Club. Despite what browsing the Xbox Indies channel may lead one to believe, XNA is capable of excellent graphics on par with any 360 release. It's simply up to the Developers to take advantage of it.
Alejandro González and Miguel Herrero's Milkstone Studios have definitely done their part in bringing such a visually impressive racer to the indie channel with MotorHEAT. While the graphics can't compare to modern retail racing games and nor should anyone expect it to at just shy of 26 MB, MotorHEAT delivers a fully 3-D Outrun styled racer with environmental changes, lots of vehicles on the highway, and a frenzied sense of speed. The vehicles and track elements are somewhat simplistic, but there's no chance to critique the models when blazing through hopped up on turbo.
MotorHEAT takes the passing element from Outrun 2's Heart Attack Mode and builds a game around it, forcing players to fly by traffic as close as possible without crashing. Close passing fills up the boost meter and allows the player to unleash the turbo with the right trigger. Yes, the trigger here is used for turbo as the game lacks an accelerator or brake. The player simply weaves through the traffic and activates turbo when there's some available. The car must "level up" by completing a three mile stretch before the timer expires. Beyond that, MotorHEAT appears to offer an endless race, going on for as long as the player can survive (crashes knock ten seconds off the timer).
MotorHEAT is an old school arcade racer through and through, and I absolutely love how the game integrates its global leaderboards directly into the HUD. The game will constantly inform the player of how many more points he or she needs to reach the next rank on the high score charts. In addition to the well designed and rather innovative HUD, MotorHEAT offers an attractive menu offering the ability to customize the car (selectable patterns and coloring), read the in-game manual, and check out the awards (achievements). The awards are pretty brutal and will force players to play a breakneck speeds and for long periods of time; chasing them down will definitely extend the shelf life of the title beyond its simple arcade heritage.
If MotorHEAT has a weakness, it's its own simplicity. There's no real sense of driving here, just moving left and right to avoid obstacles, and I wonder if it has a place in today's environment. The way the car never drifts or shifts out of its position make the car feel pasted on screen, akin to being the Video game equivalent of those old scrolling paper racing toys. While the environmental changes every so often are a nice way to break up the repetition of scenery, it's still the same highway day in and day out. If the crazy speed and dangerous gameplay doesn't hook players on the game, then there's little chance the desire to see more might entire them to push forward with only one route.
As Milkstone Studios' third game, MotorHEAT continues to show that the group is committed to being one of the better Developers publishing on Xbox Indies. MotorHEAT is definitely one of the most impressive Xbox Indie games out, but whether it's worth a purchase or not depends on the player's enjoyment of simple, frantic arcade racing the way god intended. Grandmas on the road will wonder why they bother with the title, but those who push the envelope and race full throttled at all times as the game demands will see that MotorHEAT finds its niche and serves it well.