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30 Oct 2020

REVIEW: PACER on PC (Steam)

Review by Jon Donnis
The year is 1995, I am a teenage gamer, I switch on my Playstation, now known as a Playstation 1. I load up a new game called Wipeout. It is a beautiful game, instead of driving cars around a track you are steering futuristic hovercraft like vehicles around insane tracks, the game was pretty much perfect and was one of the reasons for the success of the PS1. Fast forward some 25 years and we have the release of a game called PACER (Previously Formula Fusion), a game that has been in development since 2015, the so called "spiritual successor" to Wipeout, part of the team making PACER actually worked on the original 3 Wipeout games in the 1990s. Can you imagine how excited I was to hear about this game?

I am lucky enough to get a Review Code from R8 Games, I download and start the game, and I am instantly disappointed. So disappointed that I wonder if I am stuck in the Early Access version of the game previously known as Formula Fusion, I even send a screenshot of the main screen to the PR company to see if this is the case. Nope I have the right game.

Right from the start I just feel so let down and disappointed. Don't get me wrong, the game looks great, the tracks are all beautifully rendered, the vehicles all looks smart, on a purely aesthetic level, the game looks like everything you would expect it to be, the problem is everything in between. 

There are AI issues, and these are issues that will be fixed I am sure of that, but this game has been in development for 5 years, these bugs should not need me complaining about to be fixed, they should have been ironed out years ago.

Let me give you an example, in some races you will start the race and before you know it every opponent has disappeared into the distance, even if you race a perfect lap they are gone, then after another lap they suddenly start appearing, and by the end of the race they are either all dead on the track or crawling along at slow speeds. Now this doesn't always happen, I complained about this, and for now it seems that this has been improved, again this game has been in development for 5 years.

The tracks themselves as I have said are gorgeous, but the take away the fancy graphics and these are uninspired tracks, for what is supposed to be a futuristic racer where you are going at breakneck speed, some levels force you to slow down to stupidly slow speeds so that you don't spend half the race just bouncing off the sides of the track one after the other. Other tracks are better in that you get the chance to actually go fast, but then the pretty graphics actually end up becoming confusing and you can't see what the line is, the amount of time I have barrelled head first into a wall purely because the colours of the wall match the colours of the previous part of the track is beyond frustrating. Yes, I know you learn the tracks as you play, but even after learning the track and knowing what was coming up, I still found myself just struggling to see where to position my craft, for what is really not that hard of the part of the track. It is little things like this, track design, that really lets this game down.

What's next, ok career mode, the menu is really confusing and badly designed here, but let's say you figure things out, there is no real direction as to what the career is that you are playing, you start off with a training level, then a F3000 part of the career, where you take part in various races, and because of the various AI issues I mentioned earlier, you will find yourself randomly at a level that no matter how good a racer you are, you will just keep losing, and then purely by what seems like luck, you will pass the level, the elimination level (last person after so many seconds is eliminated) is a perfect example.

And I haven't even gotten to the weapons systems yet, these are so poorly designed that I just didn't bother turning them on for races unless I absolutely had to.
You can modify your craft, add and change weapons, have different load outs etc, but you will look at it once, and then just use default options to race with, as it really doesn't make a difference.

And then there are the air breaks. There is no "right trigger" to accelerate and "left trigger" to break here. Nope, to accelerate you hold down the A button if using a controller, and then your triggers are used to break, which in turn throws your vehicle to the left or right as you approach a corner. This was used on the original Wipeout games, and on them it worked, on this though they just don't quite pull it off. I just found myself either slowing down to much and then accelerating into a wall, or too late, it just doesn't quite feel as intuitive as it should. Maybe I am just too used to normal breaking systems, really the air breaks should work more like a hand break turn does in a normal racer.

The problems with this game are just too many, if this was the early access, then I would probably say how much potential it has, and how it could be the spiritual successor to Wipeout that everyone wants it to be. But for a game that has been in development for so long, to still be so flawed in the absolute basics is disappointing.

The Good
The game is beautiful. 

The Bad
Everything else

Overall
Never have I wanted to love a game as much as this, to say I am disappointed is an understatement.

Maybe I just hoped for too much, maybe I have been so spoiled with games like GRIP that anything that does not reach that level is going to be a disappointment in comparison. Sadly I can only score this game 4/10, and that is only because there is a part of me that hope that there is still time for the game makers to fix these issues, redesign the tracks, fix the AI, and turn this game into everything it should be.

Review by Jon Donnis


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