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Lightfield – PAX WEST 2017 – Review: PS4

With the sea of RPG’s, shooters, and multiplayer-focused combat games making waves throughout the gaming industry, it’s easy to overlook the other genres, especially the sci-fi racer. There has been a shocking lack of science-fiction racers in recent years, with the only surprise exception of WipeOut: The Omega Collection for PlayStation 4 owners.

While Studio 34Big Things finally released their future racer, RedOut, to consoles this past August, the sub-genre of futuristic racing video games is sorely hurting for video game enthusiasts. However, if Lightfield, from Austrian-based Lost In The Garden is any indication, futuristic racers may be coming back and in big ways. First discovered at PAX West, Lightfield is a science-fiction racing video game that seeks to reinvent the tired formula and create a new, bright trail for the genre.

The result is incredible and vividly wild.

In the racing genre, the objective is for the player to use their driving skills to navigate a track, and successfully manage to get from point A to Point B. This formula has seen changes, from using weapons to altering the track itself. However, this formula has been reused time and time again, and in 2017, this formula could be seen as stale.

However, Lightfield changes that formula by introducing a racer that combines elements of flight and hover-craft types of racing. Lightfield lives up to the tagline of “omnidirectional futuristic precision racing.” Through a combination of vehicular parkour, anti-gravity, and swift maneuvering, players will be thrust into a racing experience that liberates itself from the confines of the track and onwards into the future.

In the world of Lightfield, players travel to various planets, participating in several incredibly realized tracks. These tracks, strewn across different environments and terrains, are large, vast and open to many paths.  Players can leap across platforms, race along walls, ascend large structures, and descend at great speeds. The goal is to maneuver through these large labyrinths to achieve the fastest time, as well as to defeat other opponents.

To do this, players will need precise timing with the controls and the various challenges present on the course. Players need to hold the X button to maintain contact with the surface of the track. On the ground, players move fastest. Letting go of X allows players to fly. In flight, the player will be slow, but be allowed to fly to any part of the track. The trick is to quickly combine these elements with precise maneuvers. In addition to flight skills and the course orientation, to sudden twists and turns in the course, players can activate switches that activate blinding photon storms or even switch entire sections of the track. Memorization will be important, especially for playing in couch and online multiplayer races.

Racing in Lightfield is extremely tight and a most profound experience. Compared to WipeOut and RedOut, both games I have previously played, Lightfield offers a large degree of freedom and imagination. Racing through the various tunnels, cracks, and architectural valleys is quite the thrill, and the vibrant visual style is a sight to behold.

Slick neon colors trace the track and the crisp, clean designs of objects do well to aide the experience. Racing through each course is quite a challenge and there is always a sense of discovery when seeing something new. The overall experience is aided by a solid, pounding soundtrack from Austrian electronic musician, Zanshin.

If there are any drawbacks to the overall experience, it is the yearning for more levels. Lightfield begins with 14 tracks. While each track has a race and time trials to conquer, I really wanted to see more of what can be offered in this very well realized sci-fi world. There is the potential for more content to be added, as a very strong idea exists to grow and continue.

Additionally, each level is open for exploration, such as collecting stars in the level and finding secrets.  Also, I feel that the “drift” control mechanic could have been better refined. Drifting requires players to let go of the throttle, which is the R2, button. I often found myself so focused on the course that I  flubbed my hands trying to nail the right drift.

Lightfield is unlike any other racing game I have played, and for being able to lift the restraints of a track the game earns big credit for being very imaginative. Lightfield is fast, tight, and quite a joy to play, as well as to experience. Lightfield stands as a trailblazer for the sci-fi racing genre.  The idea is strong with room to grow, and it’ll be up to players to shape the destiny of the game. If you are ready to ditch gasoline, tires, and pavement, in exchange for neon colors, parkour, and defying gravity, Lightfield is a field worth jumping into.

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