By Roberto Nieves
Developer: R8 Games
Publisher: R8 Games
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, available now on Xbox One
It's been at least a year since the last futuristic racing game arrived for consoles. Xenon Racer was the last big profile sci-fi racing game to make its way to consoles. Since then, anything relegated to the future, or cyberpunk, has been relegated to being a shooter or strategy game in a dystopia. There was a time when video games were made that didn't rely on dystopia but were built around strong gameplay and a slick momentum. Pacer by R8 Games seeks to bring back the golden days of '90s inspired futuristic racing, and it delivers.
Pacer is a futuristic hovercraft racing game in which players race at high speeds, battle opponents, and do everything possible to get to first place. Players select their craft, weapons, performance options and take to one of many tracks. Each race is different but familiar. Standard races are self-explanatory, along with the weapons-free deathmatch races and elimination courses.
Pacer switched things up by introducing a mine-laying course that has players race one lap through a minefield, which is much harder than it sounds. An additional game mode involves using a preset weapon and performance set and racing within a bubble to avoid an energy storm, something akin to a battle royale in motion.
Pacer has a campaign but no traditional story mode or cutscenes. Players race across campaigns in the quest for gold. Quickplay and online multiplayer complement the game's core content. Players who wish to customize and personalize their craft may do so in the hanger, with various paints and ship configurations. One excellent addition in Pacer is weapon and performance presets that are customizable. The tutorial does a good job showing players how to create a preset. Before each race, players can choose which set is best for them, which is entirely dependent on the course and its objectives.
Pacer embraces the ideas and inspirations it has learned from other games and works with them to create a fantastic and engaging future racer that evokes many different feelings. For gaming enthusiasts, Pacer undoubtedly creates an aura of nostalgia. Futuristic racing games dominated almost every aspect of the 1990s, from F-Zero to Cyber Sled. Of course, the inspirations from Wipeout are obvious, from the ships and speed to the wild tracks that cut through futuristic cities, from towering skyscrapers to yellow and rusted junkyards. Nostalgia is a strong feeling, but Pacer isn’t merely a throwback but instead a celebration of the unique dynamics of a high-speed future racer.
Pacer features the non-stop, high-stakes racing that only hover-based racing games are known for. Racing through each course is a euphoric thrill, blasting past players at hundreds of miles per hour. The world smoothly moves beneath the craft, and the course becomes a dazzling array of color and substance. High-speed turns and curves require the utmost skill, and defeat can be a matter of a mere moment. The stakes are high in Pacer, even without weapons, but when weapons are added in, the danger is much more serious.
Some Pacer courses allow for weapons to be utilized for getting an edge on the competition. Machine guns, rockets, missiles, and railguns accompany the small selection of weapons. Grabbing a weapon is part of the fun, but the real joy is skillfully using a weapon to destroy an opposing racer. In Pacer, using a weapon is a matter of quick thinking. A missile lock may guarantee a hit, but a sharp turn may clip the missile. Machine guns, if used wisely, can chip away at armor and shielding, but at long distances, they are the equivalent of shooting a BB at a bullet train. Using weapons may be jarring for new players, but players who take the time to master each weapon will find great satisfaction in seeing their opponent shot down and exploded at 700 mph.
Playing Pacer is excellent enjoyment, from the gameplay to the visuals tyle, but weaving the game together is an incredible soundtrack, headlined by Tim Wright, who goes by the stage name of CoLD SToRAGE. Tim has had his hands on many game soundtracks, including space action-adventure Colony Wars and the first WipeOut. His familiar take on drums and electronic music returns for Pacer and feels not only familiar but refreshingly new. His soundtrack is accompanied by other artists, who lend their talents in creating a high-speed future. As races fly by at the speed of sound and elegant vistas become a blur, Pacer’s soundtrack is memorable and only heightens the danger and enjoyment of futuristic racing.
Pacer is a welcome return for the genre, in all the best ways, but does bring faults with it. The first WipeOut, while being a milestone launch title for the original PlayStation, was also marred with one frustrating flaw: clipping. If a ship were to even slightly make contact with the wall, especially coming out of a high-speed turn, the ship would essentially grind to a halt. Regrettably, that same kind of feature returns in Pacer, though it isn’t as noticeably detrimental as its spiritual predecessors.
Pacer has buttons assigned for airbrakes, allowing players to handle the sharper corner of courses, which helps avoid collisions. However, collisions still happen, bringing crafts to a halt. This can make or break a lead. Fortunately, Pacer does have boost power for each craft and speed pads to catch up. Still, this can be a frustration. Hopefully, developer R8 games can add new weapons and courses in the coming months.
Pacer is a robust futuristic racing game with incredible polish to its gameplay and a rousing soundtrack, making the game perfect for those fond of past futuristic racers and excitement for those looking for something new. Pacer stands tall amongst a crowd of games filled with shooting and platforming, and it's a refreshing experience to fly at 700mph and destroy opponents along the way. Pacer is an excellent racer.
Pacer was reviewed thanks to a key generously supplied
to Stack Up by R8 Games.