Formula Retro Racing
Xbox version tested
Review code provided
From Repixel8 the people who brought you Velocity G, a shameless Wipeout rip-off, comes Formula Retro Racing, a shameless Virtua Racing rip-off. Oscar Wilde once said “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness”, and never a truer word said.
Formula Retro Racing is essentially a “throwback” (a blatant act of plagiarism) to the 28-year-old classic, Virtua Racing. A somewhat simplistic, albeit excellent arcade-style racer. So almost three decades on you’d assume this offering is better, it must be right? Well, of course, it isn’t. Virtua Racing was a turning point in video game history, whilst not the first effort at a 3D gaming space, it was certainly a game-changer both in graphical fidelity and more importantly in frame rate. Until that point in 1992, we had seen nothing quite like it and paved the way for, not only every racing game from that point on but it was also an immense influence on 3D gaming to this day.
Big shoes to fill then for Formula Retro Racing, so what does it get right? Well, I can report that the visuals are spot on, recreating that low polygon look from those early 3D games, FRR looks like what we, in our rose-tinted glasses, remember Virtua Racing to look like. In reality, it actually looks better and the frame rate is a fluid 60fps, unlike the originals 30fps. It is worth mentioning though, that if you have had the good fortune to play the recent release of Virtua Racing on the Nintendo Switch, then there is no argument that this remaster is a much more beautiful game. I digress, Formula Retro Racing looks and runs nice.
In trying to keep with that 90s theme Repixel8 have also accompanied the game with a retro soundtrack. However, someone forgot to tell them that the basis of their game was one which was released in the early 90s, not a Commodore 64 from the mid-80s. Don’t get me wrong the C64 could bang out some amazing tunes, but this soundtrack is out of place, repetitive and just bad. The car sounds are drowned out in your external views and it’s an irritating whine when in-car. Thankfully you can turn off the music, or the sound effects and whilst on the subject of settings, these are the only two available to you in the menu. Audio sadly is bad all around.
The game itself then. From the start screen you have the options of Arcade, Elimination, Free Practice, Leaderboards and Settings. Arcade sees you have the option of selecting from 8 tracks (2 of which are initially locked) each of which has 3 difficulty levels. Just like arcade racers of old the aim is to place as high as you can, either before you run out of laps or time. Time is generous on easy and medium, make a single mistake on hard though, and you ain’t getting to the end. Elimination sees you have to reach a certain position and then the CPU cars gradually get faster. Free Practice and Settings speak for themselves. Finally Leaderboards, now in this day and age an online leaderboard is a pretty piss poor substitute for an absence of any proper online mode. In fact, the absence of any multiplayer, either online or local split-screen is completely unforgivable. Let’s be honest, Formula Retro Racing is not a graphically intensive game so it’s not like it couldn’t be done. It appears to be a case of they couldn’t be bothered. Indeed the whole point of an arcade racer is for the competitive element, and being limited to comparing my time to an anonymous person somewhere on our planet just plain sucks.
The single-player game offers little challenge and the only hurdle you will receive is in the frustration which comes from some glitchy CPU opponents. They randomly veer across the road just as you overtake them, this in itself wouldn’t be a problem if it wasn’t for the fact that they seem to have pinball bumpers invisibly surrounding themselves, sending you flying off the track. When you do leave the track your car judders like it has Parkinson’s disease slowing you down to a stop, and sometimes throwing you back 20ft. The slipstreaming mechanic works really well, but it doesn’t always seem to acknowledge you are slipstreaming the car in front, so it’s great when it works and annoying when it doesn’t. Also, I need to mention that the races are just far too long for an arcade racer, most races last for 8 laps, and that is 4 too many. The game is short and it’s an easy 1000 achievement points if that’s your thing.
To summarise, despite its shortcomings I kind of enjoyed Formula Retro Racing, it was short-lived fun, just like an arcade game, which it is based upon. The omission of multiplayer though is a big disappointment. For £10/$12 it’s too much in my humble opinion, £3 then yes I’d give it a shot. It is such a shame they didn’t at least add a split-screen mode because without it there is just no replay value, and yet with it, all the bad stuff would be forgotten. Three mates, some beers and a simplistic arcade racer, fun times. Unfortunately, a half-hour of entertainment and a fumble is the best fun you will get from this. The fumble is optional.
Platform: PC, Xbox
Release Date: 15/05/2020
No. of Players: 1
Category: Arcade, Racing
Download link: Microsoft Store