Does FAST Racing NEO match up to the games that inspired it?
There’s no shortage of good racing games on consoles at the moment. There’s the knock about exploits of Mario Kart 8 and its imitators, the arcade “fun” of the latest Need for Speed, and the petrol-head thrills of Forza 6, Project CARS and DriveClub.
But there is a gap in the market for a futuristic racer. A hole left by the demise of the Wipeout franchise and Nintendo’s refusal to develop a new iteration of F-Zero.
Enter Shin’en’s FAST Racing NEO (say it out loud quickly and you’ll see what they are aiming for with the name) which arrived on the Wii U estop last week.
FAST Racing NEO is more aligned to Nintendo’s brand of sci-fi racing than Sony’s series. It doesn’t offer any weapons or power-ups but instead distinguishes itself with a colour-based boost mechanic. Dotted around each track are blue and orange strips. Hit these with the matching colour activated on your vehicle and you’ll receive a burst of speed. Hit a strip with the wrong colour activated and your craft will deaccelerate in a heart beat.
It’s a simple mechanic but along with mastering the drift, the standard boost – which is powered by collectible orbs – and the overall speed of the game, it adds up to a tough challenge. Fortunately the game’s courses are very well designed with an expertly judged difficulty curve.
The game is a looker too, with track environments liberally adapted from the likes of Star Wars and Mass Effect and a selection of vehicles that wouldn’t look out-of-place in either of the game’s obvious inspirations.
The screen resolution isn’t quite as sharp as one might want from a game in 2015 but as the environments blaze by in a blur of colour and speed it’s hard not to be impressed. Any technical shortcomings are purely in the service of adding more speed to the screen. And as the world zips at a remarkably solid 60 frames per second it’s hard to be too critical
The game doesn’t manage parity with F-Zero’s roster of 30 racers but each race’s nine opponents offer a challenge and – most importantly – the game captures the sensation of being in an actual race. Each round is a constant jostle for position, right to the end.
Outside of the races FAST Racing NEO’s moderate development resources are more evident. Menus are stripped back and there’s a distinct lack of options and modes apart from the usual tournament and time attack standards. However, the game’s online features are stable and for the most part without the lag you might expect.
FAST Racing NEO has big shoes to fill, so it’s perhaps unfair to compare an £11 downloadable title to the more full-featured experience a new F-Zero would bring. But as that game doesn’t exist this is currently the only alternative and luckily it’s a game that delivers where it matters most, on the track.