What happens when you combine F-Zero with WipEout? Antigraviator, that’s what. While we haven’t seen anything in a similar vein for a while, could there be a reason for that? Let’s find out.
I’ve always been a fan of the F-Zero series, but I’ve admittedly never been good at them. I was absolutely terrible at F-Zero GX, but I loved every minute of it. WipEout, on the other hand, I’ve always hated. I hate the controls, I hate the visuals and I’m happy to admit this controversial opinion. So while I probably sit in a very weird camp, I guess it means I’m not sat in the nostalgia camp.
So, what’s the most important part of a racing game? The controls, of course! Antigraviator keeps it pretty simple. You have accelerate, which obviously you never EVER let go of. Air Brake, which allows you to turn round some of the sharper corners at pace. A normal brake, which you should never, ever use. Boost, which naturally you must always use at every opportunity. And last, but not least, you have your weapons/hazard button, which might actually be the button I genuinely forget to use.
All the controls come together pretty well, with the driving being actually pretty decent. Going round corners felt responsive, though I wouldn’t say there’s much challenge to taking the corners, especially while using the drift function. The sense of speed is good too, though sometimes it doesn’t feel like you’re travelling at the speeds that you actually are. Using the drift button to get round the tighter corners is unfortunately not as exciting as it could be and ends up being more like a “Oh shit, a slightly tighter corner than normal, better use the drift button”.
It’s a shame, because one of my favourite things in a racing game or driving in anything for that matter, is when you smash through into a corner that’s a bit too tight and seeing the back end of your vehicle kick out. My mantra with racing has always been with my boy Vin Diesel, “If you ain’t outta control, you ain’t in control”.
Combat isn’t massively important in Antigraviator, with power-ups being useable at set portions of the track. Sometimes you’ll be able to fire off a rocket at someone in front of you, or you’ll be able to activate a stage hazard, much like Split/Second. Depending on the stage depends on what environment hazard you can set off, but it varies between setting off little flames on corners, or dropping boulders on the track to disrupt the other racers. While the boulders on the track do slightly disrupt you, the flames only ever really fuck you if you smash into them on a corner.
The only pickups in Antigraviator you get are little pips that give you the ability to use your boost. On some tracks you can be starved for boost, while on others you can mash the boost button until the cows come home and you’ll never run dry.
There’s a slight degree of customisation, if that’s your jam. You can buy and swap out three different components of your ships that’ll affect your handling, acceleration, top speed and the amount of boost you can hold. I essential built a ship that had massive acceleration and top speed, but I suffered in the boost department which meant I’d have to be considerate when and where I boosted.
The track design in Antigraviator is interesting and varied, with a lot of verticality sprinkled in that’s reminiscent of the F-Zero games. The twists and turns, though used sparingly early on, become a real challenge when you’ve got some knobhead activating boulders that smash on to the track as you’re whipping back and forth. On more than one occasion I was miles ahead, boosting around a corner only to be greeted by a boulder straight to the face. There’s jumps in the tracks shoot you off in to space and if you’re not careful, you’ll be shooting off in to the abyss.
Wipeout is a clearly the biggest inspiration on the aesthetics of Antigraviator, with the ships and tracks looking like they wouldn’t be out of place in Wipeout. On more than a few occasions I felt like I was playing a new, albeit budget, Wipeout game and too be perfectly honest, I don’t think that’s a great thing.
The UI in Antigraviator is a a strange one. All of the information you need is contained at the back of your vehicle. Sounds great, right? Annoyingly it makes everything difficult to read while actually racing. When there’s a hazard you can set off, it shows at the back of your vehicle. So here’s the problem, you’re racing. You aren’t looking at the back of your vehicle, you’re looking into the distance so you aren’t smashing into the walls. I get the point is to have a nice clean design and not cluttering your shit, but at the same time it’s so difficult to even know when you can boost or not.
I’d like to talk about the multiplayer in Antigraviator, but the issue is that I’ve never actually got a chance to play it. When I went to try the multiplayer, I was greeted with no lobbies for player matches. Literally zero. You’d think there’d be someone pissing about, racing like a madman, but no. I figured I’d hop in to Ranked. As I sat waiting, I took the time to ponder life. As I waited longer, it became harder to fight off the existential dread that was starting to set in. At this point, the ranked queue timed out and I was told to try again. I’ll be honest, I just fucked the multiplayer off. I feel like that might be the most telling part of Antigraviator. Almost everything has at least some population, so not being able to find a multiplayer game is a bit of a killer.
While Antigraviator has a lot of promise, especially for fans of things like F-Zero and WipEout, it misses the mark in a fair few places. While it’s almost fresh to see a game attempt the same things as WipEout and F-Zero did, it unfortunately demonstrates those games shortcomings more than it’s merits.
Antigraviator suffers from the pitfalls of coming across as an imitator rather than actually being a contender to the throne. While Antigraviator is serviceable in most aspects, none of them really come together to recreate the magic of the games it’s emulating. For better or for worse, Antigraviator is an “OK” game. While that might be a done deal for people, if you can catch Antigraviator in a sale. There’s no one playing the multiplayer so it knocks an option off the menu before you even launch the game. The UI choices make sense from a design standpoint, but they unfortunately don’t work from a gameplay standpoint.