So Xenon Racer was announced a little while ago and it sounded intriguing – a futuristic arcade racer. Now, I like my racing games so this title had already piqued my interest but that is all it managed to do. Xenon Racer is set in the year 2030 in a time that is dominated by flying vehicles. Somewhere it is decided that a one-off tournament with electric wheel-based vehicles powered by, wait for it… Xenon Gas should take place.
Now a couple of things really irk me, one of which is the year this is supposedly set in. 2030. I mean that’s 11 years from now. I know it’s just a game and all that, but there’s no way flying vehicles are pretty much the sole way of getting around. Hell, we don’t even have a flying car yet on the market, much to the dismay of Back to the Future fans I’m sure!
The next thing that annoyed me was in the opening intro. It shows the game, the races, the cars, and all that jazz to go with it. In fact, it goes to Tokyo, America, and across the world, but if it is supposedly a world where it is dominated by flying vehicles, where are they?! There is none to be seen, not even in the background!
Right, let’s move on before I get bogged down into those niggly points onto the actual game. So once you’ve gone past the intro and the fairly basic tutorial, you’re met with a sleek, but simple menu. A car is shown in the middle of the screen with the menu options above it.
I quickly went into the ‘Garage’ as car customization was shown to be a big part of the game. Honestly though, it sucks. You can change the color of your car and the windows, you can change the rims and the wheels, you can change your front wing and the back wing and then you can change the ERS system which gives you varied options, such as a longer boost but less power or vice versa. Only a few of these changes actually affect the performance of the car, which for a game that advertises car customization, I found that to be pretty poor, but then again, it is an ‘arcade’ racer at the end of the day, so maybe I am being a bit too fussy.
At the beginning of the game you also have only two cars unlocked and not all the different rims, or the different wings and it is stated that you can unlock all of these by playing all the different modes through the game. That to me is no bother and gives you a bigger incentive to play all the modes.
So, that’s the meddling in the garage done. Time to start some racing. Immediately I jumped straight into the world championship which shows you a flow chart of the all the available tournaments and the branches that come off each one. It starts with one available championship which tells you that you will race in 3 locations and how many laps each are and that you’re required to finish 5th overall. Once you’ve completed this championship, you then have an option of two different championships to go to, both of which have different races and different laps to do as well.
When you’re first met with the race, I must admit the cars do look nice. I found however, that not much really sets them apart from each other on how they look. They’re all pretty similar and I couldn’t really care aesthetically which one I had. This game, admittedly, is all about the ERS boosting and drifting around the corners, both of which are points made in the tutorial. The more you drift, the more you fill you ERS boost bars up. Is drifting difficult to get the hang of? You bet ya! At first, I found it was easier just to wall grind into the corner and go all the way around, but after a couple of hours playing, you get the hang of drifting and realize how much time you save by not just slamming it into the wall.
A point that falls a bit short for me is the damage system the game has. There a simple counter on-screen saying 100, which shows that your car is in perfect condition. Wall grind around a corner and this comes down. Slam it into a wall or another car, this decreases rapidly. Okay, that’s fine by me. Reach 0? The car just grinds to a slow halt and then resets on the track. Any sign of damage if you have 1 health? No, nothing. Your car looks the same with either 100 health or 1 health, you just endure a massive time penalty if you hit that dreaded 0. I must admit, it does put you off pushing the car into the corners, but it’s still incredibly annoying.
On top of this, if you do decide to use the corner barrier as a way to get around (I’m sure at the beginning you will!), a voice over kindly keeps telling you that “You made a mistake!” and other frustrating voice lines. I guess it wouldn’t be so bad, but it sounds awfully like Woody Harrelson and just imagine listening to his voice over and over again telling you where you fucked up bad.
The AI racers do seem to battle you quite well and are fairly challenging. I started the game in normal mode and my race finishes varied until I started to get the hang of it more. Trying to get a gap between yourself and 2nd place was always challenging and if you did write your car off, you effectively just gave up more than just 1st place!
The championship that you take part in is a fairly simple concept compared to other racers and then sees you compete in more places, which you can unlock to play them in some of the other modes. Talking of the other modes, there are a few other options you can do. These include free race, elimination, checkpoint racing and time attack. There’s nothing special about any of these four modes, they pretty much do as it says on the tin. They do help with unlocking more items for your cars though, so there is a pull in playing them.
The game has a nice photo mode you can use to take pictures of the cars whilst your racing. Although the cars look good, I must admit the surroundings are a bit of a free for all. The people are just messy blobs and even the signs are blurry. The game tries its best at being a stylish racer but struggles with the graphics. Although the cars look good, everything else has taken a back seat. It all looks good in cut scenes, but as soon as you start racing it’s a different story. It looks a complete mess. I mean, just look at this screenshot.
Overall, this game is a bog standard arcade racer with ‘futuristic’ aspects chucked into it. It feels like it’s made for the early noughties then anything else and I would probably be disappointed if I found this game in an arcade. The racing is very average and doesn’t provide you with a new experience and the car customisation is weak compared to other games. I couldn’t recommend this over other racers or for the price it is retailing at.