Ridge Racer was a thing at one point.
Never played it before, because I was an F-Zero and Forza man, goddamnit, but Ridge Racer mostly being a PlayStation exclusive was always something I envied, even if it was overshadowed by WipeOut most of the time. Then once I got my hands on Ridge Racer 6, all of that envy was replaced with confusion. What happened to this supposedly great racer I wanted? What does this have to do with anything? Nothing, it’s a vague segue into Xenon Racer.
This is the sophomore title from Italian studio 3DClouds, who burst onto the scene last year with All-Star Fruit Racing, which I haven’t played, mostly due to the seemingly shady price-changing tactics that may have been the result of controversial developer PQube. I digress, but Xenon Racer is instead published by underrated Dutch publisher Soedesco, who has been behind the publishing of various overlooked gems. Once again, I digress, but is Xenon Racer going to be joining said list?
The year is 2030. A new era of vehicular racing is about to arrive, in the form of flying vehicles, and with it a promising future of high-octane action. How do we celebrate such an exciting concept? Why, by using road-based vehicles instead, in a send-off before the world turns to flying cars. No, really, that’s the plot.
It’s exceptionally odd for the premise to be a set up for immense disappointment. I mean, forget blue-balling your audience right from the bat, this is a chastity belt with wheels on it. Still, none of that matters if the gameplay is solid, and it is… most of the time.
In typical fashion, you use the triggers to accelerate. If you can keep up with this complex diatribe of information, then you can surely continue with this fact: Drifting gains fuel. Fuel towards what? A meter that allows you to boost up to a maximum of 3 at a time. Also dotted around the many, many tracks, are glowing squares which can also fill up 1/3rd of your boost bar.
The boost lasts for quite a while, an average of 6-8 seconds depending on your cars stats, and in truth, it does lead to some quite meticulous racing. You don’t completely lose control of your vehicle once you begin to reach blistering speeds of, err… usually 240MPH, so drifting while boosting across lethal hairpins and meanders is intense, it’s cool, and it’s packed with flair.
To jump back for a second however, the maximum speed you will reach in these races is a bit of a shame. It’s 2030, the cars we’re driving look and feel like monstrous drifting tanks, the tracks are unbelievably wide and look like they span tens of miles, yet we don’t even break 240MPH? Come on, man, when ultra-track toys from 2005 show your curvy cars up, that’s just embarrassing.
That being said, a lot of the car designs are cool to look at, and to watch unravel on the tracks. 3DClouds’ artists must have graduated from the Square Enix School of Visual Design, because every car has hilariously stupid proportions and insane dimensions. They’re all THICC …