I’ve been on a bit of a arcade racer kick lately. Thankfully we’ve had some excellent examples come along, such as Hotshot Racing, to satisfy that urge. Inertial Drift, from PQube, is the next off the grid and while it’s perhaps not the pack leader, it still manages to end up on the podium.
Alright, enough racing euphemisms. Inertial Drift calls back to arcade titles such as Outrun, Scud Racer and Tokyo Drift in both presentation and gameplay. As the name suggests the aim of the day is drifting, and ID executes this in a unique way; the cars themselves seem to have had any form of power steering disabled, barely turning when the left stick is moved. Instead, the right stick takes the mantle of handling the drift and it’s this dual stick set-up that we need to get used to in order to play.
It does take a little time to do so but I found it to be an enjoyable, intuitive way to handle once I had settled into it. There are 16 cars in all to get to grips with (most of which need unlocking first) that all handle very differently, including the ease of which the drift functions. Some will flick out the back end on a dime, whereas others take almost too long to begin but are much faster around the corners if timed correctly.
The story mode should be your first port of call as it acts almost like a tutorial more than anything. Playing as one of four racers, we get to go through a handful of challenges across five tracks. Each track starts with a simple time trial or ghost race, before notching up to a special event and finally a race against another racer. Out of all of the modes I found the Style races to be the most fun; here we need to drift as close to the walls, trackside obstacles and for long stretches in order to rack up points. This definitely challenged me the most while also teaching a lot about how best to use the mechanics.
While I wasn’t overly keen on playing the same track three times in a row in order to move on, it didn’t seem to matter too much whether I won or lost a challenge as the story would progress and I could try the next challenge. As for the story itself, there’s not a great deal of depth here, telling a story of a rookie racer challenging themselves to get better, but it’s decent – and short – enough to not outstay it’s welcome.
The tracks themselves are nicely designed with lots of neon colours mixed in with more natural scenes. It all comes back to that drift though, and reading the layout ahead was a bit of a struggle at times, especially in the darker areas – there was either a lack of directional signage or the aliasing would prevent me from reading it until I was a little too close. Perhaps on a One X this would be less of an issue but on an OG machine I did find this a common issue across the board.
Of course, replayability is key in an arcade racer like this so after a few runs of a course I was able to start to memorise where I needed to turn and how hard, and it’s here that ID opens up. Not only can we adjust the drift strength the further we push the stick, but we can counter steer or de-celerate/feather the brakes to add an extra sharpness to our turns. Even when we get it wrong ID is quick enough to bounce us back on course, and there’s no car-on-car collision detection either, so the later tight, winding courses can be played without fear of sabotage of another vehicle.
There’s a great sense of speed too, all the more accentuated when making a hairpin turn drift as we drastically slow down before shooting off again on the other side. If you can keep the momentum up then the track will fly past you at an impressive rate. The music is also great and helps with that arcade feel, complementing the drifting action well.
Once the story is cleared (which should take less than an hour per character) there are a few other modes to try your hand in. Arcade is a given, while a Challenge mode is where further cars are unlocked by beating various tasks. A Grand Prix features a different set of five races depending on the car chosen, while a spilt screen or online option round out the package. The latter splits up the classes of car for you to search by, though sadly at the time of writing I couldn’t get into a game any which way.
Inertial Drift is a fun arcade racer that brings a unique mechanic to drifting that works very well. While the tracks can be a little hard to read at times, after a few plays this becomes much less of an issue. There are plenty of cars to unlock and try, twenty tracks to learn and a decent story mode to help with learning the intricacies of the controls and modes. There are better overall arcade racers out there, but Inertial Drift definitely deserves a look if you fancy something a little different.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by the publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.