Pacer Review

Gamers of a certain age will remember the hype that surrounded the launch of the original Playstation. It bought gaming in the cool part of town, mostly thanks to the surrounding launch line up. Undoubtedly one of these defining games was Wipeout; a super cool looking, and sounding, futuristic racer that immediately caught the eye with fantastic sci-fi visuals presented at blistering speeds. Over the years the Wipeout name lost a little lustre, with Psygnosis (the team behind the series) shutting down in 2012. However, there’s no denying that its brand of futuristic racing is still desirable. There have been a handful of contenders in the years since the last game, but I don’t think any have come as close as Pacer does to nailing what made us fall in love with Wipeout to start with.

Outside of the title, this is about as Wipeout as we’re going to get. Fantastic futuristic visuals – all overly cool, minimalist logos and stark colour schemes – meld with a ludicrous sense of speed and pumping techno soundtrack to really get the energy levels up. Our anti-grav craft have almost the exact same feel to them under the thumbs, and left/right airbrakes help us duck and weave around fellow racers or looping hairpin turns with ease. Weapon power ups and speed boosts are dotted about the track, with the tracks themselves looping up and over, round and round, easily matching the best tracks found in other anti-grav racers. All are playable in mirror, reverse, at day or night, and any combination of the above, giving plenty of life and replayability to the track selection. I did find it a bit tricky to pick up power-ups on the courses though, the hit box almost feels like it is too small for the icon showing it, leading me to constantly miss pick-ups I thought I clearly touched.

So far I’ve only been able to play the offline modes, though online support is here too. Solo players have access to quick race, where they can try their hand at one of the various races types. A particular favourite was Storm; here the genre of the moment – Battle Royal – rears its head. Racers must stay within an ever shrinking storm to survive, all while battling with each other to try and knock them out of the race. It’s possible to go too fast and end up ahead of the storm, so we need to balance out and out speed with this in mind. By the time it comes down to the last two racers we’re pretty much wing to wing in order to stay inside, and at these sorts of speeds all it takes is a slight nudge to send us to our doom. Endurance is another fun challenge; this time our shields continuously deplete after completing the first lap so we need to grab as many replenishing pick-ups as we can while also trying to avoid the other racers. These two modes are a nice change of pace from simply racing to be first over the finish line.

The main mode we can play is the Career; taking on various contracts from sponsors, we need to complete a procession of seven races each with their own stipulations on top of the race type. So we could need to finish ahead of a specific team, or have to take out at least two other racers within a few minutes, for example. I found the layout of the sponsor options to be a little confusing to be honest, and it took a little while to realise we had to do all sponsor options, not just pick one to go through the whole campaign with. Once I got my head round it though I enjoyed the extra challenge that this offered.

On the track is where Pacer shines though. The earliest speed class – FS3000 – is still blistering fast, but not so much that we find ourselves pin-balling around – at least, not too much. Before each race we can choose from a number of pre-set handling types, from high-speed to more defensive. It pays to match the set-up to the race type, and if we feel that none are suitable we can create our own in the Garage. Setting up pre-sets allows us to pick from a number of handling, defence, acceleration and more preferences, though we’ll need enough currency to unlock them. We can also customise a craft for use in quick races an online, with plenty of decals and ship parts to choose from. Finally we can set up weapon sets, pairing up two from a dozen or so choices to suit our liking. These can also be modified to give more damage/defence/speed at the cost of something else.

This currency though comes slowly, and even after the roughly 8 or so hours I’ve played at this point I have barely been unable to unlock half the options or ships parts. Of course, winning harder races drops more currency, but that alone can be quite the challenge.

When knocked up to the other three speed classes – F2000, F1000 and Elite – the sense of speed is overwhelming. Going from F3000 to Elite is incredible, and actually manages to make the slower speed almost feel mundane when going back. My reactions aren’t quite what they used to be, so anything other than straight lines saw me ricocheting all over the place, though once I found my groove I did manage to take a few turns at speed without hitting a wall. Again, that sense of speed is incredible, and very more-ish, so even when I was coming in last every time I still wanted to have one more go.

A fantastic soundtrack compliments the Wipeout vibe perfectly, even featuring some familiar names such as CoLDSToRAGE. I can’t say that any tune so far has got its hooks in me the way that Messij did back in the day, but there are still some decent ones to found here. There’s also a stream safe option should you want to save yourself from copyright notices when broadcasting.

Conclusion

All in all, Pacer is about as close as we’re likely to get to a new Wipeout; that is to say, its fantastic sense of speed and style evoke the same feeling I got when playing the 1995 classic. Even on the slower speeds things move briskly, but up it to the Elite class and we’re in for a eye-wateringly fast racer that looks great and controls perfectly. A few confusing UI elements aside, this is well worth a look.

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This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.
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Good
  • Fantastic visuals, and incredible sense of speed
  • Good selections of tracks
  • Controls are on point
Bad
  • Very difficult to not bounce all over the place on higher speed classes
  • Collecting pick-ups is a bit hit and miss
8.8
Great
Gameplay - 8.8
Graphics - 9
Audio - 9.5
Longevity - 8
Written by
I've been gaming since Spy vs Spy on the Master System, growing up as a Sega kid before realising the joy of multi-platform gaming. These days I can mostly be found on smaller indie titles, the occasional big RPG and doing poorly at Rainbow Six: Siege. Gamertag: Enaksan

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