Early Doors: Star Racer

As with a review last week, I was just simply browsing for something interesting when I happened upon this just about ready to hit early access on 8th March. Star Racer looks to give one a nostalgic dose of futuristic racing goodness, with early access giving the developers time to add and tweak things from feedback. Worth a chance at the podium? Lets take an early look

While things are no doubt waiting to be fully flesh out so close to early access launch, there’s plenty to do if you just want to hit the track. Standard single races and time trails are there for a quick blast, but there also leaderboard enabled death races and a Grand Prix. The grand prix sounds like the best place to start, but it can also be a source of great frustration due to the life limit given how easily destroyed you can be. Luckily there’s around a dozen tracks and half a dozen racers when starting out so you should have enough to keep you occupied as you get used to the gameplay and unlock more.

The track editor is where you’ll find plenty of longevity with the game in its current form. The editor doesn’t take long to get to grips with and can pump out some pretty detailed tracks if you want to spend the time tweaking each aspect. Once done you can head to single races, alone or with friends. There’s no online multiplayer just yet, but we do at least have 4 player split screen which can also be played using Steam remote play.

As someone that spends their Nintendo Directs praying for a new F-Zero that never comes, something like this can help ease the pain. Seeming like an offshoot of a SNES racer, the racing itself is pretty smooth and occasionally frenetic from all the bump & grind, but Star Racer also has its own ideas. Energy is your boost, but also your shield, so managing that through the various pitfalls adds some extra spice. The most noticeable would be the air sections as your craft hits a ramp and reconfigures itself for some flight. Weapons are armed for these sections too so is usually where you’ll be in most danger as you try to reach the other side as fast as possible

The jumps were also the bane of the game before some patches balanced them out. Just working hard to get to first would reward you on the second lap with every AI following hitting you right between your clenched buttocks with every laser, never made it to the other side most of the time. Later learned rolling can deflect some lasers, game explains very little of its various systems & mechanics, and the lack of any tips or tutorial pointers made for a frustrating start to the game. It’ll take several races to get the hang of most of what the game has to offer.

So you miss the 16-Bit SNES aesthetic? Well here it is in all its colour popping pixelated glory. Perfectly matching up with the gameplay, the sound & visuals give off a classic vibe to complete the experience. The racers themselves all have their own unique style that stands out with their sprites during a race and the environments are suitably realistic, with the occasional bit of synthwave neon rolled in for good measure.

Performance is a little curious for something that looks simple., but that could just be early access. On my system (R7 5800X3D/32GB/ RTX 3090) 4K/120Hz is butter smooth and looks crisp. I mentioned things are a little curious because it seems to push the GPU a lot more than expected, usage was usually over 80% – so you won’t be getting similar performance on lower hardware for now.

To be fair to Star Racer, its only been in Early Access a few weeks so far, but even then there’s still a great foundation to build on as the futuristic racing feels great to play. It looks, sounds, and plays pretty smooth, especially with balancing already patched in so far, with online multiplayer being the only major omission – tho 4 player split-screen is a surprisingly overlooked addition. Given the price, it’ll also help get you through those F-Zero-less Nintendo Directs cheaper than a bottle of Whiskey would. Worth picking up or at least keeping an eye on.

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Geoffrey Wright

Rocking the world of gaming since the Atari 2600, has now settled down to bask in the warmth of moe. Moe is life for a moe connoisseur.

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