Review – Xenon Racer
Xenon Racer has some bold ideas. It wants to bring back the simplicity and fast pace from previous arcade racers released in the 90’s, all while wowing players with a rich and detailed futuristic setting. I just can’t say “no” to a proposal like that. Sadly, while there’s fun to be had here, there are lots of issues that hinder this game from fulfilling this vision.
Despite the focus on being a futuristic racer, Xenon Racer doesn’t feature anti-gravity vehicles or wacky cyberpunk weaponry. This game is all about good old hunks of junk burning rubber on urban racetracks, high speeds, unrealistic drifts, and gallons of nitro boosters. The game reminded me a lot of the Ridge Racer games released for the PSP almost fifteen years ago (jeez, I’m getting old), making this probably the closest to a true Ridge Racer game I’ve seen in years.
When it comes to content, Xenon Racer has enough to keep you busy for a while. Even though the actual amount of tracks isn’t impressive, the game features a somewhat lengthy career mode, a nice amount of ( mostly invented) cars, and a ton of upgrades for each. The multiplayer modes are also a bit more varied than usual, with this game actually remembering that split-screen multiplayer is still a thing.
I might sound positive while talking about Xenon Racer, but if I’m being honest with you, this game is actually quite a mixed bag. It features some blatant issues in almost every single department, to the point where it feels like the game was rushed solely to meet its release schedule.
Xenon Racer‘s bite-sized “lore” is all about how fast these cars and races are, but this game’s framerate tells a whole different story. Not only does the game suffer to reach a mere 30 frames a second at any given time, but the frame pacing is also very glitchy. Not only do the races feel sluggish, but they become harder than they should due to jittery the frame pacing is. The overall visuals aren’t that impressive either. At first, the game looks colorful at flashy, but once you dive into the photo mode you’ll notice how poor Xenon Racer‘s textures are. The lighting effects are also misleading. There are beautiful flares scattered throughout the entire stage, but the game also suffers from having terrible shadow effects.
Another main issue lies on the game’s controls. Xenon Racer‘s gameplay isn’t well-polished. This is one of the stiffest driving controls I’ve seen; probably the worst since V-Rally 4. The simple act of moving into a corner is easier said than done. The game wants you to drift at any given possibility, but it does a terrible job at teaching you how to do so. Unlike the easy driving controls from a game like Forza Horizon 4, Xenon Racer forces you to decelerate for a millisecond, tap the brake button (not the handbrake, mind you) for a millisecond, then proceed to accelerate like a lunatic once again or else the brutal AI will come for you like a starving cheetah in no time. If you don’t follow all of these steps as precisely as possible, you’ll just slow down like an idiot or crash onto the nearest wall. If, by any chance, you actually learn how to pull off this very specific mechanic, however, the game actually becomes fun to play, or as fun as the bad framerate allows it to be.
Finally, the biggest offender is by far the sound department. While you’re browsing through the menus, Xenon Racer is a very quiet game. You even feel inclined to turn the volume up. Once you get into a race, it’s a different story. You’re initially greeted by a very unenthusiastic announcer showcasing where you’re going to race, followed by deafening engine noises. They’re so loud you can barely notice that there’s actually music being played on the background. Xenon Racer‘s sound mixing is nearly nonexistent.
Xenon Racer has some good intentions and neat ideas, but it feels too much like a rushed and unfinished product. Its controls are stiff, its drifting mechanics are hard to learn, its sound design is glitchy, and its framerate is far from ideal for a futuristic racing game promoting the sensation of neck-breaking speeds. The game might look unique, but there are much better options out there if you’re looking for a futuristic racer. Just stick to the Wipeout collection or Fast RMX. You can even use a VR headset on the former, so there’s just no way Xenon Racer can compete.
Really colorful visuals and well-detailed vehicles, but look closely and you’ll notice the poor quality of the game’s textures. The framerate isn’t acceptable either.
The controls are very stiff at first and the drifting mechanics are poorly explained. Once you figure out how to actually pull these moves off however, it becomes second nature. You’ll still crash a lot,though.
A really faulty sound department comprised of poor sound effects and one of the worst instances of sound mixing in years.
Fun Factor: 6.0
What could have been a fantastic racing title is tarnished by stiff controls and an inconsistent AI. There’s a lot to unlock in here though, making the game a lot more enjoyable in shorter bursts.
Final Verdict: 6.0
Xenon Racer is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Switch.
Reviewed on PS4.
A copy of Xenon Racer was provided by the publisher.