Review – Hotshot Racing

One of my fondest and earliest gaming memories back in my childhood was going to the local arcade parlor to play some classic racing cabinets such as Virtua Racing, Daytona USA, and Ridge Racer. I lament that this kind of racing game is pretty much extinct nowadays: fast-paced, with simple controls and physics, with an emphasis on colorful visuals, checkpoints, and drifting. Curve Digital and Sumo Digital’s Hotshot Racing is trying to bring the joy of retro arcade racing back. Let’s see if they managed to deliver, because we can’t wait forever until Sega decides to revive their racing franchises, right?

Hotshot Racing

Learn how to drift. It will be absolutely essential.

Hotshot Racing tries really to provide players with the sensation of playing a racing game that wouldn’t feel completely out of place had it been released in 1993. Despite being way more detailed than its main sources of inspiration, at least graphically, it still retains the same blocky, low-poly art style that basically became synonymous with most of Sega’s earlier “Virtua” arcade games, be it Racing or Fighter. I really appreciated the designs of all cars included in here, some of them being blatant nods to Sega’s classic 1992 arcade, as well as the lightning fast framerate. It might not exactly be as charming as those games, but it got the job done, at least in regards to its visuals.

The game plays more like an amalgamation of Virtua Racing with Ridge Racer. The physics are obviously much simpler than more realistic racing games, but there’s still a huge emphasis on knowing when to brake and drifting, as this is how you’ll be able to fill up your boost meter. This is absolutely necessary, as Hotshot Racing is a challenging game. You’ll need to learn when and how to properly drift and unleash your boost, as the AI is relentless, even on the easiest setting. That makes the game not the best recommendation if you’re simply looking for a laid back racing pastime, but considering its arcade roots, that’s not a problem at all.

Hotshot Racing

I love that all cars in this game are easily recognizable, despite being comprised of just a few polygons.

You earn a lot of money by winning races, which you can spend on new car parts and liveries. You cannot modify their stats, though: everything is completely cosmetic, and a lot of parts and skins can only be unlocked by initially completing some simple challenges, such as winning a set amount of races with a specific car, or managing to drift continuously for five seconds (which is easier said than done). There are a few extra modes included in Hotshot Racing as well. One of them involves ramming cars and making them explode, in a Burnout-esque fashion. Another mode pays homage to older games from the Need for Speed franchise, being literally called “Cops and Robbers”. If you miss the good old Hot Pursuit days, then this is a must for you.

If there’s one weak aspect in Hotshot Racing, however, that’s its sound design. The soundtrack isn’t bad per se, depending on which track you’re currently on, but the game relies way too much on voice clips. All drivers are fully voiced and they simply won’t shut up during races. They range from a stereotypical preppy British boy, to a cold Russian, and a Jamaican racer with the most exaggerated (and fake) patois I have ever heard in my life. If you were hoping for some as good as the soundtrack from the old Daytona USA games, you’re not getting them here, sadly.

Hotshot Racing

It’s not a new Daytona USA, but it’ll do for the time being.

Hotshot Racing is a nice throwback to the heyday of stimulating and cheerful arcade racers of the early 90’s. It’s as challenging as your average Ridge Racer or Virtua Racing, but sadly, nowhere near as charming. Although I appreciate what Curve Digital and Sumo Digital have come up with, all that Hotshot Racing really manage to achieve was make me angry that Sega still hasn’t decided to port 2017’s Daytona Championship USA to current-gen consoles.

 

Graphics: 7.0

Hotshot Racing aims to emulate the same low-poly art style from Virtua Racing. For the most part, it succeeds, but its courses are way too detailed for a game that tries so hard to look retro, ironically enough. I did appreciate the car designs and the high framerate, though.

Gameplay: 7.5

It’s a mix between Virtua Racing and Ridge Racer. It’s a bit less loose than those two games, but it gets the job done at the end of the day.

Sound: 6.0

The soundtrack is quite good for the most part, depending on which track you’re racing on. What bogs the sound design down is the excessive usage of cringy voice clips.

Fun Factor: 7.0

It is a fun throwback to classic arcade racers from the early 90’s, with a high difficulty curve and lots of items to unlock. It’s nowhere near as charming as its sources of inspiration, however.

Final Verdict: 7.0

Hotshot Racing is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Switch.

Reviewed on PS4.

A copy of Hotshot Racing was provided by the publisher.