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Pacer preview for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. Nintendo refuse to make another F-Zero and the last true Wipeout sequel was in 2012, yet both remain the standard-bearers for the long-neglected futuristic racing sub-genre. There have been many contenders to the throne over the years, yet most have felt like a reminder of what we’re missing out on rather than a true step forward. Pacer seeks to change this, and it’s an improbably fast and exciting second attempt from developer R8 Games Limited.
Pacer will already be familiar to owners of Formula Fusion, R8 Games Limited’s 2015’s future racer that released to middling reviews. R8 has now gone back to the drawing board, revamping its previous release and rebranding it as Pacer, hoping for more success this time around. It’s certainly on the right track, even if there are still question marks remaining over players’ most prominent criticisms of Formula Fusion.
Being the Elite
The sense of speed in Pacer is exhilarating. You feel like you’re in control of a rollercoaster desperately trying to not go off the rails, navigating its narrow turns, steep inclines, and gravity-defying loops while also attempting to overtake your rivals. This is undoubtedly one of the most fast-paced games in the genre, and playing on its highest Elite speed mode transforms requires precise movement and clenched buttocks.
While Pacer does feature less ludicrously speedy modes, Elite is where the real fun is it at. Even after briefly switching to its first-person mode, the action was so fast-paced that I nearly vomited. That’s no exaggeration, either — I felt the same sensation as when you go over a particularly steep hill in a car and it feels like your stomach has flipped over itself. But in a good way. Improving your muscle memory and eventually managing to take control of a hovercar traveling at several hundred miles per hour is an accomplishment, and eventually learning to not pinball my way around each course and figuring out how to time my air brakes accordingly made me feel like Speed Racer.
The preview build I played featured 4 tracks and 5 vehicles, each of which is impressively customizable. You can create loadouts for each craft in your garage, changing their design and also tinkering with their performance attributes, too. These can significantly improve both the look and feel of each vehicle, with you able to alter everything about your craft from its anti-gravity systems through to shoving a big fat spoiler on its rear.
These performance upgrades mostly consist of sci-fi nonsense words such as ‘Huascar Ram’ and ‘Atomic Brake,’ helping make Pacer feel like a simulation of a completely fictional sport. This also extends to its tracks, which can be played in day, night, and mirrored modes if you spend some coins to unlock these variants, which look worn-in and gritty compared to the likes of Wipeout‘s pristine courses.
Keeping the Flowmentum going
There are multiple playable modes, from a standard race through to elimination rounds and a unique ‘Flowmentum’ mode, where players grow faster with each gate they pass. However, while a single-player campaign is promised, this wasn’t available in the preview build. Considering that Formula Fusion‘s barebones campaign was a major criticism, it remains to be seen whether Pacer will rectify this.
Like Formula Fusion before it, Pacer also struggles with unimpactful weaponry. Each hover vehicle is equipped with a separate shield and health bar, with these depleting as you’re damaged. There are various weapons you can use to reduce your rivals to scrap, from homing missiles through to mines and pulse waves, but the animations when these weapons hit is so underwhelming that it’s difficult to know if you’ve actually damaged an opponent or not. Hopefully, the full release makes me feel like I’m actually hitting a car from the future with a rocket.
Pacer is tons of fast-paced fun and as someone who longs for a new F-Zero and Wipeout, I have a strong feeling that this will fill the void. Hopefully, its planned single-player campaign will be robust enough to appease disappointed Formula Fusion players and it’ll find an audience for its online mode, as the fundamentals are all there for this to be the futuristic racing game we’ve been waiting for.
Pacer was previewed by Game Revolution using a PC preview build of the game.