The wipeout game series has now almost achieved cult status among racing game fans. The rapid, futuristic vehicles in combination with the integrated weapons were able to convince on the Playstation 25 years ago. After the release of Wipeout 2048, Sony announced in 2012 the closure of the responsible studio "Sony Computer Entertainment Studio Liverpool". Apart from a collection of older wipeout pieces, fans have since had to wait in vain for a new sequel.
The hope: In 2015, the newly founded development studio R8 Games Ltd developed the early access version of the wipeout clone Formula Fusion. Since many employees of the former wipeout developer gathered in this new studio, many players had hopes for new futuristic racing game action. Unfortunately, Formula Fusion couldn't convince either fans or critics. Graphics problems, boring and few routes, a bad driving experience and simply little content were criticized. The developers at R8 Games Ltd have now turned the game inside out from head to toe. Menu design, racetracks, driving experience, game modes, hardly a stone was left unturned. Even the name was changed from Formula Fusion to Pacer. The re-release is now finished, the game has now been released as a full version and … still not convincing.
Now this is Pacer Racing!
Source: PC Games
At over 500km / h we drive along the narrow and winding routes. Sometimes on the ceiling, on the wall or in a loop. Meanwhile, the other vehicles are all around us, shooting rockets and machine guns at us, while we need maximum concentration in order not to fly from gang to gang like in a pinball machine. And all of this at the slowest of the four speed levels! Pacer rarely gets bored. If you thought wipeout was fast, Pacer can teach you better. The two slowest speed classes are really fun, but the steps above were hardly passable for us and we also strongly doubt that this is possible at all without errors at some racetracks. But this is largely due to the frequent frame drops in the higher tempo levels, after which we see each other again and again in the gang. Faster is not always better.
In classic wipeout fashion, brief boosts and weapon items can be found on the routes. There is also a rechargeable shield in Pacer. We have to pay special attention to this. As soon as our shield power is used up, only a small life bar protects us from the destruction of our vehicle. The gameplay works great, the balance between the exchange of fire, defense and speed is always balanced – all of that worked well with Wipeout. In contrast to Early Access, the driving experience is also more pleasant this time. The controls will certainly be a bit unusual for many racing game fans, but you will get a feel for it over time. The standard setting of the key assignment, on the other hand, is very cumbersome, but can be adjusted to your own liking. And Pacer plays better with a gamepad anyway.
Source: PC Games
It would be nice to have a little more feedback from the game itself. For example, we are often unsure whether we have included the shield item or not. With no significant sound or visual changes to pick up items, we often look into the tube. This is particularly annoying in flow tower mode. Here we have to drive through small gates in order not to lose shield and life energy. The more gates we pass, the faster we go. However, whether we still caught the gate or just passed it, we can only tell from the disappearing sign.
Great soundtrack … if you ever hear it
As cool as the actual gameplay may be, there is so little content in the game. And here we don't mean the different game modes (which we'll get to in a moment), but the presentation around them. Without an audience, moderator, award ceremonies, or even pilots, the world seems dead. The only thing that distracts us from the bleak emptiness is the electro and techno soundtrack. Many different artists have provided their songs here. Cool if you could hear them. Unfortunately, the game often just doesn't play any music. Then we drive on the track with the great sound of the wind and the turbines. And as good as the gameplay may be, by then at the latest Pacer just feels like a very nice early access version. Too bad that the game has been in this phase for the past five years.
Source: PC Games
When the game was called Formula Fusion, one of the biggest criticisms was its sparse content. Now there are new tracks, new game modes and even a career mode. A total of 14 routes are now passable in Pacer. Some races, like the Sonashahar in India, are beautifully and lovingly designed. Others, however, like the desolate white-gray wasteland of Laika Kosmodrom rather less. In addition to a bright daytime ride, all railways can also be used at night and mirrored. By the way, in order to unlock tracks, we have to cash out a lot of in-game currency. We then even have to pay extra for the night and mirror-inverted trip. This leads to an unnecessary and lengthy grind in which we have to drive the same routes over and over again.
Or we prefer to unlock the racetracks in the dreary career, which, like the rest of Pacer, comes without any presentation. In other words, we are driving prescribed routes in prescribed game modes at prescribed speed. Nothing more, nothing less. By the way, a change of vehicle is not possible in a career, not even after the end of the season or the change of our team (which is completely irrelevant, by the way). But we can't delete our career either, and starting a new one is just as impossible. The different vehicles can even be controlled differently! But no, if you made the wrong decision at the beginning, you have to live with it forever – at least in career mode.
The game modes, on the other hand, seem like a lot of content at first glance. There are eight ways to play Pacer. Unfortunately, some game modes are very similar. For example, the time trial is very similar to the speed lap. Both modes are about the fastest lap, but in the latter we are on the track with other drivers. Another example would be the Eliminator and the Battle Royal-inspired Storm mode. Again, both of them mean that the last person is eliminated from the race. With the Eliminator, the last one explodes as soon as a timer has expired. In the Storm mode, on the other hand, we slowly but surely get damaged if we are not in the ever-shrinking zone that protects us from the storm. Both of these mean that we don't want to go all the way back. The already mentioned flow tower, in which we have to drive through the gates, and the destruction mode, in which it is not the placement that matters, but the number of eliminations is more important.
Do you have paint damage?
Source: PC Games
The many different ways to tune our vehicle have been successful. In addition to the five different vehicle types, we can also adapt our cars to our personal driving style using a few setting options. Do we prefer very fast, particularly agile, or do we like a lot of defense? The numerous weapons can also be freely selected. However, a short video explaining the different weapons or a quick test drive would have been very useful. So we have to be content with a short and imprecise sentence. Our vehicles can also be optically adapted. Unfortunately, the options are also quite limited here and the exciting paintwork, just like the various weapons, cost an outrageous amount of credits.
Source: PC Games
The only thing we haven't addressed is the online matches. There is also a very simple reason for this: it doesn't exist. So actually there should already be, but during testing, after several attempts, we were unable to find even a server or player. And that although the game was only re-released in October! Either Pacer is extremely unpopular as an online game or the servers just don't work.
Pacer feels like a sturdy skeleton that lacks meat. The gameplay is now fun and the content has also been tweaked. Unfortunately, this happened so carelessly that in the end we had almost as much to complain about as we did in the early access times. To call Pacer ready is almost outrageous. Then if we take a look at the competition, we'll see how it's done right. The Wipeout Omega Collection is clearly the better option for Playstation owners. More content, better presentation, but costs a similar amount of money. And PC gamers can switch to Redout.
Pacer is available on Steam and Playstation 4. A version for the Xbox One has been around for years, but a release date is not yet known.
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