Drift-based racing games may not be as popular as they once were so Xenon Racer is here to hopefully revive the genre.
Xenon Racer was developed by 3DClouds who created last year's very fun kart racer All-Star Fruit Racing. This time around, they crafted a much less cartoonish racing game. Xenon Racer is played a lot like Namco's classic Ridge Racer in that you need to master drifting in order to succeed. Plus, it has a futuristic aesthetic that's very similar to Sony's WipEout series. Anyway, the high speed vehicles in Xenon Racer make being able to masterfully drift around tight corners an initially challenging feat. In other words, you'll need a lot of practice to memorize the tracks as well as learn how to drift effectively. If you don't, you'll literally be left in the dust. Those willing to put in the effort can get a significant amount of fun here but casual racing fans may quickly become frustrated at the high degree of challenge.
Thankfully, Xenon Racer's sights and sounds are well accomplished. Sure, it's not as mind-blowing as WipEout Omega Collection but it's certainly flashy and appealing enough. For starters, the vehicle designs are sleek and gorgeous while the tracks feature a decent amount of style although many of them look very similar with only their backgrounds being slightly different. For example, Boston and Miami look pretty much the same in Xenon Racer although the same couldn't be said about the cities in real life. When it comes to audio, the effects of accelerating and crashing into walls are excellent and the electronic soundtrack that features tunes which range from early '00s house to drum and bass is awesome. However, the announcer is pretty cheesy and the robotic voice that says the odd thing is very generic. Overall, Xenon Racer's presentation is definitely better than the average indie but not quite AAA quality.
Xenon Racer boasts an impressive amount of content. First, the Championship mode has a lot of races to gradually work through and you can challenge unlocked tracks individually in Fast Race mode, too. If you'd like to practice more, you can do so in the single player Time Attack, Checkpoint Attack, Elimination, and Free modes. Finally, you can race against a friend in Split Screen mode or with up to 8 racers in Online multiplayer mode. There's also a huge amount of unlockables such as 18 vehicles, 7 locations that feature multiple tracks each, and loads of custom parts that change your vehicles' appearance and stats and can be helpful in claiming the next victory.
Although all of this may sound appealing, Xenon Racer unfortunately doesn't live up to its ambitious nature. As mentioned, the degree of challenge is quite high and will likely alienate many gamers who play it. This isn't necessarily a bad thing but considering changing the difficulty setting to Easy doesn't really make things substantially easier, only hardcore racing fans need apply. It's especially irritating having your vehicle run out of health only to reset at the back of the pack and then be unable to catch up no matter how well you race due to the extremely unforgiving AI that seems to take some kind of sick pride in pwning noobs. There's not even a cool explosion!
After I began to master how to play Xenon Racer, I found the core gameplay to become quite monotonous due to its simplicity. Aside from drifting around corners and boosting, there isn't anything that keeps the gameplay fresh. I would have loved to see weapons or tricks to mix things up a bit. The boring track designs definitely don't help matters much. Speaking of which, many of the races take far too long which sucks a lot of fun out of the equation as you'll either be ahead of the pack and just go through the motions for 5 minutes until you win or you'll be so far behind that you'll have no hope in catching up. There's rarely a middle ground where you find yourself in a heated match with your opponents which is something that Ridge Racer perfected decades ago so there's no excuse.
There's no denying that Xenon Racer is a very promising drift-focused racing game but it doesn't quite reach the high notes that its inspirations achieved 20 or so years ago. As a result, you'll be better off booting up your PS1 and replaying some classics.
- + Solid drift-based racing gameplay
- + Sleek car designs, appealing visuals, and awesome electronic soundtrack
- + Lots of modes and stuff to unlock
- - Steep challenge will turn away many gamers
- - Simplistic core gameplay could use more variety such as weapons, tricks, etc.
- - Most races go on for far too long