I love top down racers. It’s a genre that I spent an absolute ton of time with in my younger days, but has unfortunately been neglected in this modern generation of gaming. It’s not that we don’t see top down racers get released – it’s just that they aren’t given the same love and care that they received in the golden era of the 90s that gave us titles like ‘Micro Machines’ and ‘Rock ‘N Roll Racing’. Developers VooFoo hope to change that though with the release of Mantis Burn Racing, a game that bring the top down racing genre to modern consoles with an attractive lick of paint, all whilst embracing the old-school gameplay that made the classics so much fun.
Being a top down racer, one of the most important aspects of Mantis Burn Racing is the vehicles themselves. They come in three different types: light, medium, and heavy. These types are then split across different classes too: novice, pro, and veteran. Each vehicle has specific stats that vary between vehicle types, whilst these stats also see vast improvements between classes. Each type of vehicle feels significantly different to use too, with the lighter vehicles feeling nippy and quick and the heavier vehicles sacrificing that speed for more weight and better handling.
Vehicles can also be customised, though it’s limited to a change of colour of both the exterior and of your vehicle’s boost. You can improve your vehicles though through the use of upgrades you unlock in the career mode (more on that later) though. Each vehicle has a different amount of slots where you can install an upgrade – you could improve the handling, hit the speed up a notch, or even add a bit more zip to the boost, though it’s best to improve the stats which most influence your play style. The upgrades could actually feel vital at times. In some events I would be under-performing, but after installing some upgrades would see a significant improvement in my performance.
Of course, whilst vehicle choice is important to the game it’s also vital that they’re enjoyable to drive. Thankfully Mantis Burn Racing gets this spot on with speeds that actually feel fast and handling that actually had me feeling in complete control. You’ll be drifting around corners with ease which, of course, is vital if you’re going to win a race, but also feels satisfying in-game too. It’s incredibly easy to get good at the game, whilst the accessibility of it makes it easy enough for anyone to pick up a controller and win a race. It had an incredibly arcade-like feel to things that might not necessarily feel realistic compared to other racers, but was always a lot of fun.
The main single player component of Mantis Burn Racing is the career mode that utilises the aforementioned classes to bring you a series of events to compete across. There are an absolute ton of events to complete too – it’ll take a long time before you get through them all. Events are well varied too, with the likes of standard races, time trials, accumulators (where players earn points based on their position) and knockout (whoever is last at the end of each lap gets eliminated). Each event type is fairly standard and nothing you wouldn’t have seen before in other racers, but they’re all enjoyable and manage to keep the gameplay feeling varied.
Each event comes with three side objectives to complete too, giving you a little something extra to work for during a race. One of those objectives will always be to win the event, but the other two will vary with the likes of setting a specific time, drifting for over 1000m, destroying a specific amount of roadside objects or even getting a required amount of air-time in your vehicle mixed in amongst a variety of others. I really enjoyed completing the extra objectives and they added to the longevity of the game – if you’re as much of a completionist as I am, you’ll find yourself re-playing events in order to complete everything. There’s also the added incentive of earning more Gears, Mantis Burn Racing’s way of showing off how good you’re doing. You’ll need Gears if you’re going to progress through the game as well as to unlock new vehicles.
I enjoyed the career mode and the sense of progression it offered, but I couldn’t help to feel that some events could start to feel a little repetitive. There are eight main tracks in the game that are also reversed. Whilst this adds up to sixteen tracks in total (a decent amount), the fact they’re used time and time again across such a large range of events left me seeing the same things over and over again. It’s never boring to race across the tracks, but the feeling of familiarity did become a little wearing.
At least the tracks look great though – Mantis Burn Racing is certainly an attractive game. Tracks are well designed, whilst the environments they’re set in look impressive too, taking you across the likes of well-lit streets, clifftops, mines and construction sites. There was a neat effect with your surroundings too where anything around you that wasn’t in the main line of action would blur out. Whilst there’s nothing particularly special about this on every occasion, there were times where it would emphasise the size of a race track. One time I could see a blurred hill that I just drove up in the distance, except rather than being empty had my opponents speeding up it. It was a neat little effect that stood out to me, showing off the sense of scale that’s often missing from a top down racer.
The only real downside was that there wasn’t a massive amount of variety within the environments themselves. The low track count already left things feeling familiar, so the fact that a lot of them looked the same didn’t really help the cause. I have been told there’s an extra environment and tracks coming to the game in the future as free DLC though, so I’m excited to see the variety that it adds to the game.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Mantis Burn Racing’s load times – whilst I can live with there being a fairly lengthy loading period before a race starts, the same load time occurs if you simply restart a race. It takes you completely out of the action and often made the prospect of retrying an event to complete all side objectives feel quite daunting.
Mantis Burn Racing features both local and multiplayer options. Local is fantastic with the classic split screen modes we got to enjoy whilst racing with friends with in the 90s; it was a blast to the past and a really enjoyable way to play the game. Online was great too… well… when you could find a race. It’s early days yet, so the game isn’t incredibly populated with players to compete with. When you do find a race though it’s fast, frantic and fun.
Mantis Burn Racing is an incredibly enjoyable racer that’s both great to look at and a blast to play – especially in the multiplayer modes that can be played both online or locally with friends.
It can suffer from a lack of variety with some events feeling samey over time, whilst the lack of track diversity could feel a little underwhelming too. This will hopefully get rectified with the upcoming free track DLC that’s promised though, so the future does look bright in that regard. What’s most important is that you’ll never get bored of actually playing the game, with Mantis Burn Racing offering plenty that’ll please fans of classic top down racers or even gamers who just enjoy an intense, action-packed race.
Developer: VooFoo Studios
Publisher: VooFoo Studios
Release Date: 12/10/2016
Format(s): Playstation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC