You know what game I used to love? Ridge Racer. Not the later entries that brought a lot more depth to the series, but the PlayStation original that focused on slick drifting around corners, tricky courses that take hours to master, and vibrant visuals that I *personally* still think look great today. Hotshot Racing, the new release from developers Lucky Mountain Games and Sumo Digital, looks to replicate that same racing experience, albeit with even more of an arcade-like twist. Does it manage to hit the heights of the classic racers that inspired it though or does it end up falling short of the finishing line?
Spoiler alert: it’s a fantastic racer that I’ve found myself completely addicted to, even if it can feel a little short of meaningful single player content.
Hotshot Racing is an arcade-style racer through and through, with a big emphasis placed on going as fast as you can to hit checkpoints in time, pulling off slick drifts to make your way around each course’s tricky corners, and then boosting your way ahead of the pack when you’ve filled up your boost meter by drifting or driving in an opponent’s slipstream. It feels REALLY good to play thanks to the accessible controls, whilst the frantic nature of the racing making each showdown feel incredibly exciting and full of action. Believe me, there’s nothing quite like pipping a rival to the finish line by milliseconds by unleashing your boost on the final stretch – on the flip-side, getting beat because someone burst out of your slipstream last second? It’s rage-inducing.
One thing that will probably catch players’ eyes immediately in Hotshot Racing is the game’s visual style, with the low-poly cars, tracks, and environments looking like they’ve come straight out of a SEGA racer from the early 90s. Whilst I’m sure this may ruffle the feathers of a few gamers who’re looking for the most detailed visuals possible these days, it actually manages to look fantastic in-game. Everything is vibrant, bright, and laced with colour, whilst there’s no denying that the cool retro look is full to the brim with the personality that is often missing in more modern racers.
It really is a wonderful visual style that fits the game perfectly, whilst the fact that it manages to run at a very smooth 60fps in both the Nintendo Switch’s handheld and docked modes is the cherry on top of this nostalgically decorated cake. I loved it.
The main single player experience of Hotshot Racing sees players competing in four different Grand Prixs (GPs), each of which is available across normal, hard, and expert difficulty. Have you played a Mario Kart game before? Well, the GPs take on the same form, with each consisting of four races across the game’s selection of colourful and creative tracks that’ll reward you with points based upon your position – the racer with the most points at the end of the GP wins. Simple.
Whilst there are multiple difficulties to tackle these on, it didn’t take too long to clear all of Hotshot Racing’s GPs. Sure, you can expect a formidable challenge as you increase in difficulty that may mean it’ll take multiple attempts to earn victory (especially since there is definitely a bit of rubber-banding involved with the AI), but you can still be expect to be done with them in just a few hours.
Fortunately, there are other game modes to play through to keep your in-game cashflow rolling, with single races, time trials, and two other race types that do things a bit differently: ‘Cops & Robbers’ and ‘Drive Or Explode’. Both are fun little additions (with ‘Drive Or Explode’ my personal favourite with its focus on maintaining a high speed in order to survive) and they do something a bit more creative when compared to simply beating your rivals. There are also additional stat-based challenges to complete to earn new costumes for the game’s diverse selection of racers or additional parts for your garage of vehicles too, so there’s plenty to get stuck into if you like customising with the look of your cars.
Despite this, I did wish there could have been a few more GPs to race through, with the competitiveness of the mode being where Hotshot Racing really shines. The other game modes are great for quick thrills, but the exhilarating feel of competition only comes from the GPs – once you’re done with them, there’s not too much incentive there to encourage you to return (unless you’re really interested in seeing the endings for each character, that is). I personally wasn’t too invested in unlocking new looks for my vehicles either, so I wasn’t that interested in earning new parts to customise them.
Of course, races are at their most competitive when you get to play with other players and Hotshot Racing delivers in spades with its multiplayer experience. Besides offering local-play for up to four players, you can also head online to take on others in frantic multiplayer showdowns. Admittedly, I haven’t had the chance to try out the online modes yet so I can’t comment on how stable they are, but if they hold up well network-wise I can guarantee they’ll be a whole lot of fun that’ll make for some slick and competitive showdowns. I can DEFINITELY see myself getting addicted to it when the game launches and its community grows…
If you just prefer competing online without the stress of other racers shunting you from left, right, and centre, you can just race against other player’s ghosts in order to get the best times if you prefer. It’s a fun way to see how you stack up against other drivers, but be warned: they’ll be able to download and beat your times too.
Hotshot Racing is a brilliant arcade-style racer that feels satisfyingly old-school with its visuals, its impressive track design, and its action-packed racing. I’ve had a LOT of fun blasting through GPs across its creative variety of tracks, whilst the different game modes bring a fair bit of variety to the gameplay experience. It’s wholly accessible thanks to its simple control scheme too, though still offers enough challenge to make it ‘easy to play but difficult to master’ – just don’t be surprised if you get a little bit frustrated at the occasional case of rubber-banding throughout some races.
I do wish that it could have offered a bit more single player content to get through, but with both local and online multiplayer on offer it’ll be easy to lose hours on end with Hotshot Racing’s fiendishly frantic but ultimately delightful racing action.
Developer: Lucky Mountain Games, Sumo Digital
Publisher: Curve Digital
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC