Sometimes, you can look at a video game and know exactly where it drew its inspirations from with just one glance. I’m sure the development team at R8 Games wouldn’t be shy in admitting that Pacer, their high-octane futuristic combat racer, was inspired by the mighty Wipeout series that has graced the PlayStation platform ever since its inception. Heck, they’ve even got electronica musician CoLD SToRAGE on board to put together the soundtrack – someone who’s tracks have also been heard in the early Wipeout releases…
Whilst it wears its inspirations like a big badge of honour though, Pacer certainly deserves credit for offering a thrilling racing experience in its own right.
Pacer puts players in the driver’s seat of an array of futuristic hovering vehicles, each of which is incredibly slick in design and that can also go in speeds that would even make Lewis Hamilton whimper in fear. These vehicles take a bit of getting used to in order to drive too, with tracks featuring plenty of tight twists and turns that players will have to finely speed around if they want to have any chance of success. Need a quick boost to zip past an opponent? Look out for the many speed boosts that are littered around tracks, giving you a surge of momentum that can be a game-changer when trying to shave some seconds off your lap time. You can use weapons to blast away at opponents too, though you’ve got to watch out… enemies are just as likely to strike you down along the way.
Basically, if you’ve played Wipeout before you’ll feel right at home, though you can also expect an extra stylish and modernised re-vamping to the formula in Pacer. The frantic speed of each race and the destruction which comes with the combat makes for some really epic moments, whilst the soundtrack is ABSOLUTELY on point with the techno tunes suiting the vibe of the futuristic racing perfectly. It really gets all of the basics spot on and it makes for a mighty fun experience overall.
There are multiple teams to race for in Pacer and five different crafts to drive, each of which can be customised by the player to change up their overall appearance as well as their general performance. This is where Pacer’s elements of progression come into play, with the player earning credits by winning races that can be spent on these improvements. It adds a real in-depth element of personalisation to the experience where you don’t just cater your vehicles for your own personal tastes, but also for any event that’s coming up. Think you’ll need to prioritise speed? Go for an engine-based performance loadout. Or are you facing a track with plenty of twists and turns? A handling performance loadout might be necessary. Find yourself getting destroyed by your enemies over and over again? Got for a Defence loadout instead and improve your shield.
Your weaponry can play a pretty big role in your success during races too, with all sorts of destructive tools and defensive gadgets making a heck of a difference as to whether you’ll manage to pip your foes to that first place finish or find yourself stuttering behind the pack. There’s a pretty good selection of weapons to use too; the Nano Rocket is perfect for sending out a powerful blast on a foe, the Swarm sends a multitude of delayed explosions onto an enemy vehicle, Tether allows you to absorb a rival’s health, Flashbang will blind and disorientate nearby foes, whilst the Mines leave a trail of destructive explosions in your path… that’s just naming a few of the tools at your disposal too, with plenty to use when racing across each track.
The combat in Pacer is slick and satisfying, though it demands precision. It’s never as easy as simply blasting a foe with each weapon at your disposal, but actually lining up each shot and waiting for the right moment to strike. Believe me, it was pretty annoying to shoot out a rocket only for a foe to slip away in a bend in the track, so a bit of track knowledge is vital to knowing when to shoot out at a nearby rival. You should be warned too; your enemies are REALLY efficient with their weapons, with a bit of an unfair lack of balance found when it comes to taking incoming fire.
So the general racing and combat of Pacer is top notch, but how do its game modes hold up? Well, there’s a single player career mode to go through that brings with it an array of unlockables and events, which is mostly enjoyable. Whilst I’ve seen better campaigns in racers (especially team-based ones), it offered enough to keep me engrossed in the racing action. Plus, it’s always nice to have a bit of an incentive to all of the racing action, so it definitely adds some motivation for the player.
The events themselves are pretty varied too, with standard modes such as Time Trials, Endurance Races, and Elimination Races joined by Flowmentum (which sees your speed increase as you hit gates in the track) and Storm (a Battle Royale-style mode where the safe zone is constantly getting smaller). There’s a good mix to play through, whilst the fourteen tracks featured in the game offer a stylish and varied selection of areas to race across that are spread over an array of futuristic takes on different countries.
Pacer is a blast to play in single player, but it really ramps up the tension in online multiplayer where up to ten players can face off against each other in epic showdowns. These were a LOT of fun to play through and I found myself enjoying racing real life players more than I did the AI, even if I did find success a bit of a rarity. With all of the different modes on offer and the ability to race without weapons though (which I admittedly preferred when facing off against skilled players), there’s plenty on offer to keep players coming back for more and more anti-gravity racing battles in the future. It’s good stuff!
Pacer’s frantic high-octane racing may feel familiar to some, but it doesn’t stop it being a thrilling and satisfying experience that’s a blast to play. Between the fun game modes, the slick weaponry, and the in-depth customisation, there’s plenty on offer here for racing fanatics to sink their teeth into. Add to that a really fun multiplayer component and you’ll quickly find yourself spending hours on end racing across Pacer’s futuristic take on the world.
Developer: R8 Games
Publisher: R8 Games
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC