So often the term ‘arcade’ is misattributed to a game. If you believe some Redditors or forum posters, if something isn’t ultra-realistic, you should classify it as an arcade title. That’s simply not true.
In the purest sense, an ‘arcade’ title is just that, something designed with a physical cabinet in mind, with gameplay mechanics built around limited-time sessions and trying to be compelling enough for you to insert coin after coin. Think Sega Rally or Cruis’n Blast.
With that in mind, it’s hard to find a truer example of a modern arcade racing game than Formula Retro Racing: World Tour – and it’s all the better for it.
The current state of play
A vivid and approachable driving title, World Tour is a sequel to the solo-developed Formula Retro Racing from 2020.
Repixel8, aka Andrew Jeffreys, back then created the flat-shaded retro experience on his own, before publishing it to PC and Xbox One and being surprised at how well it sold. So then came PlayStation 4, and thanks to CGA Studio, Nintendo Switch ports.
For this sequel, Jeffreys returns, but this time CGA has helped with game development too, amongst other elements namely the track design and virtual reality support.
This is still an arcade racing game in its truest form, with time-based checkpoints you must adhere to alongside trying to overtake your rivals – reaching first place on the most challenging difficultly level doesn’t automatically mean you’ll finish a race, as you may still run out of time.
One glance at the cover art and you may be forgiven for thinking that this is the original game or some form of downloadable expansion.
Nope, this is a full sequel, and here’s why…
125% more content
The original Formula Retro Racing featured one car, a lonesome facsimile of a single-seater racing car, which you drove around each of the eight tracks.
You could blast through each location in around an hour – the longevity coming from nailing the game on the ‘Expert’ difficulty, as Justin Towell so eloquently put on the Traxion.GG website recently.
This time, however, there are 18 brand-new circuits, and 10 cars split into two handling types. It’s also around 40 per cent faster too. Then you throw in the VR and online leaderboards and you can see how much grander the scope is this time around.
The quantity of courses isn’t the main draw either, but the design of them. They are, on the whole, much grander.
Paris features a night-time Eifel Tower, New York a giant Statue of Liberty recreation, each distinctively attuned to an area of the world.
Take the rolling green hills of Wales, for example, adorning the surrounding environment of the Snowdonia track. Reminiscent of a road trip through the rolling hills, we could almost smell the bara brith.
There’s also great variety here, such as the steeply banked Indiana Oval, where timing a slipstream – which gives you a noticeable speed boost like a Red Bull Racing drag-reduction system once close behind a fellow competitor – is key to a strong result.
Not every venue is a home run, however, as we found Tokyo for example, too high-speed and spread the field out.
Yet, make no mistake – for us, unlocking and experiencing every route was tantalising, and one of the incentives to play through the main ‘Arcade’ mode.
Notable, then, that you must unlock the tracks. Each race can be run across three difficulty levels: Beginner, Advanced and Expert. Points are awarded based on your result mixed with the selected difficulty, and they unlock circuits. The reward loop is morish, if linear.
As we’ve alluded to already, there are two main car types, the second of which introduces a brand-new handling model: drifting.
In the ‘regular’ race cars of this and the first game, you must drive them in a strait-laced fashion. Sure, you don’t need to be on the absolute racing line to be quick, clipping every apices to perfection, but it was a far cry from, let’s say, a Ridge Racer title where going sideways through a corner became the preeminent driving style.
If there’s a tight corner approaching, brake and try to carry as much speed as possible without breaking traction. That remains.
But the second style is some ludicrous, over-the-top, drifting action.
To initiate tyre evisceration, simply use the left stick to turn. The drifting element is automatic, in a sense, you cannot not-drift. This is not Inertial Drift, where you must initiate a slide and then control it with both analogue inputs.
No, World Tour is a far more straightforward, traditional arcade, experience. One input, one result, steer the other way to end the slide or transition into the next turn. Heck, small adjustments in a straight line results in a drift, which does feel slightly unnerving.
You can use the touring-car style vehicles on any track, but there are specific drift-labelled circuits designed to maximise this particular handling technique.
Sometimes, like in the tighter sections of São Paulo Drift, the mechanic can sometimes appear to give in, leading you to slam into a wall, but most of the time this is simple slewing that raises a smile.
Similarly, your AI-controlled rivals can look all at sea, slewing down straights or blindly ignoring your presence, but somehow that’s part of the appeal. Occasionally, they can bunch together and cause the most almighty punch-up, car parts flying around with more veracity than a Will Smith slap.
Hey, that’s racing, sometimes it happens, but we do wish they would be able to lap a bit quicker.
One surprising asset to this sequel is the use of VR for PC players. Upon booting the game with an appropriate headset, you will see a reincarnation of an arcade machine, which you play ‘World Tour’ within.
Then, once you’ve selected the cockpit viewpoint, it works wonderfully, adding an extra layer of engagement. The varied track designs, which are deeper in detail than in the original, really pop in this mode.
We did find that it wasn’t clear how to re-centre – we managed it by hitting the escape button on a keyboard while in the pause menu – so an on-screen prompt somewhere could be a handy addition. Drifting was more difficult with the headset too.
However, this is a superb addition that helps bring the game to life, looking out of your window as the recognisable landmarks.
Easy does it
Formula Retro Racing: World Tour is unabashed in its simplicity. It harks back to yesteryear, but with some contemporary features.
Recently, we’ve been going back and playing some older arcade-style driving games on the original PlayStation, and in many ways, World Tour reminds us of these experiences, only with modern-day accoutrement.
Sharper visuals, a cockpit camera, cross-platform online leaderboards, four-player local split-screen and VR capability. They’re all here, but the gameplay takes you back to that cabinet hidden within a leisure centre.
It’s old school, but that’s its entire aim. They’ll even be some form of physical release, too, for the preservation purists.
Simple, honest, fun.
|Repixel8, CGA Studio
|31st March 2023
|PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S
|Best played with
Full disclosure: A code for the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. Here is our review policy.