Looking like it’s just stepped out of Sega Park arcade, Race Condition is a racing game with an emphasis on speed and fun, rather than technically complicated ideas. Taking inspiration from 15 real-world tracks and placing them into low poly, clean, settings, it will be the visual style that will initially draw you in. But, crucially, it’s the fun you have racing that will keep you.
There’s been a renaissance of retro arcade racing games of late and it’s a joy to see. This sits slightly towards the more serious side of arcade racers for a few reasons. Firstly, you will need to brake and brake often. Secondly, the track is narrow and lined with gravel and barriers. You can’t wall ride here, you’ll just crash into it. Thirdly, you have fuel to manage.
The new demo released for Steam Next Fest highlights this as you can lift and coast to save fuel as well as driving through a refuelling area in the pit lane. The longer you stay in the pit lane area, the more fuel you’ll get. It’s light tactics but it’s tactics above and beyond a lot of cookie-cutter kart racers nonetheless.
Where the arcade simplicity comes into play is the handling. There are no setups, with the car steering quickly and easily. Where the nuance comes into play is when your car gets up to some crazy straight-line speeds – a lot faster than the AI in the demo.
The cars prefer to brake and then turn rather than drifting around a corner. It’s not as extreme as say F1 Race Stars but there’s no drifting or boosting here. It’s pure racecraft and often if you accelerate too early, you can wiggle the car into an understeering tank slapper. It’s the physics that make Race Condition slightly more tricky than a point and squirt karter, but it’s absolutely nowhere near a simcade level either. I recommend using a controller but in testing out keyboard controls, they worked surprisingly well!
Race Condition sports replicas of famous real tracks that look beautiful on the overhead cameras. When racing, they don’t feel like cute versions of real tracks strangely, but I do appreciate the nod to tracks like Suzuka. Add into that weather effects like rain and snow, which change up how you drive, and you have plenty on your hands to enjoy.
Each race has up to 11 AI rivals, and while they weren’t super speedy in the demo, they weren’t stupid either. Passing cleanly is a must because your car is light as a feather. Touch wheels and you’ll be barrel rolling down over the top of them. It’s clearly something the developers love as when you cross the line, each car barrel rolls to a stop. With the retro wave soundtrack pumping alongside this, it certainly gives me Days of Thunder vibes.
When you aren’t driving in the main mode, gaining medals to unlock new tracks and XP to level up your driver profile (although what that’s for isn’t immediately obvious), you can pit yourself against others in online time trial leaderboards. Seeing the game update your leaderboard position after each lap and spotting names the next four profiles ahead of you to beat is a nice touch too.
Multiplayer works a treat too. The full game will allow for up to four-player split-screen. We were only able to test two-player split-screen at the time, but everything ran smoothly with no slow down. Steam Remote Play worked nicely with the demo too, although as with all racing games, expect a little lag for those playing remotely.
Race Condition is currently slated for an October 2021 release, but the exact date is yet to be set. Bring your gamepads and mates along for the ride. This one is shaping up to be an old-skool sleeper hit.