In terms of indie racing titles, there has never been a better time to be a fan of the genre. Recently, we’ve had traditional point-to-point racers like Horizon Chase Turbo, TrackDayR and the stupendously entertaining art of rally.
Other Steam Early Access games such as RaceLeague, Szrot and Phaseshift offer more diverse takes on the indie racer category: Race League is a genuinely intriguing physics-based experience; Szrot uses PS One-era visuals to bring a former Eastern Bloc city and its culture to life; while Phaseshift offers exciting vehicular combat and surprisingly high production values.
In contrast, Race Me Now, by Polish developer Werys Game Studio, is a straightforward example of pure racing, with no apparent USP. The question is, without a defining characteristic can it compete with its indie contemporaries?
Race Me When?
Released on 26th August during the recent Indie Racers Festival, Race Me Now is a stylised three-dimensional racer evoking overtones of Virtua Racing. The arcadey looks and feel of the game match the colourful aesthetic perfectly, but the ‘90s arcade vibes also extend to the scarcity of game modes and options.
To hit the track and get racing you only have two choices: Season or Single Race modes. It’s not much, and there isn’t even multiplayer to extend the game’s longevity. Season is the main single-player mode, featuring four separate championships divided by car class, with each series containing four races.
That’s 16 races in total across the whole game, with each event lasting only three laps. Season mode can therefore be completed within two hours, with replayability stymied by the same four tracks being re-used in the same order for each championship.
A Street Car Named Luna
The 52-strong roster of cars is divided into four classes: Street, Sports, Muscle and Super. As expected, you start out with standard road cars before working your way up to unlocking the fastest supercars.
The cars are unlicensed, but many models are based on famous marques. Fancy driving a Gulf-liveried Ford GT40; a road-going Maserati MC12 with white and blue two-tone paintwork; or the Toyota Sprinter Trueno from Initial-D? Car aficionados won’t be short of options.
The diverse range of car models, pleasant visuals and pleasing soundtrack (except the main title theme’s grating lead guitar riff) all combine to create a favourable first impression of Race Me Now. However, its limitations began to show as my first race got underway.
The default ‘swingman’ camera view lurches from side to side as your car sets off, offering the kind of unsettling feeling I’d normally associate with a VR sim racing stint. The nausea quickly dissipates thankfully, but Race Me Now’s lack of discernible engine noise is immediately noticeable.
If you shut your eyes and drove a big-block V8 muscle car or a Mini clone, you couldn’t tell which was which, as the exhaust notes are so muted. Then there are the tracks: there’s only four available, and they’re super-wide with scant variety in their topography.
The third track (Race Me Now’s circuits are unnamed sadly) features an impressive suspension bridge, but trackside highlights are few and far between otherwise.
Even objects like barrels and trees lack interactivity: hit a barrel once and it’ll lie on the track surface for the rest of the race, but your car will simply pass through it. Similarly, roadside trees are for decoration only. Rocks, on the other hand, are always a threat, especially when the erratic AI cars shove you off course.
AI: Artificially Infuriating
Your AI opponents are frustrating to deal with, but the fact that they’re slow – even on higher difficulty levels – means most of your races will be spent lapping solo out front. Collisions tend to leave your car much worse off too: ramming an AI car from behind locks both cars together – an eight-wheel train heading towards the scenery.
The controls feel sluggish too, so accidents can and will happen, especially in the quicker car classes. In fact, in all but the fastest class, you will be able to take most corners without hitting the brakes. Coupled with slow AI, races tend to be lonely affairs with zero jeopardy.
Pressing A (using an Xbox 360 controller) induces a zoomed-out camera angle and the makings of a drift mechanic (oddly this isn’t mentioned at all in the game menus). It’s not any quicker than simply turning left or right, so feels a little pointless. I feel like the implementation of drifting is vital in a game like Race Me Now, as the vanilla driving model isn’t intuitive enough to sustain long-term interest.
Two of the game’s circuits are wintry in feel, but veering onto the white stuff makes zero difference to the grip levels compared to grass or dirt. Every car also feels very similar, despite having disparate stats for Grip, Max Speed etc.
Street and Sports cars barely break 100mph, weirdly, while supercars tend to take off over high-speed crests (in the style of Mark Webber and Peter Dumbreck at the 1999 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans).
Race Me Never
It’s a shame Race Me Now has so many flaws, as there’s clear potential here. Visually, it’s tidy and runs well, and the car models look neat. Only having four tracks and two game modes is simply not enough for a game that retails on Steam for £9.29/$9.59/7,99€ – even if it is a budget indie racing title.
Other issues I experienced during my playthrough included fudged Steam achievements for completing the four championships, poor engine sounds and an overly harsh track cut detection system.
A lack of content and variety is what really lets Race Me Now down, however, and you will likely finish the Season mode in an hour or so. Unlocking all vehicles will extend your playtime by a few hours, but the game isn’t entertaining enough to warrant it, sadly.
Adding a multiplayer mode, drifting and more tracks (perhaps power-ups of some kind?) would enhance the game no-end in my opinion, as Race Me Now has the potential to be so much better.
|Developer||Werys Game Studios|
|Release date||26th August|
|Available platforms||PC (Steam)|
|Best played with||Gamepad (tested with Xbox 360 pad)|