Formula Retro Racing wears its influences on its sleeve. The old retro cabinets like Daytona, Sega Rally are highly influential on the overall design here. In fact, it’s clear this is an homage to Virtua Racing. The flat shaded polygonal models and basic geometry hark back to earlier, simpler times. Also, much more difficult times. Some of this comes down to the timer but most of it comes down to weird design decisions.
Eight tracks are on offer here once they are all unlocked. We’re provided with some pretty basic loops, Monaco and a small selection of random areas like mountains and a forest. Each has a distinct look and layout but they’re hardly memorable.
Vehicle handling is very arcadey and you’ll get away with holding the accelerator and occasionally easing off to get round the bends. There’s not a lot of thought needs to go into getting to the end of each race. All you need to worry about is not hitting anything and reaching each checkpoint.
There’s a selection of car colours but there’s no additional vehicles to unlock. The music is pretty much the same song on loop, I honestly couldn’t tell you if it ever changed. Menus are simple but there’s an annoying wait when unlocking trophies which is done with little fanfare. Finishing position gives you points and these seemed to be tied to unlocking extra tracks.
Outside of the traditional arcade mode, there’s are eliminator and practice modes. Eliminator sees you needing to get as far up the pack as possible at the start and then making sure you don’t drop any further back than 10th. At the end of every lap the AI racers get faster adding to the difficulty. Practice mode lets you do free laps on any of the unlocked tracks.
Now onto my problems with the game, and I had a few. Within 10 minutes, I was ready to put it off and here’s why.
The retro aesthetic is adhered to so stringently that it hampers the experience. What could be a competent racer is marred by archaic design influences from the early 90s. Yes, that does appear to have been the teams goal when making this game but it takes away of lot of the fun. Whether it’s obnoxious UI pop ups that block you’re view as you approach corners, the other racers being stuck to their racing lines like Scaelextric or the biggest sin of all, rubber banding, it feels like everything here is designed with the right intentions but has the wrong execution.
The main issue that drove me to almost controller shattering exasperation was the weird choice to have your car explode at the merest contact with the environment or other cars. This was never more apparent than when you slid into the slipstream of the car in front, gained a little speed boost and were catapulted into the rear of the driver in front of you. I’ve actually lost count of the number of times my rolling start immediately saw me reach for the restart option only to see it happen again right away. It wouldn’t be so bad if these rules applied to everyone but I think I only ever saw the AI bin it into another racer twice.
Finding the racing line is all but pointless because you can guarantee you’ll clip someone else and it’s goodnight Vienna! The AI also seemed he’ll bent on ending me at times. It might be practically glued to that line, but that doesn’t stop it from occasionally hunting you out like a homing missile and cleaning you out as you go for a pass. This happened so many times at the end of a race with the back markers and saw me dropping from a winning position to mid table in the blink of an eye.
The amount of mileage you’ll get out of Formula Retro Racing will depend heavily on your level of patience, probably more so than your love of the retro style. There not a lot of content on offer here and what is, is pretty basic. I’d hoped for a quality little arcade racer and whilst it nails the the look and feel, I’d rather have my, well let’s just leave it there shall we…
- Nails the retro look
- Poorly executed
- Terrible AI
- Light on content