REVIEW : Formula Retro Racing (XBOX Series X)
Would Virtua Racing 2 look like Formula Retro Racing if Sega ever produced it? After all, the game, which was recently published on Steam and Xbox One, is very similar to Sega’s legendary slot machine, which later made its way onto multiple consoles: monochromatic polygons, puristic arcade races, and catchy music all speak the same language. Best possible circumstances, right? What do you believe the telemetry data from our test revealed?
Fatl before stoppen
Of course, if Sega ever produced Virtua Racing 2, it would not have been done by a single developer. Andrew Jeffreys is the man behind developer Repixel8, who has previously made several retro-themed titles and aims to release the tube racer Gravity Chase next. His classic concept may thus be kept to the essentials: race, improve your personal best time and survive in Eliminator mode as long as possible against opponents who are continually getting quicker. Championships versus AI pilots with names like “Sir Bastion Fatl” or “Maximum Stoppen” are unfortunately not contested.
But it doesn’t matter because the individual runs are tremendously difficult! If you want to win all three gold medals on the easiest level of difficulty, you must bite hard on the last stretch at the very least. Some mishaps are not yet triggered on the simple level, and there is a time constraint that makes mistakes difficult. As a result, achieving first place in all eight courses takes time. If that isn’t enough, you can compete for the top spots in worldwide rankings.
Full throttle through the hairpin
So, if Sega ever produced Virtua Racing 2, it could look and play just as well. In any event, Formula Retro Racing retains the spectacular racing game flare of the 1990s with its adorable simulation approach from today’s perspective – i.e. with no physical reality at all. It’s a joy to roar through the port of Monaco at nearly full power since you turned in just in time to push the digital cross through the entire bend.
Anyone who has tried virtual “racing” in slot machines understands how it feels. I don’t recommend using the analogue stick. Although it appears to steer more precisely, in actuality, you have more control over the vehicle in difficult situations with brief digital inputs.
But, no matter how you do it, once you get the hang of it, you gracefully avoid the opponents, who are only meant to be hurdles once you have internalised their weak areas and learnt breaking points by heart. The fact that overtaking manoeuvres frequently occur in dangerous locations suits the old-fashioned tenor just as well as the odd shortcut over green run-off zones. I haven’t had this much fun with this humdrum pace in a long time, and it’s all up to Jeffreys, who captures it almost as faithfully as the just-released Switch Virtua Racing himself.
Especially since, if Sega had produced Virtua Racing 2 – at least back then – it might have looked somewhat like this elaborate homage. Because not only are the single-colour polygons reminiscent of the original but the lead is stabilised by quick feel-good beats. Tails also stream out of the rear spoiler driving in front when in the slipstream, which is also pressed deep into the curve when driving through tiny chicanes. There isn’t a better way to convey the gilded images of the Sega universe.
Trolled by the AI
It’s only a shame that if Sega had produced Virtua Racing 2, there wouldn’t have been certain flaws in this game. I’m referring to the opponents’ unreasonable behaviour, which is why driving on at least one of the courses (screams of wrath booming down from the mountains!) can be extremely frustrating. In other areas, the opponents suddenly pull to the side and brake so hard in bends that you nearly always rush into their back if you don’t get on your irons early. Because they are then back on the road at top speed virtually immediately, you not only feel gently insulted, but you also notice an unusually low number of overtaking manoeuvres on the straights. It’s also a shame that you can’t change your keyboard or gamepad settings or glance back when you choose the cockpit perspective. You must also change them after each start because the game does not remember the configuration.