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Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Racing
Developer: R8 Games
Release Date: Oct. 29, 2020


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PC Review - 'Formula Fusion'

by Cody Medellin on Sept. 6, 2017 @ 2:00 a.m. PDT

Pacer is a pulse-raising future generation anti-gravity racer that mixes high octane speed with fully-customizable craft, allowing players to tweak until they’ve outfitted the perfect winning killing machine to complement their skills.

On the PC, there was only one game that's as fast and futuristic as F-Zero and WipeOut: Redout. It may not have had the same budget as either Nintendo's or Sony's racing games, but it accomplished the same sense of breakneck speed while still being tough as nails. There haven't been too many games like it before and very few titles afterward that tried to do the same thing. Introduced in 2015 via Kickstarter, Formula Fusion aimed to emulate WipeOut with the help of some of those game designers. Two years later, we finally have the game in hand, and the results can vary.

Since Formula Fusion is a futuristic racer, prepare for something wildly different from a typical racing title. Cars are now hovercrafts, and speeds of over 200 mph are considered slow. The breakneck racing takes place on long, winding tracks that favor sharp turns and jumps with very few straightaways. Players have a boost that recharges over time, and they also have a shield and health meter, so they can take a good amount of damage before blowing up. There are also plenty of pick-ups on the field, including temporary speed boosts, energy for weapons, and shield refills.

Those who are familiar with WipeOut will find Formula Fusion to be similar, but the differences are pretty significant. For starters, players choose a loadout before each race that includes one defensive weapon and one offensive weapon. The handling for the vehicles is also a bit tighter, so even though players will hit walls often enough at first, they can easily correct their movements. The customization options for vehicles include stuff for weapons, so it's plausible to have a gauss cannon that spreads shots or mines that home in on other crafts.

However, the core racing mechanics falter in a few areas. The game feels slower than other similar racers. It won't seem that way at first, since the title provides the sensation of moving much faster than normal, but if players switch back and forth between Formula Fusion and something like WipeOut Collection or Redout, it'll be glaringly evident. The vehicles are also more resilient, so that also means that weapons are largely ineffective. Then there's the matter of difficulty — or lack thereof. It isn't very difficult to take the lead in most races and keep it.

Perhaps the big thing people will notice is how paltry the numbers are. For example, there are only five ships to choose from, although customization goes a long way to making them perform differently. The same goes for the eight race tracks. The game tries to make them a little different by presenting them in reverse as well as day and night variants of both normal and reverse courses, but it still feels like a rather small collection. To the developer's credit, the included tracks are fun to race and could never be considered boring.

The different racing modes are fun, even if they don't present anything new. There are normal races and clean ones, where all power-ups and weapons are removed from play. Time Trial has players going for the fastest lap, while Speed Lap has everyone participating in a normal race while the fastest lap time goal is a moving target set by others. Endurance is intriguing, since everyone's shields start to deplete after the first lap; the winner is the one who can cover the furthest distance before blowing up. Though that mode can feel rather long considering the number of shield power-ups on each track and their slow overall depletion, it doesn't compare with Elimination, where players race for 10 long laps unless they're dead last in any lap and blow up as a result.

Formula Fusion comes with three different modes, but unless things change, there are really only two functional ones. Online play is unfortunately dead unless players have made arrangements for people to meet up online beforehand. The game also lacks split-screen play, something that Redout was also criticized for when it was released. That game later added split-screen to support one-on-one races, and the hope is that this title does the same somewhere down the road.

Aside from Quick Race, the meat of the game lies in Championship mode, where players must complete the given tracks in five different vehicle classes. On paper, that seems like it'll keep one busy for a long time, but in practice, however, it further exemplifies the lack of variety in places, since one could only race for one company. Even though other companies and nations are represented, the fact that you can only go for one place makes the whole thing feel incomplete despite the fact that this has been in Early Access for a while and was only recently released.

The presentation hits all of the right notes. Where the game may feel lacking in sound effects, it makes up for it with a soundtrack that feels like it's stuck in the 1990s in a good way. This may be EDM, but the abundance of techno beats makes players feel like the curators took a bunch of songs from that genre and era and threw in a few new ones for good measure. It fits well thematically and makes the racing feel much better. Graphically, the grime of the environments is in sharp contrast to the clean appearance of most futuristic racers, but they still look great when things are moving along quickly. With some powerful hardware, the game can hit a smooth 60fps without a hitch, and even though this is powered by Unreal Engine, there isn't a hint of detailed texture pop anywhere.

Overall, Formula Fusion isn't a bad game. The actual racing may not be the fastest, but some moments could get out of control if players aren't paying attention. The combat system is interesting enough, and the ship upgrades are intriguing. The roster of vehicles and tracks feels paltry, and the modes feel incomplete, which is especially noticeable since no one is playing online. Formula Fusion is still worth a look, but it wouldn't necessarily be the first choice for fans of futuristic racing.

Score: 7.0/10

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