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Xenon Racer

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Racing
Publisher: SOEDESCO
Release Date: March 26, 2019

About Joseph Doyle

Joe has been known to have two hands with which to both play games and write reviews. When his hands are not doing those, he will put books, musical instruments, and other fun things in them.


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PS4 Review - 'Xenon Racer'

by Joseph Doyle on Sept. 19, 2019 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Xenon Racer is an electrifying arcade racer set in the year 2030.

Buy Xenon Racer

The future for the automobile industry seems like science fiction nowadays. In the past few years, we've incorporated cameras, screens, streaming music, and wireless internet into our cars' interfaces, and we're currently looking to make driving autonomous in the next few decades. Xenon Racer takes this progress and doubles down, claiming that the racing league in which you compete in the game is the last remaining league to use physical wheels, the rest having transitioned to magnetic/anti-gravity technology. The game, published by Soedesco and developed by 3DClouds, focuses on the glow of the racetrack and mixing the realism and fantasy of racing at high speeds, trying to bridge the gap between games like F-Zero and Gran Turismo. The result is a game that's focused on the visual and mechanical nitty-gritty, for better and for worse.

You start with a tutorial in two succinct parts, the first having you glide through some simple twists and turns on a course, the second diving into drifting and boosting, while having you navigating some winding parts of the track. It's here that you discover that there are not one, not two, but three different controls that you can use to drift. Giving the player the opportunity to play around with different ways to drift is really helpful, especially given the complexity of some of the courses, and it's also beneficial that players can use either the face or shoulder buttons to navigate the turns. You drift through wide sections of the sunny Miami raceway while learning that your car is more precarious than you may have thought. A condition graphic in the corner shows your car's health and any boosts that you gain as you drift or drive over the boost pads. Then, you're literally off to the races!

Xenon Racer revolves around boosting, drifting, and car health mechanics rather religiously, with high rewards for mastering the skills and high penalties otherwise. As you progress, the adventure mode, the Xenon Racing Championship, throws you a bone with the first set of races that acclimate you to the different style of racing. As you progress and hit more difficult tracks, the timing of your button presses, attention to track details, and the selected car parts become paramount. Choosing when to use your boost can either sling you into first place or land you straight into a wall. Drifting allows you to make those tight bends and garner some boost but at the cost of raw speed. The level of complexity in balancing these different parts of the game, seeing what you can do away with in deference to something else is the balancing act that is Xenon Racer, making it a more thoughtful process than expected from a racing experience.

However, the game ends up feeling hollow at points because every benchmark is another hurdle to clear rather than a welcome challenge. The frustrations of not being able to complete a certain course or challenge with little help on how to actually do so — the available courses for the campaign mode are not available in a practice mode — result in the player rejecting the game rather than wanting to do better. If you fail a certain early time trial, the game literally tells you to switch out for a different car, despite having no others to choose from. The controls can feel a little floaty, and your car still flies across the track at higher handling levels. This callousness in the controls and mechanics is grueling rather than inviting, and it leads to an overall taxing experience. For some, grinding out how to balance the right car accessories, drift time, and speed on each course like characters in an RPG dungeon may sound like the perfect difficulty level for a racing game. Too many times, I slammed into wall after wall trying to perfect two or three incredibly tight turns on a course to end up dead last or close to it. That's the comparison I'd make for the rest of the game.

Aesthetically, Xenon Racer is a mixed bag. The visuals have their focal points pretty hammered out, but they largely doesn't hold a candle to other games in the genre. Part of the allure of games like Forza and Gran Turismo are the absolutely stellar and stunning graphics they offer. While Xenon Racer is no eyesore, it can't possibly measure up to the likes of these more mainstream racing games. The FMVs look nice, and they welcome players into the game. The focus on light and design pay off, with the sunlight either gleaming off the car as it turns the corners or weaves between tree branches as dusk approaches. The polished look of everything in the hub and the fluorescent light bouncing off the car are indicative of the level of gloss that solidifies the game's futuristic approach.

Furthermore, the design of the cars and their accessories is intricate, adding different stats to the car depending on what kind of build and car you're going for. Each design looks sleek and innovative while maintaining the more realistic approach of the overall graphics. The standard color options for different parts are also present. The assets, the UI, and the menus look more modern but ultimately end up feeling generic. While it's no graphical tour de force, Xenon Racer still largely delivers on what it needs to. On the other hand, the music is incredibly cheesy electronic fare. If you've ever played Rocket League, the music comes from the same electronic record label, Monstercat, which I must say leaves a lot to be desired. While it does fit the format and tone of the game, the music feels like it's already dated, a poor way to round out a title that's set over a decade in the future.

Xenon Racer is made for those who have laser focus and dedication to nailing every detail. The sleek design and flow of the game are constantly disrupted by either the constant destruction of your own car or the jerky stop-and-go you must embrace to make tight turns, which are a necessity. It's certainly playable, but it's vexing and not recommended for the casual player. While the visuals shine in some respects, as a whole, they don't muster much more than a passing glance and a shrug. The game plays with ideas from the racing genre, but nothing quite sticks to make it a memorable experience. It's difficult to recommend to anyone who isn't interested in racing games. While it starts off strong, Xenon Racer ends up flatly spinning out (and probably slamming into the wall).

Score: 6.0/10

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