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June 2024

Formula Retro Racing: World Tour

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Racing
Publisher: CGA Studio Games
Developer: Repixel8
Release Date: March 31, 2023


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Switch/PS5/PS4/XSX/XOne/PC Preview - 'Formula Retro Racing: World Tour'

by Cody Medellin on May 10, 2023 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Race through iconic locations in this 90s-style arcade racer with crisp visuals, realistic driving physics and split-screen multiplayer.

Formula Retro Racing came out in May of 2020 from Repixel8 and sought to become a spiritual successor to Sega's Virtua Racing. Featuring F-1 style cars with a purposefully low polygon aesthetic, it did well but was overshadowed a few months later by Hotshot Racing, which was similar but was inspired by Daytona USA. Undeterred, Repixel8 has returned with Formula Retro Racing: World Tour, a game that aims to improve upon the original in a number of ways.

Much like its predecessor, the game's hook is in the aesthetics. This is purposefully a game where everything has a low polygon count. Textures are flat and angles are sharp, but there's a vibrancy thanks to the game's use of bold colors for cars, tracks, and even the sparks. Using a low count on a modern game engine yields the advantage of really high frame rates, so the big payoff is very fast racing with very responsive controls.

There are a few improvements that make the experience feel better. For starters, you get to control both F-1 and stock cars of different varieties and from different eras. Most of the differences are aesthetic, but you'll find that F-1 cars don't drift. The drifting mechanic is simple now, as briefly letting go of the gas and hitting it again on a turn is enough to make you go sideways. The damage system has returned, but it takes plenty of hits before your car is damaged enough to blow up. You can't exactly drive recklessly, but you can collide with other cars and walls once in a while and still be fine.

World Tour features four gameplay modes. Arcade plays just like its namesake, with some of yesteryear's sensibilities. You get a rolling start at the back of the pack no matter which car and track you choose, and the goal is to finish the race in the given number of laps. As in many classic racers, you're racing against a clock that will end your race if it reaches zero, but passing checkpoints adds more time to the clock. Finishing a race in any position gets you points, and those points are automatically used to unlock the next track in the list until all 18 are open. It's straightforward, but be prepared to work hard to get a first-place finish. The game makes it almost impossible to achieve that rank unless you drive perfectly enough to defeat the top CPU driver.

Free Practice and Eliminator modes are self-explanatory. The former lets you race in any of the previously unlocked tracks to get a better feel for the layout and learn how to take corners without incurring damage. The latter is essentially a survival mode, as you're trying to last as long as possible before time runs out or you fall into last place at the end of a lap. They're fun diversions but not something you'll spend a lot of time on.

Grand Prix mode is a little different. It's the only mode in the game to support four players in a split-screen format. There's no frame rate hit, and the fast speed is maintained, so there's no worry about any downgrades. Races begin in the traditional starting grid rather than with a rolling start. Unlike Arcade mode, there's no timer, and the AI is much easier to race against, so placement in the top 10 is almost assured unless you set the lap count too low. It's great for those who want the Arcade sensibilities minus the obstacles, but the drawback is that the unlocks from Arcade mode don't carry over like they do in the rest of the game. It makes sense since the scoring system and track order are different, but it means that all of your work in Arcade mode does go to waste.

One thing that players may not have expected is VR support. Thanks to the game's low polygon aesthetics, VR makes sense, as it's reminiscent of early attempts at the technology in the '90s but with a higher frame rate to make the experience better. Like the main game, the frame rate is solid, and the bold colors come through well on the headset. This also means the speed is fast enough that if you aren't acclimated to free movement in VR, this will likely make you sick.

There are a few elements that need some work. While the AI is varied enough that you'll encounter some bad drivers in each race, there are too many who take a drunken approach and fishtail all over the course to wreak havoc. There's also some inconsistency with taking damage, as some courses penalize players for going a little off track, while other courses are completely fine with it.

The game has already been listed in Verified status, but those curious about playing it on the Steam Deck will find that it is a perfect fit for the device. There may not be much to tweak in the options screen, but given the low-polygon visuals, it's a piece of cake to run at a solid 60fps at all times. Load times are practically nonexistent, and while d-pad controls can be iffy, the analog stick, triggers and buttons work fine. The battery life is also exceptional, as you'll easily get six hours from the game on a full charge, making it a go-to title for those looking for quick racing action on the go. The only flaw is the lack of cloud saves, which means you'll have to unlock everything twice if you play on another machine.

Formula Retro Racing: World Tour is currently in Steam Early Access, but it already has the potential to be a sleeper hit. The handling and sense of speed are well done, as are the low-polygon graphics when mixed with a high frame rate. The pacing ensures that everyone can unlock a ton of tracks before getting stuck. The multiplayer may be local only for now, but it's a ton of fun, and VR mode is great for players who aren't prone to motion sickness. The notes on the Steam Page say that it shouldn't be long before the game gets a full release, and we can't wait to play it when it does.

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