REVIEW: ‘Xenon Racer’ (PS4)

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In the 1990s there was this very vivid and clear depiction of the future complete with vehicles that looked like spaceships, cybernetic augmentations, and pulsating electronic dance music complete with vocalizations and experimental sounds dotted this particular interpretation of futuristic sci-fi. It’s these aesthetics that I have drawn from Xenon Racer, a new and ambitious sci-fi racing video game from studio 3D Clouds and Dutch Publisher Soedesco. Xenon Racer makes a distinctive impact in a gaming space in which racing games, especially futuristic racers, are extremely rare and unseen. The game proves to be a solid experience, despite a few bumps in the road.

In the near future, advances in magnetic levitation and technology lead to the creation of magnetically charged vehicles that use magnetism for energy and propulsion. This leads to the first ever international racing league exclusively focused on vehicles using this new form of power. Across various locations across the planet, players will race through the streets, on the sides of cliffs, and alongside sunset-lit beaches at blistering speeds testing their mettle and skill with this new vehicle of the future.  For those that win these races, there is a bright future ahead of them, illuminated in lights and fortune.

Xenon Racer is a sci-fi futuristic arcade racer, where players will be at the hands of these new vehicles. These vehicles come in various shapes and designs, each one with their own capabilities in speed, handling, and boosting. Players will embark on a circuit spanning multiple cities and racing events. From time trials, to tournaments, to multi-lapped battles for first place, players will find a solid variety of races to embark along with multiple courses.

Each course will have an objective to complete, whether to simply finish the time trial race or place in the top three overall races, making the game a solid challenge but not unbearably hostile. With multiple locations and different track styles, there is certainly a healthy variety for players looking for an above-average racing game.

The cars in Xenon Racer handle very differently from the typical hover vehicle seen in other sci-fi racers. The cars utilize magnetic power and stay low to the ground, but travel at blisteringly high speeds across the track. Players will need to drift, slide, and use their magnetic boost at the right time to achieve victory. To gain enough power for a boost, the player will need to drift and slide across tight turns and corners, including near dead-stop turns.

Along the track, a small energy gate will appear. For those that drive-through, they will be granted one boost bar. Each bar activates an incredibly powerful boost that will blast players through a course. Players can hold a maximum of three boosts at a time. Using these boosts out of turns and along straightaways is absolutely essential for first place. Xenon Racer does not have any weapons, so players looking for a straightforward racing experience will certainly find that here.

Racing in Xenon Racer is splendidly different and polished, which is to be commended considering how difficult it is to adequately nail the speed and handling of a futuristic vehicle on the ground. Where most games would fall back to the familiar and common hovercrafts, Xenon Racer takes the bold step of making a sleek future racing vehicle that feels believable.

The controls have a sense of weight, momentum, and gravity so when players are racing at well over a 100mph and they pull a long drift through a turn, it feels just right. Even boosting past your opponents is remarkably fun and the unique challenges the game provides along the race course is neat. From racing through Dubai to the pacific northwest, Xenon Racer has plenty of variety and excitement for sci-fi racing. In addition to a single-player campaign, the game also contains online multiplayer.

Xenon Racer is ambitious, but it does leave room for improvement. Having played the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch version, I can say that the game, while sporting solid gameplay and presentation, could have been optimized before launch and benefitted from running at a faster frame rate. The PlayStation 4 version has a solid frame rate and adequately creates the sensation of speed, with the ability to go faster.

However, the Nintendo Switch version is incredibly underwhelming in its visuals and performance. It’s more than functional for racing on the road, but the game clearly needed a lot of work on the optimization front. While the team is in the process of release new patches to better both versions of the game, it still is underwhelming to see the game not reach the levels it could reach.

Additionally, there are some instances of rubber-band A.I, as well as clipping during races. Hitting the cars sometimes knocks them off course, but other times, they are indestructible. Additionally, race cars will seemingly appear to have unlimited speed and perfect handling, roaring past you with ease. I can understand some of these setbacks, being that racing A.I must be the hardest type of enemy A.I to design, being that the gameplay is limited versus a combat racer or action game. However, these are instances that could have been improved upon.

Overall, Xenon Racer is a solid sci-fi racer that is original in some of its ideas and features well-built gameplay mechanics. Its slick and polished visual style is quite the sight to behold if held back by technical limitations.  Some will see this as a solid sci-fi racer while I see it as a nostalgic racer that embraces 1990s nostalgia and stands out amongst a competition filled with dystopia. When your racing at 100mph in the city streets to classic EDM, Xenon Racer opens up.

Xenon Racer
  • 8/10
    Rating - 8/10
8/10

TL; DR

Overall, Xenon Racer is a solid sci-fi racer that is original in some of its ideas and features well-built gameplay mechanics. Its slick and polished visual style is quite the sight to behold if held back by technical limitations.  Some will see this as a solid sci-fi racer while I see it as a nostalgic racer that embraces 1990s nostalgia and stands out amongst a competition filled with dystopia. When your racing at 100mph in the city streets to classic EDM, Xenon Racer opens up.