Fast Racing Neo
Three years ago, Shin’en greeted Wii U’s launch with the technically excellent but generic and soulless twin-stick shooter Nano Assault Neo, and we wondered whether the German studio might one day make a game that played as good as it looked. Now, with the console heading into its twilight, Shin’en is back with a technically excellent but generic and soulless futuristic racing game, and we’re still left wondering.
At least this time it’s working in a genre that hasn’t reached saturation point – though the series’ return probably has less to do with Shin’en having a strong new idea, so much as a desire to capitalise on the continued absence of F-Zero. Certainly, there are some who’ll embrace this as if it were the ideal substitute, and in certain respects it’s a convincing facsimile. Its title isn’t misleading: races move at a blisteringly quick pace, and it offers a steep challenge to rival Amusement Vision’s GameCube classic. It looks the part, too: slick and shiny, with a rock-solid framerate that no amount of weather effects, giant mechs and colossal Dune-like sandworms can disturb.
Soon after you boost off the first grid (your Mario Kart instincts will serve you well here), it quickly becomes apparent that Nintendo – or, for that matter,
Studio Liverpool – shouldn’t be too concerned. Fast Racing Neo might have speed to burn, but its handling model leaves plenty to be desired. It simply isn’t twitchy enough: even moderate corners are bizarrely difficult to negotiate without heavy braking or bouncing between the walls on either side of the track. Jumps are particularly graceless, your craft wobbling in mid-air as if made from tin foil, and touching down with all the elegance of a rookie pilot landing a plane with a malfunctioning undercarriage.
Steadily, you’ll acclimatise to these control foibles, but it’s harder to cope with the ludicrous punishment for a single crash, which can see you dumped back before the offending hazard, instantly relegated from first to last place. Likewise the capricious collisions, with one involved party seemingly chosen at random to be sent into a canned spin animation. Should you enter the final race of a tournament with a chance of reaching the podium, it will invariably contrive the one result that leaves you out of the medals – though you could argue that’s entirely in keeping with genre tradition.
Multiplayer offers a more level playing field, even with the improved stats of later vehicles, while a simple online component benefits from some robust netcode. Handling aside, this is a competent future racer, but even at maximum velocity it fails to stir the blood like the games to which it’s most indebted.
Obstacles approach at such speed that you’ve often little time to react. The trigger buttons allow you to lean into turns for sharper cornering, though the effect is negligible unless you also take your foot off the gas