Fast Rac­ing Neo

EDGE - - GAMES -

Wii U

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

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