If I was to mention the word Wipeout, you will either fondly remember the fast and furious spaceship racing franchise, or the popular TV program. For this review I am of course referring to the game, and my, what a brilliant spectacle it was. I was never very good at it, but I enjoyed zooming around the different tracks, attempting to better my last run, and hoping to finish on the podium. When I was offered Antigraviator, I was intrigued to see how it would compare to its nearest rival.
Developed by Cybernetic Walrus and published by Iceberg Interactive, this spaceship racing game follows Wipeout’s model almost identically, but somehow misses the mark on nearly every point. The concept behind this title is simple; race several tournaments, place as high as you can, win credits, and upgrade your vessel. As your vehicle improves, you have a greater chance of winning the more difficult tournaments, and you will win extra prize money. Alongside the career mode, you are given the chance to enter quick races and compete online. It’s a very standard fare, and won’t wow you from the off.
I’ve seen it all before.
There is an issue with spaceship racing games, and that is the difficulty in making it original. Boosts, power-ups and traps have all been done to death, yet they are all sitting front and centre in Antigraviator. It’s hard to criticise Cybernetic Walrus for using such a tried and tested formula, but if you’ve played Wipeout, you won’t find anything new here. Just because the material is old, doesn’t mean that it isn’t well implemented, because it is.
The races are mind-blowingly fast, and it takes some time to adjust to the speed. Boost pads are located around each track, and you must use your memory to ensure that you find them as you complete lap after lap. The power-ups are collected and you will fight the opposition to gather them all. Once you have enough, you can sprint for a short period, helping to close the gap, or extend your lead. The traps, though, are a bit of a mystery! A robotic voice screams “trap ready” repeatedly until you send it on its way, your ship will glow different colours, and a message will ring out saying it was successful. What was successful, and how it affected someone is a mystery, but it stops the robot speaking, and that’s a great thing.
Plenty of race types and custom options.
Though the mechanics may be old hat, the developers mixed things up nicely with their race types. 6 are available to take part in; Single race, Pure, Training, Deathrace, Hybrid, and Countdown. Each gives you a different task to achieve, and all follow the same basic principles. Depending on which tournament you enter, you will be given a variety of these to attempt across any of the many tracks that are available. I really enjoyed this part of the game, and it felt like the developers placed a lot of thoughts into ensuring that the race types were varied.
Alongside the many racing options were the ship customisation and equipment upgrades. If you are successful, you earn the accolade of winning a tournament, and plenty of credits. The money can buy a new ship, or to alter the; wings, trans, or plating. Each different part has its own statistics, so you must purchase and fit the bits that best suit your driving style. Once you have your racer sorted, you can customise every part how you wish. I loved this section; decals, colour, and logos, it was all there to select. Unfortunately, your ship goes too fast to see it during a race, but it’s cool to look at in the hangar.
Online mode, what online mode?
Antigraviator is advertised as a single and multiplayer title, allowing you to enjoy this with friends and strangers from around the globe. Unfortunately, I could never enjoy it with friends, or strangers, as the servers are dead as a dodo. I waited for 30 minutes to join a game. No luck, not even a sniff. So if you wish to play this, it’s very much a standalone game with an unused multiplayer option. If you are fortunate enough to have lots of friends who have the game, you can create a private lobby, or you can go to a ranked match. If you go down this route, don’t expect to be joined by too many random players, though.
Everything is a blur, but it still looks great.
As you whip past posts and buildings, it all blurs into a hazy mess. But oddly enough, it still looks great. Your ship shines in the neon, cyberpunk futuristic setting like a beacon of light on a dark night. The tracks are brilliantly laid out with the power-ups poking from the ground clear for everyone to see. The action flows seamlessly with no juddering or stalling, and though it could make you feel motion sick, its buttery smooth finish allows you to play this for hours on end if you so wished. The many explosions of traps being set off, and ships blowing up, were a visual treat.
The audio however, cut through my brain with its high beats and aggressive tones. A mixture of dance music and drum and bass plays on loop as you circle each circuit. Now I don’t like this genre of music at the best of times, but to hear it blaring down my headphones during hours of gaming can only be described as agonising. If I put aside my hatred of the music choice, it suits the style and theme of the game perfectly. The adrenaline pumping tracks keep you on the edge of your seat, ensuring you stay focused. The sound effects matched what was happening on the screen, and the deafening bangs and crunching noises made you wince as vessels flew off the track, never to race again.
The controls are simple, only your reactions will let you down.
A basic tutorial is offered from the main menu, but you won’t need it. Helpful tips flit up between races, and everything else is learned through trial and error. The accurate analogue control allows you to soar through the skies with little difficulty. Traps are aimed automatically, and your only issues will be your own reactions. You will crash into walls, and the oppositions traps, but you dust yourself off and try again. It really is a straightforward affair, and this is one of its biggest selling points.
From its main selling point, to its lowest ebb, is a lack of desire to return to play. The gameplay feels repetitive and done to death. What you experience from race number 1 doesn’t alter at all. Yes, your ship gets stronger and faster, but so does the opposition. The lack of online play has impacted this title massively, and it’s a shame because I think it would have been a fun multiplayer experience. The multiple races do enough to keep you interested for the short time you try this, and a large and unforgiving achievement list will keep you playing if you want the 100% completion accolade.
How does it compare to Wipeout?
Antigraviator is an ok title, but it’s no where near the greatness of Wipeout. A lack of originality and no online community has killed this before it got going. The custom options for your ride are fantastic, as is the smoothness of the graphics. But I couldn’t get over the deja vu feeling that appeared during every race. Do I recommend it? If you love racing games, yes, but if not give this one a miss. If you fancy buying your own copy, you can do so here! Can you pilot your vessel and win all the fast-paced races? Avoid traps, dodge your opposition, and boost your way to victory.