ReviewsReview: Pacer

Review: Pacer

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No matter your age, we all have a vision of what we think the future will look like. For me, it’s robotic, cold, and controlled by money. You may think this a depressing outlook, but the more we allow robots to control our lives, the less say we have about our own destiny. Even if the way we live changes, the desire for high adrenaline sports will never fade! What better way to scratch this itch than to combine technology with supersonic speed. Pacer does just this! You are a racing driver, or pilot if you will. You control an anti-grav craft that must race around town circuits, winning events and shooting opponents from the sky.

Developed and published by R8 Games, this sterile vision of the future is; wonderfully brutal, insanely addictive, and is sure to get the heart pumping. Your futuristic vehicle soars above the ground and glides around corners. It comes equipped with deadly weapons, and has a shield to ensure that it stays in the race for as long as possible. The premise is simple; choose your layout, select your event, and race. The winner will be crowned the victor. There are no complexities, and the only thing that’ll hold you back are your reflexes and reactions.

Pacer is packed with content.

I’ve played many racing games in the past, including its nearest rival WipEout, but many are guilty of limited options, and repetitive gameplay. Pacer doesn’t fall into that trap. 14 unique and challenging venues are at your disposal. Not only do you have these locations to visit, they also have interchangeable variants; mirrored, night, reversed and so forth. You will take part in; 8 different race types, select 5 unique vehicles, 4 engine classes and wield 11 types of weapon.

Keep away from the barriers.

It’s a content overload that will please the many racing genre fans out there. The races are a straightforward affair, with the classic speed pad being utilised alongside a ship boost that regenerates. Ammo and shield icons are dotted around each stage, flying over them enables you to pick them up, ensuring that you replenish your armour, or power your weapons to take down the opposition. Other than this, all you have to do is focus on your objective and go for gold.

It’s all about your career.

A fantastic career mode makes up the core of the game. This is broken down into sponsor based events with a specific number of goals to complete, and rigid objectives that must be achieved before you can progress. Medals are allocated that reflect your success, and these don’t affect your progression, they are simply a badge of honour. You will be asked to; destroy X amount of opponents, win every race, and many other challenging goals. There is nothing complicated about it, but the opposition can be frustratingly hard, and hitting your target can be easier said than done.

Pacer isn’t all about the racing. No, you are free to customise and design your ship layout as you wish. This is the section of the game where you must consider your approach and design your vehicle according to your style. Anything you select will impact another attribute; increase the acceleration, and the handling will take a dive. Improve speed, and your defence drops. It’s a constant juggling act, and finding the perfect balance can be difficult. Alongside the stats, you are free to pimp your ride as you see fit. Choose body kits, OTT parts, and many colours and wraps. The world is your oyster when it comes to design, but these options aren’t free. You must spend your hard earned cash on any improvements, meaning some tough decisions have to be made.

It’s all about the spectacle.

People want action, and that is what you are going to give them. The 8 unique races demand a different approach and skill set. Will you be asked to race over a set number of laps? Do you have to destroy X amount of opponents, or survive to be the last car standing? These are to name but a few, but with the variation in game modes, and different track, it’s hard to get bored with what R8 Games have presented.

The future isn’t all about overbearing cities and dull landscapes.

This is then pushed one step further with a selection of single-player game modes, and online play against friends and strangers. Like the career mode, online supports up to 10 players at once. You can select from 7 game modes, and the developers have attempted to keep things balanced by implementing a matchmaking system. I found this slightly floored at quiet times as I was chucked into lobbies to make up the numbers, even though they were clearly much more experienced than me. If you didn’t wish to take part, but wanted to spectate, this was also accounted for. The spectator mode was a great way for novice players to observe the higher skilled players, and to gain some valuable tips.

A friendly bunch!

The online lobbies were easy to navigate and were well populated, mostly. The community, though in its infancy, had a mixture of high end gamers, and those who wanted to play for fun. With the use of VOIP to help build a community environment, I was worried that it would be toxic from the go, but my fears were misplaced. I had no issues at all, and would happily allow younger players to join in with little concern of foul language or trolling occurring. If the developers can keep this high standard as the game expands, then it will have a marvellous following that will make this a family friendly title.

Pacer is buttery smooth to play.

With vehicles exceeding 1000 Kph, it would be easy for the imagery to blur into a horrible mess. This never happened, with the graphics easily keeping up with the game’s demand. The vehicles float past the neon lights of each city, maintaining the high detail of each ship, and the buildings in the background. The landscape uses a dark and gritty colour palette which opposes the bright and vibrant tones used for the power up icons and the boost pads. This decision by the developers made it easy to navigate each track even when the world was moving at a supersonic speed. I adored the custom options, and the many choices that were placed at your fingertips. It’s rare that you have such freedom to create the look that best suits your personality.

I can keep talking about my love of the garage mode and all the mods that this allowed, but I won’t as I now want to gush about how great the audio is. I knew the moment I switched it on that the music would be a loud upbeat affair, but I didn’t think that I’d love it as much as I did. The style isn’t something I’d normally listen to, but it worked perfectly in this setting. With a custom track list available to select any of the 80+ songs, you can race to your favourite tracks. The drum and bass sounds are accompanied by some excellent sound effects. Booming explosions, screeching engines, and the shrill scraping of metal on metal, it was glorious. The brilliance of the audio adds a strong and stable element to further improve a well delivered spectacle.

If only you could stop to take in the view.

No one wants a difficult to control racing game.

With so much going on, it would be easy to have made this insanely complicated to play. Luckily, Pacer is unbelievably easy to operate. Which in part is helped by the minimalist power up approach taken by R8 Games. Each ship uses two air brakes. These help you slow down immediately, but also allow you to bank around corners at high speed. Acceleration and boosting require no thought process, and weapon aiming is automated to your closest rival. With the world skipping past you at a ridiculous pace, a straightforward approach was the correct choice, and it makes the gameplay enjoyable and accessible for many gamers.

The racing genre is renowned for containing a high replay value, and this game doesn’t buck that trend. With many game modes, race types and an in-depth career mode, there are plenty of reasons to return. It can be repetitive at times, especially when attempting the tougher challenges. But, this was eased with a change of focus, or any of the many track variations you will come across. An extremely tough achievement list has been incorporated, so completionists are in for a challenging time if they want to finish this off.

Pacer stands up against its peers.

With many games trying to replicate the enthralling and addictive nature of WipEout, it’s understandable that many will fail miserably. Fortunately, Pacer isn’t one of these titles. With many well designed levels and modes, lots of weapons to choose, and 5 different vehicle types, there are plenty of options to make everyone happy. A fair but challenging difficulty curve will keep you interested from beginning to end, as does the wonderful graphical and audio presentation. I loved my time with this and recommend that you buy it here! Choose your ship, customise it to your liking, and make each of the sponsors happy. You must race for money, gold medals, but most importantly pride.

SUMMARY

A brilliant anti-grav racing game that will keep you interested from start to finish. Play solo or online with a welcoming community. Excellent graphics and awesome sound make this a title to remember. It doesn't out do WipEout, but it comes close.

+ In-depth gameplay.
+ A good online community.
+ Smooth performance with few issues.
+ It looks great.
+ A fantastic soundtrack.
- Matchmaking can be hit and miss.

(Reviewed on the Xbox Series X. Also available on PC and PlayStation.)
Daniel Waite
My gaming career started on an Amiga and spans many consoles! Currently, I game using an MSI laptop and Xbox Series X. A fan of every genre, I love to give anything a go. Former editor and reviewer for www.bonusstage.co.uk, I'm loving my new home here at Movies Games and Tech. I can be contacted for gaming reviews on the following email: [email protected]

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