Played on Xbox Series X
Originally starting as a Kickstart project titled Formula Fusion, the game has since been rebranded and reworked as Pacer. Does this fast and frenetic title have what it takes to please fans of anti-gravity racers? Let’s find out.
Wait is that?…
You’d be forgiven for believing that Pacer is a spiritual successor to Wipeout, especially considering how some in the development team, R8, have previously worked on Sony’s much loved franchise. However the team has implemented some new gameplay features to help set their game apart. Pacer features 5 anti-gravity vehicles, 14 tracks, 11 weapons, and 8 race modes to add some nice variety to each match.
While there is a Quick Play mode to jump into any of the tracks you’ve unlocked or purchased (more on this later), the real meat of the single player is the Career mode. Here you join different teams and race your way up four speed classes, starting at F3000 and ending in the Elite class. Once you reach Elite status, you’ll need jedi-like reflexes to keep your vehicle from painting the walls as you barrel down the tracks at ludicrous speeds.
As you play through the Career, the game will have you battle through the various game modes including standard races, time trials, elimination, and so on. The game even offers a unique take on the Battle Royale genre where an energy dome decreases in size, damaging everyone outside until there is only one racer left. Once you win certain events, you unlock new tracks, track variants, and cosmetic items to be used in any mode. You are also given the option to unlock these items using the currency earned throughout the game. Credits can also be spent in the game’s Garage mode.
I Need a Weapon
Here you can create custom performance and weapon loadouts where you equip mods to alter your vehicle’s stats and what weapons are used in each event. It’s here that the game sets itself apart from your typical anti-grav racer as the weapons you have at your disposal are chosen before a race, instead of what icon you plow through as you’re speeding through the track. I should mention that all items unlocked in Pacer use the in-game currency. There are no microtransactions or pay to win systems here. A welcome change in today’s market.
The gameplay is precise, the various modes all play out very differently, and no two events play alike thanks to the combinations of various weapon and performance loadouts. The game has a meter for shield, health, and boost, which fills up slowly during the race. The tracks are littered with speed boosts and icons that recharge your shields or provide ammo for the weapons you have equipped. Controls are tight and the different vehicle stats can be felt as you’re assigned different crafts throughout the Career mode.
Sights and Sounds
Graphically the game really shines. When played on a Xbox One X or Xbox Series X, the picture is sharp, textures are detailed, and the frame rate is a solid 60 frames per second. The variety in track designs is another strength as you’ll be speeding through a run down city, frozen air base, hydroelectric station, sky city, and more. Each track also offers a day and night variant, along with reverse and mirrored versions. The different vehicles also highly detailed and any equipped cosmetic mods are clearly visible.
The audio is another strong point in the game. Pacer’s soundtrack features various artists including Cold Storage, Dub FX, and Akira Complex. Thankfully the game has a stream friendly mode, so you can broadcast yourself playing without worrying about any copyright strikes. The sound effects are also well done. The anti-gravity effects sound great for your craft and the weapons all carry a distinct sound.
There’s always a but
All is not perfect with the game however. While I enjoyed most of the campaign, the game will sometimes force you into a mode that may not be everybody’s cup of tea. For example the Thread the Needle game mode has you race through a track peppered with mines, where you try to get the fastest lap while dodging these explosives.
Frankly, I did not find these races to be very fun. It would have been great if the developers allowed players to have some control over what modes were used in the campaign to provide a more enjoyable experience. The weapon impact effects were also lacking the punch you’d expect from futuristic weapons. Speaking of weapon effects, the game’s heavy use of chromatic aberration while being hit by certain projectiles was way too heavy and distracting in my opinion.
The quality of track design was also inconsistent. While most of the tracks were great, some of them did not make sense to me in a fast paced racer as they featured winding sections or speed boosts right before a turn. One minor nit-pick is the lack of a replay mode after races. I know this may seem minor but it’s always disappointing when I can’t view my victory from some dramatic angles. Last, while I tried to test out every mode, unfortunately I was not able to play any of the online multiplayer modes during this pre-release period.
Despite some of these flaws, I still found myself coming back to the game again and again, trying to win the next event or beat my best times. The game is fun, beautiful, and unique enough to stand out. Fans of anti-gravity racers have been left starving lately and Pacer is definitely one title that can satisfy that hunger.