While the internet keeps discussing if this game is more WipEout than F-Zero, I keep on playing this great piece of entertainment. Mostly because I keep losing and want that to stop.
The first thing you’ll notice when you start up FAST Racing Neo is a shrill sound and a white picture with some pink on it. I bring this up because it is part of a theme I noticed with this game and that theme is that the game tries very hard to be its own thing but unfortunately it misses the mark almost completely.
That is not to say the game is bad. In fact it is very good. It might even be one of the best futuristic racers released in the last ten years. It just has no own identity, no soul.
Allow me to linger on that a bit before we move on. FAST Racing Neo is a horrible name. Now if the FAST would be an acronym, for example Formula Advanced Speed Tournament or something, now that would work. But it isn’t. It’s just fast and nothing else. The Neo is surrounded by a pink box as if we were meant to think it has special meaning. But it doesn’t, it’s just pink.
There are ten cars in the game and they are all different. They are provided by different companies, apparently, but it does not matter because the companies only serve as a name to give the cars, well, different names. There is nothing to know about said companies. They have some sort of logo but that’s it. We don’t know who they are or what they do. The cars lack as much personality as the generic title. The sheer fact that they are named doesn’t do anything but make us think there is a reason for any of this. But there isn’t.
Once you select your car and start a race, you are greeted by some euro techno trance music. The music is pretty nice, but most of it is forgettable. Not because it is bad, it isn’t, but because it lacks identity. It is just background music. Every time a track has a part that could stand out it gets lost in the mixing of the song. Every song is mixed very flat, has no outstanding parts or parts that create atmosphere. Again, the music makes you believe that there is something there, but there really isn’t.
I think I made my case pretty clear. What FAST is, is a great game that lacks its own identity, preventing it from becoming a fantastic game. And that is a shame because the visual presentation and the gameplay are among the best of the last few years.
FAST plays incredibly tight and looks fantastic, so it is sad to see that it is held back by lackluster or in some cases even missing branding. Controls are simple enough and work incredibly well. Basic gameplay consists of racing along the tracks and trying to hit the speed strips that are color coded. By pressing the X or L button you can swap the color of your car to match the speed strips. It is a great mechanic and fun to play. Visuals are amazing and the game hits 60FPS during the entirety of the single player and the online component. Even split screen is supported, with 2 players enjoying 60fps while 4 players have to make due with stable 30fps – just like Mario Kart.
Online also works like Mario Kart and in my few matches I never experienced lag or any other problems. Shin’en truly crafted a masterpiece in the gameplay and graphics department. They just, for whatever reason, failed to integrate anything meaningful outside of gameplay. This is best seen on the car select screen. Every car has unique stats like acceleration and speed but those stats are completely worthless since the A.I is rubberbanding like an SM couple on christmas (if you don’t get the metaphor you’re missing out) and the stats are missing some crucial information like handling and grip. Sure, it encourages you to try out all cars but that is part of the branding problem.
I am also very sad to report that the track design in this game, while exceptionally well made and fantastic looking, is very conservative. There are no loopings, there are no tubes or cylinders and you don’t even drive upside down, something I really liked in the previous game. I can’t help but wonder why those features are not in the game. Perhaps because the decision was made to make the game frustratingly hard and those things would have made it even harder? Or easier, perhaps? I don’t know.
The game is hard, though. Frustratingly so, even. The first league, the Subsonic league is so hard, it could have very well been the second league. Another league before said Subsonic league would have helped a lot to ease into the game. It’s no problem for me since I love games like this but every game is somebody’s first game and those people will be frustrated easily by the difficulty.
So where does that leave us? Well, as mentioned already the game is a very brilliant and beautiful game. It comes with free online play, local multiplayer, a nice single player mode, fantastic visuals and incredibly tight gameplay. So the only logical conclusion is that it is a great game. And that is all that should matter, no?
FAST Racing Neo is a fantastic game that plays like a charm, looks great and is worth every penny. If you own a Wii U you must own this game, no questions asked.
With the conclusion of this review I can’t help but to write down a few ideas for DLC, if Shin’en ever reads this or decides to do DLC. Note that those are just some random ideas and I am sure there are many great things to come either way^^
- Talk to Nintendo and ask them if amiibo support would be possible. Scan the Captain Falcon amiibo and unlock the F-Zero Cup – This cup is basically four levels driven backwards with some F-Zero music. It would probably be relatively easy to do that but a great feature^^
- A Legecay Cup with four of the best stages from the previous game would be nice. Especially if those four stages include loopings and corkscrews as they are absent from this game.
- Maybe add some dots to the FAST logo and tell everybody it is an acronym. Add some company descriptions to the car stats and let us change the car base colors. Those are some simple fixes to give the game unique branding.