When it comes to quality kart racers, the Nintendo Switch feels like it’s got you covered with the likes of Mario, Sonic and Crash Bandicoot all offering their own brand of projectile throwing mayhem. If however, you like your driving games with a little less turtle shell lobbing and with a little more emphasis on realistic or arcadey racing then your options are definitely limited. Last year saw the release of V-Rally 4 and Gear. Club Unlimited 2, two games that could have filled that void rather nicely but unfortunately stalled on the track for a number of reasons. In fact, the only real racer that has stood out is M2’s port of the classic Outrun.
Next up on the starting line though is futuristic racer Rise: Race the Future a game that gives off plenty of SEGA Rally, Wipeout, and Ridge Racer vibes. What could possibly go wrong?
While on first impression Rise: Race the Future might seem like you standard semi-futuristic racer, there’s definitely more to the game when you get under the hood. In fact, this is a racer of two halves – the first taking place on land and the second kicking in as soon as you reach water. In Rise: Race the Future your futuristic vehicles are actually amphibious, allowing you to seamlessly switch between screeching tires on land and hovering over large bodies of water. It’s a neat idea and one that’s not just for cosmetic purposes.
Speeding across dirt, gravel or any sort of land-based terrain offers with it a certain amount of grip while transitioning over to water results in the handling of your vehicle feeling looser and floatier (as you’d expect). The constant switching between land and water does add an interesting caveat as you’ll need to adapt your driving numerous times around each track if you’re to stand any chance of winning.
There’s certainly a learning curve to maintaining control over your car/hovercraft hybrid across the two types of racing surface with my first few races ending in spins and crashes aplenty. Once you get the hang of the looser behavior of the cars and the balance of accelerating and braking though you’ll soon find yourself proving a worthy nuisance for your AI opponents. That isn’t to say Rise: Race the Future is more of a methodical, simulation-type racer. If anything it’s a game more focused on power slides and going fast than driving safely and professionally.
The game plays great but sadly it’s the Switch’s hardware that can end up hindering things somewhat. While racers on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 benefit from analogue triggers, the Switch limits players thanks to its digital alternatives that mean you can either go full throttle or take your foot off the accelerator altogether with no in-between. The racing genre is arguably the one to feel the effects of Nintendo opting for digital triggers most and unfortunately, it’s a problem that will continue to crop up.
Rise: Race the Future packs a fair amount of content into its three main modes. Time trial is exactly what you’d expect while championship again does the usual bundling of tracks and scoring you along the way. It’s actually the challenge mode where things become more interesting though. Essentially a series of races with unique win conditions, these tasks range from the straightforward such as finishing in a certain time or position to the more unique including winning without using boost or keeping your vehicle’s speed over a certain limit Keanu Reeves-style. There’s a surprising amount of variety to be found here and the promise of new cars is enough incentive to see you through the sixty-plus challenges.
I do wish there was perhaps a little more variation in the track environments, the same small handful repeated often. They’re great to look at but considering this is a futuristic setting I was kind of hoping for a little more of the unexpected. Track layouts are also designed in a way that one will share certain sections with others as opposed to all being completely separated off and unique routes. Expect to get real familiar with the game’s four locales and its highlights.
Where other racers on Switch have struggled either when it comes to the visuals, performance or both, Rise: Race the Future impresses on both fronts. Environments are packed with detail, cars look sleek and shiny and most important of all the action remains smooth whether playing in handheld or docked (the latter the better). It’s not sixty frames but it’s certainly fluid enough and consistently so.
Perhaps the games biggest downfall though is its complete lack of multiplayer functionality. No ability to race online nor locally via multiple Switch devices or split-screen. Not even online leaderboards so you can at least compare your times with the rest of the world. The fast-paced action would have been a great fit for some couch multiplayer. Unfortunately what you’re left with is a rather claustrophobic experience.
Rise: Race the Future is a visually impressive arcade experience whose futuristic setting makes for plenty of fast-paced action with some interesting twists too. A lack of multiplayer and niggling control issues aside, Rise: Race the Future still makes for a thrilling change of pace especially if you’re starting to feel a little burned out on kart racers.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by VD-DEV