Format: PS4 (tested), PC, XBox One and Switch

Released: May 2018 (Switch later 2018)

Trailblazers puts a unique spin on arcade racing games but adding a Splatoon painting element into things and letting you pit all against all or to race in teams of two or three. It isn’t the be all or end all if you win the race, because that’s only where part of the points are awarded – and this makes Trailblazers an enjoyable yet tactical game to play.

trailblazers
The handling feels like a slightly more responsive Wipeout

Each player is fitting with a paint cannon for their vehicle that can paint the road their teams colour. When driving over your painted colour, it gives you a speed boost and points for doing so. The problem? Everyone else is doing the same thing! Do you go for the optimal racing line and know that someone else will paint over it so you’ll not have full boost for that section next time around? Do you go the long route around and count on perfecting the line so you can get the maximum speed boost? Do you paint tactically to wipe away someone else’s paint instead? Your paint cannon can only paint where you drive and has limited paint before it recharges so you need to deploy at times that work for you, or against others. This can be a bit chaotic when its 6 drivers all against each other, as on some tracks, you’ll just be painting over each other and not getting a ton of benefit. In team battles, however, the game is sublime as if you’ve got local (or online) friends to communicate with, you can tactically have one going for the win, one for painting good lines and the third trying to paint over the other team. You can go really deep on the tactics, or just enjoy the chaos – either way, it is a satisfying ride.

trailblazers ps4
This is how points are dished out for victory – winning is only part of it

Finishing first gives you some points, but just as important – if not more so – are the points for painting the track, painting over others, drifting and speed boosting on your painted areas or using your paint as a paint bomb to attack and spin out opponents. After each race, the points across all these are added up to see whose the MVP or winning team. The AI generally do a decent job and can be turned on or off to fill up all six slots and outside of these main modes, there is also a gate mode where the paint is restricted to driving through gates on the circuit – and this does favour driving fast, as does time trial mode. There is a lengthy story mode which introduces each character and some of the nuances of the racing which contain lots of mini-missions per race to complete although nothing is locked off by not touching this mode.

trailblzaers
Six paint trails make for crafty tactics

Trailblazers is a fantastic concept, delivered beautifully but there’s a couple of downsides at the moment. Firstly, whilst the chunky and colourful graphics are superbly arcade, there are a few framerate issues where the game struggles to keep up in the busy sections. It’s quite noticeable at times and I hope it is improved in a future patch. The tracks themselves are great and have reverse and mirrored versions – but I’d welcome a couple more tracks into the mix too for the price point.

Positives

  • Painting mechanic works really well
  • Deep tactics if you want it, but can be taken at arcade face value too
  • Superb multiplayer team-based racing
  • Knows how to provide the fun factor and leaves you with a smile on your face
  • Handling feels responsive and weighty but easy to get to grips with
  • Superb soundtrack (think Jet Set Radio)

Negatives

  • Frame rate drops are noticeable in busy sections
  • Couple more tracks would have been welcome at this price point

Conclusion

It’s rare that something original and fun pops out these days that I can say without a doubt is a pure delight. Tech issues with the framerate aside, this is a storming game which I have really enjoyed, and will be one that I think will be a staple for any multiplayer gaming sessions.

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