Formula 1 styled management games went through a little bit of a boom in the late 90’s with several official and unofficial games being released. Formula XD is a indie developed throwback to the unofficial days of racing management games. Humour and approachability first, detail secondary – its a strategy light affair that has charm by the bucket. It does have a lot of drawbacks as a pure strategy game though.
Formula XD sets you up with a backmarker racing team to take part in a 7 or 16 season campaign. You choose a chief engineer, your engine, your tyres and a main sponsor. Your sponsor comes with specific objectives that you’ll need to fulfil to get all their money. Then you’ll head to driver market and pick one or two drivers depending on the size of your team and then build them a car. Then its off to the test session.
The test session acts as a way to start improving your woeful machine by completing laps based on various objectives. It also forms the qualification session for the first race of the year. All subsequent races on the 8 track calendar will be grid ordered in reverse championship order. Once you get to the race, you can pick the tyres, fuel load and the pace of the drivers your running. They can drive normally, push, defend or coast and their own stamina, tyre wear and fuel cost will adapt appropriately. After each race, the top 9 score points and you’ll be offered a car upgrade based on the race and off you go to the next one. It is light and breezy and you just need to stay on budget, on the right tyres and with enough fuel to make it home.
Formula XD’s prime game changer comes with the 30 tracks that are on rotation for the calendar. They each have modifiers specific to their track. American races only give half sponsorship revenue, Mexico is so hot the driver stamina is halved, other races have low grip or higher engine wear. It makes each track have a unique challenge. This is then doubled by Ernie Eccles Random Roulette Wheel! Here you have a random race rule change that will effect this race only. It may make it a sprint race, marathon race, give double points, throw a random safety car or set off water sprinklers! It is a great jab at Bernie’s crazy antics but they do genuinely change up how races are run. It also throws complete chaos into the mix.
Chaos is also how the races feel. The drivers talk gibberish and make silly remarks on the radio as they forget to brake and crash out all too often. The cars are woefully unreliable too which makes each race a lottery. The driver names are outstandingly funny though and any F1 fan will adore discovering them along with their personality traits. There are gems aplenty. Even the yellow flags and safety car messages are nuts. Yellow flags for ‘complete chaos’ would be great to see as an FIA readout.
For as funny as Formula XD is, its when you want to actually get into the nitty gritty of the game, things feel very vague. There is no information to let you know how a car is performing or if a driver has enough stamina to finish the race. It feels like a complete guessing game and the game itself seems like its running random variables for each car from lap to lap. Sometimes for no reason your driver will lap 5 seconds different from lap to lap and you’ve changed nothing. It is incredibly frustrating as you can’t change the strategy if you’ve no information to make an informed decision on it. So you aimlessly guess and try your luck or you play hands off and watch it unfold. Neither feels satisfying.
The game is also strangely narrow in how progression works. So long as you accept each upgrade and stay within budget, the car and driver gets better and the game gets easier and easier to do well in over time. It frontloads the problems first and then doesn’t really keep the pressure up. This is somewhat addressed supposedly in the harder ‘Turbo mode’ which has been added in its most recent update. The problem I have is that turbo mode specifically seems to crash to desktop every other race making it an utter chore to attempt to play. Indeed, in two hours of play the game crashed six times to desktop – that is unacceptable.
Whilst the game is full of British tongue in cheek humour that I loved, as a strategy game, Formula XD doesn’t really offer a great experience. Add to that all the technical issues of crashes, text boxes getting stuck on the screen and some weird hanging between screens and you’ve got a very rough beast. However, if you just go in for the humour and some light entertainment, there is definitely some fun to be had. On top of the main career mode you can customise your own championship (with actual qualifying sessions) or choose some of the bespoke challenges. Just be weary that there is only one save slot for the whole game. I overwrote mine by accident and it infuriated me.
Formula XD raised plenty of smiles but also plenty of table thumps too. I’ll be interested to see how the free mod kit can be used to make season packs in the future but the community for this game will be niche. Proceed with extreme caution.
A strategy game that doesn't give you the information you need to play it efficiently is difficult to recommend - no matter how funny it is.
Plenty of humour.
Lots of modes and game variants to make each playthrough different.
You can do a season in around an hour making it approachable.
Multiple bugs and game crashes.
Lacks information to let you make informed decisions.
Stylised graphics are marmite.
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