The gaming industry uses the term Early Access for a lot of things to the point where sometimes you play a game that feels like it isn’t even ready for Early Access – you are actually just paying to be a tester. The Karters bucks the trend by going the other way, publishing a game as fully released but actually it should be labelled as Early Access right from the get-go. In today’s world, going down this route and then saying “we’re working hard to finish the game” feels disingenuous and not in the spirit of giving respect to your patrons.
From very beginning options in the menu are missing or greyed out. Things are misspelt. Characters appear twice in the character selection menu. If you ask for five or six players locally for split-screen, the menu still says four. When things progress to the track you notice that only two of the weapons or power-ups actually exist. The other’s are all placeholders and not there at all. The collision detection with the walls are not mapped out properly so you’ll drive through things that stick out because only the track perimeter is walled off. The game also gets slower as you play it more which to me indicates some kind of memory leak at the core of the game that also needs fixing. I didn’t even bother trying the online option as the whole thing had left a very sour taste in my mouth – and I was thankfully given a copy to review! No wonder customers are up in arms requesting refunds.
It’s funny how transparency and honesty have become more of a trading commodity because I’d be discussing all of the above in a different light had the developer said: “it’s not ready, we need help, it will take a long time to do so we’ll take your feedback and place the game in Early Access.” Instead of feeling like I’ve been misled, I’d be speaking about the potential there is in the game for the small moments where things click together – because those moments are there. By releasing this as a complete game and then saying sorry after, I have zero trust in anything being improved or completed.
The game prides states it wants to be a modern take on Crash Team Racing, the PS1 classic. To that extent, they have taken the jump into a drift style of karting. As you drift a meter fills up quickly and you can press the boost button when its nearly full to boost forward and reset it – chaining it up to three times. The boost mechanic works really well and when mixed with boost pads and some good course design that focuses on placing you on a curve most of the time, you’ll feel a sense of achievement when it all comes together. That achievement then comes to nought though as you’ll realise its faster to boost drift than go straight down the straights so in order to catch the leader you’ll be doing weird and wonderful things to boost down a straight. It should be that down the straight should feel fast and that you drift to stay fast in corners that slow you down, not the other way around.
AI competitors are included and it’s a bizarre mix. There is always one that can go about half a minute faster than the rest. It’s also often that one that gets stuck in a wall and doesn’t understand how to recover. AI drivers also like to just stop. No reason why. Just stop. It’s like their breadcrumbs get confused when a track has alternative routes and the driver doesn’t know where to go. The characters themselves are nice enough but they graphically glitch out at times and start wobbling around like rag dolls. The tracks to be fair are stable although not dripping in personality – and there’s only six of them. Thankfully, The Karters does have a couple of modes. You’ll have race and two time trial modes alongside a find the letter mode (over in a minute) and then an interesting relay race where players are split into teams and their lap times combined.
A copy of the game was provided by the developer for review.
Woefully unfinished at launch, The Karters is a lesson to developers who aren't honest with their community. Take heed. No amount of promises of improvement and hints of a good game in there somewhere can take away from poor practice, poor design and poor implementation. Borderline offensive.
Drifting does feel a bit like Crash Team Racing.
Released in a completely unfinished state.
AI only works about a third of the time.
Graphical glitches bring the game crashing down.
Poor collision detection and invisible walls - sometimes in the middle of the track.
Lack of tracks, characters, power-ups and replayability.
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