Arcade racers are often viewed as less than simulation racers by those who are a bit elitist but arcade racers can be excellent time sinks too. Race Condition is the latest game to take on the genre and it does a lot of great things to make it stand out from the crowd.
As a new driver to the league, you’ll be diving into 21 lo-poly layouts across 11 tracks to race for great finishes. The lo-poly chunky graphics are very stylised and they work a treat with instant load times and a bright early 90’s arcade feel. Along with an excellent synth soundtrack, you are transported back to simpler times. Races start out with 3 laps but as you finish races and gain XP, you’ll level up, unlocking more of those tracks and getting access to longer races. Fuel will then become a factor with lifting and coasting at the end of straights sometimes making the difference between several positions as your pitstops are like a drive-thru. Drive slower in the pits to refuel more fuel or go faster through the pits if you don’t need that much.
The handling of cars in Race Condition will take some getting used to. The cars feel like planes to me. The faster you go in a straight line, the more skittish they feel and they start to dance around at the rear. This means you’ll need to lift or brake for tight bends and try to judge a turn by not drifting into it too much as your car will grind to a smoky halt. Your car is naturally overly sensitive and so oversteer is a huge thing to contend with. You can dial this out with a balanced or easy set up but they feel noticeably slower and the faster times are done with the expert set up of low downforce and hanging on for dear life. I did find the handling to be a bit inconsistent with my fat thumbs but after an hour I found I was getting what I expected in turns most of the time.
11 tracks may not sound a lot but I like how Race Condition deals with reverse layouts. It locks layouts to certain times of day and weather formations. Even if the track may look familiar, doing it in the dark or under heavy rain or fog changes the experience (and the grip) each time. Although I’d wished for the option to change the weather and time of day in free race, this is a good way to spread the content whilst adding value. The cars are all different colours but handle the same. This is helpful for the excellent 2-4 player split screen modes which ran without technical hiccup. Same can be said for the addictive online time trial mode. A leaderboard updates upon your every improvement and you see your own ghost car to beat too. My only complaint here is that with corner cutting allowed, these leaderboards involve trying to straight line corners as much as possible so they’ll be difficult to truly police.
So far, everything has been pretty much positive through and through – and it is. There is one aspect of the game that I think is marmite for gamers and its something Race Condition leans into heavily. Rubber banding.
In single player campaign mode, you’ll meet Mr Dickmann. Frankly, he is a dick by name and by nature and the story is that his car is illegally fast and you need to beat him. What this means in reality is that Dickmann’s AI will ram you off the track, speed up to insane overpowering top speeds to get passed you on the straights and doesn’t play by the rules. This rubber banding is present across all the AI. Stop on track and they grind to a crawl. Go at your fastest and they’ll be all over you. It’s such an extreme that you can drive like a granny and then bomb around the last few corners and take a surprise win whilst the rubber banding adjusts. Similarly you can go 10 seconds a lap faster and then be rammed off by Dickmann wth 2 corners to go and come 2nd as well. I don’t mind some rubber banding but this extreme inclusion felt unfair and a bit lopsided. It dulled my enjoyment of the campaign mode although you don’t have to beat Dickmann for most of it thankfully.
It’s the sole negativity across a game that’s well structured and very playable but when a game feels unfair, it starts to make you annoyed and rageful. This problem is softened in multiplayer as the AI race more in a pack so it makes Race Condition much more fun with friends. I think if the rubber banding isn’t a problem for you, or its softened in the future, Race Condition is a definite 8/10. For now though, I have to dock a half point for that frustration element. If you want to be transported back to the arcade racer adrenaline rushes of 1994 though – Race Condition is a game for you.
Review copy provided by developer.
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