Hotshot Racing handbrake turns over the finish line and onto Xbox and Game Pass like the illegitimate child of Luke Hobbs. Developed by Sumo Digital and Lucky Mountain Games this high adrenaline racer focuses on drift mechanics presented with a slick low-poly retro arcade style. Published by Curve Digital and featuring a wealth of content could this racer be a contender for pole position?
British developers Sumo Digital are no strangers when it comes to the racing genre. Previous titles include the well-received Sonic & All-Stars Racing series and its latest iteration Team Sonic Racing. Although these games had the support of a major IP with SEGAs iconic mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog, all were solid kart racers in their own right that offered exhilarating driving, intense multiplayer battles and bright visuals. A lot of the aforementioned DNA can be instantly recognised in Hotshot Racing along with strong influences from Virtua Racing, Daytona USA and the Ridge Racer series, but that’s a good thing as long as it steers clear of the missteps recently made by Formula Retro Racing.
Hotshot Racing provides no holds barred twists and turns across sixteen circuit based tracks from around the globe. Locales range from the busy Las Vegas strip Casino Run to the prehistoric Dino Dash to the snowy mountain range backdrop of Fossil Cave. Whichever track you decide to conquer all share commonalities, rich and detailed low-poly environments, gorgeous skies and effects and vivid palettes.
Gameplay modes feature the standard array of events including Grand Prix, Single Race, Time Trial and local or online multiplayer. Grand Prix mode is split into a series of Cups each containing four races and a choice of difficulty settings. Checkpoints need to be hit against the counting clock to extend the timer otherwise it’s GAME OVER. Finishing first will ensure maximum points, with reduced scores awarded for subsequent positions, that are tallied up in a league table. Winning races or meeting certain criteria, drifting for a set period of time for example, will additionally earn you currency and unlockables. Single Race, alongside the expected, offers mini-games ‘Cops and Robbers’ and ‘Drive or Explode’ as a way to expand the variety on offer. Tracks can be mirrored in several of the gameplay modes, a trait common with genre-defining Ridge Racer, adding a fresh take on the existing tracks. Although Time Trial is limited to single-player ghost and global leaderboard chasing, the majority of modes can be played with up to four players in split-screen or eight online.
FAST & FURIOUS
To complement the assortment of tracks, Hotshot Racing features eight larger than life drivers from the world stage. Each driver has a unique visual style with voiced quips and a selection of cars to choose from, although their stats remain constant across the board. Each of their four vehicles has been perfectly tuned to provide an advantage depending on the track or your style of driving. Some strategy comes into play when weighing up the pros and cons of going with the fastest acceleration or better overall speed or focused drift ability. Finishing Gand Prix mode will provide a short conclusion to each driver’s very loose story arc and further unlocks.
Racing is high speed and high stakes, there’s a high chance of an opponent crashing into you and leaving your prized transport bonnet first in the nearest barrier. This was by far the most common cause of frustration throughout my playtime. Hotshot Racing feels to have slow car catch up on, so unless you perfectly time a power start you’ll more than likely be playing Destruction Derby all the way to the chequered flag. To counter this minor annoyance, you can employ a slipstream mechanic to slingshot around the pack. On top of this, drifting around corners at speed builds up your boost bar, while keeping the momentum going, ready to be unleashed at that critical moment with the press of a button. It handles extremely well and the gameplay is seriously fun, it won’t take you long to master the basics and the drifting will follow. There are several camera modes available to choose from including a well designed in-car view, so pick one that works for you.
All of the hard-earned currency, which is in abundance, can be used in the Raceshop. Albeit limited to a quick change of clothes or vehicle visual upgrade it does allow for some degree of customisation and welcomed addition. I had great fun adding massive spoilers, body kits and various different ‘fluffy dice’ to my car. The audio effects and soundtrack round off a polished racing experience. The enjoyment of seeing fireworks explode around you as music pumps while crossing the finish line is what makes the race worthwhile.
Hotshot Racing is a well designed and polished retro arcade racer that benefits from a host of modern quality of life enhancements. Varied gameplay modes, smooth performance and responsive controls make this racer a joy to play, despite a few minor niggles. Hotshot Racing oozes style, dishing up a dose of nostalgia that takes you back to a time when Virtua Racing and Ridge Racer were top of the podium. What makes this even more appealing on the Xbox is its inclusion on Game Pass.
Review code provided
Platform: PC, Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo
Release Date: 10/09/2020
No. of Players: 1-8
Category: Arcade, Racing
Developer: Sumo Digital
Publisher: Curve Digital
Download link: Microsoft Store