Extreme speeds, anti-gravity cars, high levels of firepower, intricate and beautiful tracks, and a bumping techno soundtrack. If any of the above elements sounds like a great game to you, then you should check out Pacer by R8 Games. It plays like a nostalgic ode to the futuristic racing games of old, like Wipeout and F-Zero. However, some notable bugs, especially with Pacer’s multiplayer features, put this game just shy of being the perfect modern take on the genre.
Stop and look at the scenery
Make no mistake, Pacer wears its heart on its sleeve. Pacer is unabashedly similar to the games it’s an homage to. If it does anything right, it’s to nail that feeling of playing these old games, while offering some much-needed modern touches, the first being the presentation.
Pacer is undoubtedly pretty, with bright colors and cyberpunk aesthetics. Of course there’s the requisite bustling future cityscapes that have been a staple of the later Wipeout games. Post-apocalyptic dead cities? Exotic Far Eastern cities? Snowy tundras? Tall mountains? Pacer has them.
The best part is that the game delivers all these detail-rich locales with proper optimization. I could run Pacer on a six-year old gaming PC on Ultra settings without missing a beat.
Perhaps the only criticism that can be leveled at Pacer’s visuals is that they’re a bit too safe. There’s little to distinguish them from other games in the genre other than graphical fidelity. There are no environments that haven’t been seen in similar games. I would’ve loved to see some dense jungles, ancient ruins or other track settings that haven’t been done before in this genre.
That said, 2020 graphical fidelity goes a long way here. Seeing these classic settings graphically updated is still a treat for the eyes.
The pace of Pacer
If you’re on the Steam version, you’re going to need a controller. While it is possible to play Pacer with a mouse and keyboard, you’re gonna have a bad time if you try that.
Pacer controls just like any other futuristic racing game, and that’s both to its benefit and its detriment. Pacer has the characteristic slip-sliding feel of anti-gravity racing games’ past, recreating both the perks and flaws. You can handle sharp turns with relative ease if you know the track well enough.
How you use the airbrakes on your ship will vary depending on the speed class you’re racing at. Airbrakes can be useless at the lower speed classes, but absolutely essential at the higher ones. However, they’re still buttery smooth, and the developers of Pacer certainly know what fans want in their controls for this type of game.
What’s even more interesting in Pacer’s gameplay is how you can customize your ship, and this goes beyond cosmetics. You can tune your ship to your exact liking, tweaking things like acceleration, handling, braking, shields, and more.
Your ship also has weapons, but unlike Wipeout where they’re randomly picked up, you have to equip them ahead of time. This is one departure from the Wipeout formula that’s a bit disappointing. It reduces the amount of mayhem possible, especially for race modes like Destruction.
The single player Pacer game is pretty much right on the nose for what fans of the genre want. There’s plenty of single player content in the form of the Career mode, where you can race against a wide variety of AI opponents in all the modes Pacer has to offer. Difficulty is pretty much what fans can expect, which means while it’s enjoyable, it can eventually get stale.
This is where Pacer’s multiplayer game features come in… or they would, if they weren’t bug ridden. On Steam, multiplayer is barely functional. As soon as a game is found, Pacer either restarts or kicks you back to the multiplayer menu.
There’s a server browser for custom lobbies, and naturally, considering the newness of Pacer, there are few lobbies going at any given moment. If you can get into an actual multiplayer game, the net code is silky smooth, but there are other bugs which rear their ugly heads during multiplayer, such as the sound cutting out completely in the middle of a game.
When all is said and done, is Pacer worth the asking price? For the most part, yes. There’s enough of a good futuristic racing game in Pacer to satisfy that nostalgic itch for fans of the genre. And the graphics, while not entirely original, are nothing to sneeze at. Players will have plenty of game to play in single player modes.
However, if you are looking to race others beyond the confines of your couch, you may have to wait until Pacer’s multiplayer gets all of its bugs squished. Multiplayer is probably fine on the console versions, but on Steam, it definitely needs work.
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