Remember the late 90’s? When high-speed futuristic racers were as much a part of pop-culture as Impulse deodorant, Opal Fruits and headset microphones?
The single player Campaign mode offers up three different difficulties, or speeds, in Subsonic, Supersonic and Hypersonic. Inside these speed classes reside four cups, made up of four separate tracks, all perfectly named for the game (Xenon, Cobalt, etc.). You’ll have to finish on the podium in every cup to advance upwards towards the next challenge, and along the way you’ll unlock new vehicles to pilot, all featuring unique stats and handling. It’s a brilliant challenge, and getting gold on every cup across all three speed classes will be tough for even the most hardy of speed-freaks. The fact that you can also see your world ranking across each cup is huge motivation to head back to the track.
Time Attack is, as always, pretty self explanatory: race on every track, across all three speed classes, to initially beat the Shin’en set time, followed by your own. Times from players around the globe are again shoved in your face here, pointing their grubby little fingers and saying “You can’t beat me!” whilst blowing a raspberry. It’s a great system and a ginormous stick up the backside to keep on racing.
Times from across the globe are shoved in your face, pointing their grubby little finger and saying "You can't beat me!" whilst blowing a raspberry...
Hero mode follows F-Zero’s classic style of gameplay - the orange and blue speed bursts now also function to recharge your craft’s shield; bump into other racers or the side of the track and you’ll lose valuable boosting power. There’s also the constant fear of knowing that one misjudgement will lead to your flying off the track, and in this mode solely, to your instant death/disqualification.
Online multiplayer operates in much the same way as fellow Wii U racer Mario Kart 8 - three tracks are pre-selected before you and your globally-scattered associates decide which one to race on through a voting system. It’s all very democratic, really. In the time we’ve spent online there have been no instances of lag, it runs just as smoothly as the single player, with no obvious drop in graphical fidelity or frame-rate.
The local multiplayer is also great craic and a mode that we really don’t see enough of these days, especially outside of Nintendo platforms. In this instance, however, the graphics are scaled down for three and four player races, along with a drop in frame-rate to 30FPS - but it still runs smoothly and provides lots of entertainment.
The gameplay present across all modes is simply stunning; the vehicles handle fabulously, and you never feel like you’re being unfairly punished at corners, off ramps, or during collisions. The very simple phase-switching mechanic works superbly, really making you learn each of the sixteen playable tracks. The tracks themselves are well designed and take in a variety of terrains - deserts, jungles, rainswept utopias and avalanche ridden mountains. The graphics are exquisite too, with wonderful visual effects and particularly impressive motion blur. It’s a true showcase for the Wii U.
The music and sound effects are also spot-on; from the fondue-cheese announcer (the same guy from F-Zero GX), to the roar of the vehicles themselves, to the thunderous crashes and collisions. The pumping techno so maternally connected with the genre is also present, naturally complementing the action splendidly.
We only have two gripes with the game; the ridiculous name (c’mon Shin’en, try a little harder) and the fact it isn’t an official F-Zero game. Neither are actual issues, mind - which speaks to the quality on offer here.
All in all £10.99 gets you a cracking game, chock-full of content. What more could you possibly ask for? Shin’en even managed to compressed all this wonder into a meagre half Gigabyte, so it won’t dominate your undeniably measly Wii U hard drive, either. If you have a Wii U, don’t be a plonker - FAST Racing NEO is a superlative piece of gaming that you miss at your own peril.