FAST Racing Neo Review: The Future Is Bright
Nintendo just doesn’t want to give us a proper F-Zero reboot or sequel so its up to Shin’en, the clever folks behind Nano Assault Neo (one of the Wii U’s best launch titles from 2012) to deliver a fast paced F-Zero/WipeOut inspired futuristic racer. On the surface it seems nothing should be off, Shin’en has a good track record and FAST Racing Neo looks slick. Can this small indie studio fill the emptiness that racing fans so desperately want occupied?
As the game’s title implies, things move very quickly in FAST Racing Neo. Beautiful, highly detailed courses zoom by in a blur that will leave you wrapping your head around the mechanics at first glance. Once you get use to the controls, which doesn’t take more than 15 minutes, you’ll start to get a feel for what you should and shouldn’t take risks with.
If you don’t set up an approaching jump or important section of the course properly you could be cursing your way to last place in a heartbeat. Races are quick enough that making errors doesn’t feel like a punishment but a well paced learning curve makes you genuinely feel like you’re getting better at the game.
You can swap engine, blue or orange, which you can use to boost if you charge up your boost meter by driving over the corresponding color strips on each track. This gives FAST a F-Zero familiar layer which forces players to ask themselves whether they should risk shuffling over to a particular side of the track to gain more boost or avoid driving over the wrong colored markers. Driving over an orange boost marker while your blue engine is equipped will slow you down and you won’t fill your boost meter. Plan accordingly racers!
The vehicles look straight out of a sci-fi flick, well animated and stylish as the zip past each other. Each vehicle you unlock plays a little differently, with weight adding a wrinkle to the gameplay. Movement in FAST is of the utmost importance so calculating your risks on the fly is the main mechanic that will keep you hooked, be it in the offline cups or against people online. Will you get a much needed leg up on your competitors or will you ending up making a costly error?
Visually speaking, FAST makes the Wii U seem more powerful than it is. Just like with Nano Assault Neo, FAST is a stunning game in motion. How Shin’en pulls this off on Nintendo’s home console is something I wouldn’t understand but I’m glad these game design wizards took the time to make Racing Neo. The art style has flair and pizzazz oozing out of it. Tracks are easy to understand visually despite the speed at which you’re moving, with every turn being telegraphed well before you get to it. For as fast (no pun intended) as things go by you there is never any real confusion created by the game’s visuals.
The soundtrack is pretty solid and what you’d expect out of a futuristic racer. Its nothing to write home about but it fits in. Will you be humming these tunes a month from now? That depends on how much you play FAST though there are a few tracks I did enjoy listening to when I could hear them over myself shouting profanities at the screen.
Hero mode is for masochists as it makes the game speedier and requires players to finish in first place. Not only that but your boost meter also acts like a shield in this mode and every track is mirrored. Just as you think you’re getting a hang for all the twists and turns FAST presents you it punches you in the gut and tells you that you aren’t as tough as you think you are. Hero mode is a sizable challenge that will take a resilient gamer to master.
Online play can be pure chaos, as you would think. Its a whole lot of fun though local multiplayer is superb. Maybe Shin’en can’t top fellow indie developer Psyonix’s addictive car-soccer game Rocket League in terms of most entertaining online/offline game involving vehicles this year but it is a blast to play with friends, locally or through the internet. Resolution takes a bit of hit during local play but its an understandable sacrifice given just how well the game performs. It keeps looking stunning and performance never stutters.
In an era where we see rushed, unfinished games releasing everyday, FAST Racing Neo is a fully fleshed out futuristic racer that successfully scratches the itch for F-Zero/WipeOut gameplay. It has enough of its own quirks and gimmicks to stand on its own identity. In a crowded year of stellar indie releases, Shin’en has released a gem that rests near the top of 2015’s best independent titles.
In any other years, FAST Racing Neo may have easily won the crown of best indie title. It delivers than what fans are asking of it. Impressive visuals, smooth gameplay and strategic racing make Racing Neo a must-have for all self-respecting Wii U owners.