The racing game genre has seen something of a resurgence in nostalgia recently. We’ve seen the return of the top-down racer as a viable sub-genre. With Horizon Chase Turbo we now have the return of the 2D-style racer. So, apart from tickling that nostalgic itch, how does it fare as a racing game?
Echoes of Outrun
The first thing that comes to mind when you start up Horizon Chase Turbo(or even see screenshots) is, of course, the Sega classic, Outrun. The game has that 2D aesthetic with some of the improvements you would expect from a game on much more powerful hardware. The first event that you have access to is the California stage of the world tour. This just makes the Outruncomparison even more blatant. The first car you’ll probably use is also as close to the Ferrari Testarossa used in Outrun that their lawyers would allow.
The actual racing starts off quite well. It was refreshing at first to go back to this old-style of driving. You will begin in 20thplace and normally have three laps to get to the front. This is pretty easy at the beginning but as the tracks get narrower and more twisty it becomes quite a challenge. It’s not that you won’t be fast enough. The real problem is the other cars. While making contact with another car in something like Forza is frustrating and will marginally slow you down, in Horizon Chase Turbo it will really set you back and probably lose you a couple of positions. This is particularly frustrating at the start of the race as you will normally start a lot quicker than the other cars and are then faced with a wall of cars in front of you and there’s no way to get past. By the time you get to the third or fourth destination on the world tour, you’ll find yourself constantly restarting to get make the best getaway so that you have a decent chance of getting into first place.
Collectables and upgrades
As well as winning the race, there are various pickups to collect around the track. A number of blue coins are placed around each track which you will need to collect and finish in first place if you want to get the ‘Super Trophy’ for that event. There are also fuel cans which refuel your car. When you start off these are just a way to gain (up to 10) extra points towards unlocking new events. As you progress, though, they will become essential to you actually completing the race without running out of fuel.
Performance upgrades are earned through specific events. Each destination on the world tour has its own upgrade race. Place in the top three and you will get to choose between one of three possible upgrades. Each upgrade will boost two stats on your car (eg speed, acceleration, handling, fuel, nitro). Fortunately, whichever upgrade you choose will be applied to every vehicle in your garage.
Tracks and sounds
The tracks themselves, start off quite simply but they soon become quite devious and tricky. It’s almost as though this is the racing equivalent of a twitch shooter. This isn’t like a standard racer where it’s all about finding the perfect line, clipping that apex, and then exiting the corner as fast as possible. In Horizon Chase Turbo you will need to react as quickly as possible to all the corners (and opponents) around the track. Each destination has its own theme. This worked quite nicely until India where I just found it to be far too garish. I thought I was going to get a headache from the bright colours flashing by.
The sound effects are quite retro and not in a good way. Engine noises were never the best part of something like Outrun and those in Horizon Chase Turbo aren’t that much better. The wind noise just sounds like some weird kind of distortion. Even the collision sound effects are incredibly dull. The music is very repetitive and while palatable, it’s not a patch on that classic Outrun soundtrack.
Good start, poor finish
I really wanted to love Horizon Chase Turbo. Its old-school aesthetic is heart-warming for around 20 minutes and then you remember why this style of games was left in the past. The difficulty becomes really challenging and requires almost hyper-twitch reactions. The AI of the other cars is frustrating. The visuals, while nostalgic, will give you a headache later on in the game. I found the framerate to be really choppy after I had unpaused a race. There’s also no online multiplayer which seems a poor move for a racing game. Horizon Chase Turbo will give you a great first 20-30 minutes but from then on it just becomes a drudge to complete it.