Review: Hotshot Racing
2020 has been an incredible year for gamers of a certain vintage. Firstly, we had the amazing Streets of Rage 4 which was the ultimate tribute fans of the series (including me) had been waiting for. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any better, along comes a love letter to Sega arcade racing games from the 90’s with the awesome Hotshot Racing!
I’m old enough (or young enough depending on your perspective) to remember visiting arcades where they had full cab versions of classics such as Daytona USA, Sega Rally, and Virtua Racing. Sitting at the wheel of those beautiful mechanical creations was a genuine treat and never failed to put a smile on your face. Home versions were released of these games with varying degrees of success, and the Sega Saturn port of Sega Rally still stands up as one of my all-time favourite games!
Hotshot Racing takes all of my nostalgia and wraps it around me in a lovely warm blanket, giving me a glow, I would only otherwise get when eating Ready Brek. Or at least that’s what the advert said in the 80’s. See, I told you I was old!
The first thing to strike you are the gorgeous graphics. The best way I can describe them is they have the same lovely blocky polygon effect of some of the arcade classics I mentioned above. Everything is bright, colourful and immediately evokes memories of a simpler time where I would wander around the arcades in search of my next video gaming fix.
There is even an announcer who calls out “HOTSHOT RACING” in an American accent. This might seem like a minor thing, but for me it was another tickle of the nostalgic part of my brain where I remembered arcade racing games from Sega. The music is also bright and breezy and perfectly suits the overall tone of the game.
As I delved into the menus, I discovered there were a number of options to keep me occupied. There is the standard Grand Prix tournament with normal, hard, and expert difficulties. There are four tournaments to take part in, with four different courses in each tournament, all of which have their unique settings and music. There are single races which have different arcade modes including Cops and Robbers and Drive or Explode. In Cops and Robbers, you have to reach checkpoints to collect money whilst avoiding the police. Your car can take damage and your money counter runs down until you reach a checkpoint. The winner is the racer with the most amount of money at the finish line. In Drive or Explode, you have to keep up to a certain speed. Again, you take damage if you fall below the speed limit, but you can regain some health if you reach the checkpoints in time. To round things off, there are time trial events and an online mode featuring all of the above.
Once I selected Grand Prix, I found that there were 8 different racers I could choose. These are, Alexa, Aston, Xing, Keiko, Marcus, Viktor, Mike and Toshiro. They each have their own backstory and motivation for wanting to win. They occasionally speak during the race depending on how well they are faring. Don’t expect there to be huge amounts of story and exposition, but I really appreciated their inclusion, and especially when you got to see how their story ended when you won a tournament. This is another nod to arcade games from the 90’s.
Also, in the menus is a shop where you can by cosmetic items for your driver and their cars. Buying new wheels and other items makes absolutely no difference to the performance of the vehicle, but it made me smile being able to buy new fluffy dice for my rear-view mirror.
So, I’ve talked a lot about the presentation, but the big question is how do the cars handle, and is the racing fun? I’m very pleased to say Hotshot Racing is a really excellent driving game and I had a blast from start to finish. There are four different vehicles to choose depending on your racing style. These include:
- Balanced – an all rounded which is good at most things
- Speed – a car focused on high speeds, but lacking in other areas
- Acceleration – gets you off the mark quickly
- Drift – good at talking corners
The gameplay felt like a mixture of Outrun and Burnout, which is no bad thing in my book. You can earn turbo boosts by drifting around corners and racing in the slip stream of other vehicles. These are vital if you are to have any success coming first over the finish line. You can also earn a boost at the start of the race if you time your acceleration just right. As you would imagine, there are different views from inside the car, and behind it, depending on how you like to play racing games.
The only slight issue I have is the rubber banding of the races. For anyone who doesn’t have a clue what I’m on about, rubber banding means the other cars are always kept close to you, so no matter how far ahead you think you are, there are always cars close by. The reason racing games do this is to maintain a level of excitement and challenge. This works for the most part, but it can be frustrating where you have clearly been leading a race and lose at the last second. Even Mario Kart does this, so this is a minor criticism and didn’t take away from my enjoyment of Hotshot Racing.
Overall Hotshot Racing is a wonderful tribute to racing games from the 90’s. I had a massive smile on my face the whole time I was playing, and I can’t thank the developers enough for taking me back in time, but also making a damn good racing game!
Hotshot Racing is available now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and PC.
Review by Chris.