Originally titled ‘Formula Fusion’ upon it’s early access release on Steam in 2015, it was rebranded to ‘Pacer’ in early 2019, when it also caught my eye at PLAY Expo in May 2019.
A futuristic racer in the same style as Wipeout (some of the R8 Games development team worked on Wipeout 3), Pacer tests not only your reflexes as your hurl your craft around at high speeds, but also your brain as you figure out which particular vehicular load out is best suited to each of the beautifully rendered courses and individual race rules.
You can choose to either play ‘Quick Play’, ‘Career’, or ‘Online’.
Quick Play opens up various game modes for you to dive right into:
- Quick Race
- Time Trial
- Speed Lap
All of the above are self explanatory by their titles, except Storm and Flowmentum.
Storm mode tasks you and the fellow racers with staying inside an ever decreasing safe dome area, while a raging storm is outside of it that will damage you craft should you leave the safe area. While Flowmentum has you constantly increasing in speed while you cling onto your controller for dear life and try to last as long as you can when your shields are depleted.
Career mode starts gently with some training races to get you accustomed to the controls, before then letting you work your way through various tiers which each include a multitude of set objectives (all of which can be done with a Gold, Silver or Bronze rating) before unlocking the next tier and ever more challenges.
Multiplayer throws you into the online world to pit your skills against fellow human opponents…where I got my arse well and truly kicked, but still had a fun time while doing so.
Pacer excels at customisation, from your choice of craft and how you want it to look, to (and far more importantly) how you set your craft up for each race.
You have 2 weapons (accessed by L1 & R1) and each weapon can have 2 modifiers attached to it. Your choice of weapons, weapon modifiers and craft set-up where you can either concentrate on speed, agility, weapons, defence, etc, can make all the difference between finishing last or whooping like a loon as you cross the line in 1st place leaving a trail of destruction behind you.
As you speed across the beautiful courses (trying hard not to leave your eyes looking at the incidental background activities that appear in your peripheral vision) you have the option of collecting 1 of 3 power ups : boost, weapons, shield. This makes you think on the fly (no pun intended) as to how you want to approach each race and tackle its own particular set of rules. Do you constantly pick up weapon icons so that you have lots of ammo to fire at your opponents, or do you keep your shields at 100% while you concentrate on speed to get you the win? With your shields gone your health depletes and so it can be a frantic few seconds trying to get to a shield icon before you explode and lose precious time.
You can’t just spam the boost button though and expect to win, as expert use of the airbrakes (L2 & R2) is needed to navigate the courses, especially the tighter tracks where agility, acceleration, and the correct choice of weapons will get you further up the leaderboard than speed alone. These twisting tracks can be frustrating to begin, with constant crashes into the side of the track making you feel like a ball on a pinball table. But when everything “clicks” and you’re taking the corners smoothly while at the same time unleashing a double barrelled shockwave attack onto your opponents, the feeling of satisfaction is palpable.
There is a hell of a lot to like about Pacer: its tracks, its plethora of options, the amount of gameplay across its various modes being just a few of them, and the only real gripe I had with it was that the menus could be be easier to navigate and see what needed to be done.
I’d love to see more tracks in the future and look forward to seeing how Pacer will be supported in coming years.
If you like fast racing which not only tests your reflexes but also your brain, then Pacer has that “just one more go” appeal that will keep you trying to be the best you can on each of its courses and modes.
Review by Dave from a PS4 review code.