Game Review #242: Xenon Racer (Nintendo Switch)
Reviewer: Bradford “TheWaffinator87” E.
Category: Racing, Arcade, Multiplayer
Release Date: 3.26.2019
Price (at time of review): $49.99
Buy Xenon Racers digitally from the eShop here.
Buy Xenon Racers physically from Amazon here.
Start Your Engines
Throughout gaming there’s always been one genre that seems to be super popular no matter what type of gamer you are. It doesn’t matter if you even pick up the controller once in a decade, there’s always that one genre that anyone can get into. That genre is RACING. Racing games are huge, regardless of if you recognize it or not. There are a select few that I feel will go down in history as some of the greatest racing games hands down, including Mario Kart, Combat Cars, Need for Speed, Twisted Metal, Burnout, F-Zero, San Francisco Rush, and Jet Moto.
These games, I feel, set the standards for racing games. In turn, we have gotten so many other amazing racing titles, and I feel like they all owe respect to the OGs. We have games like Grid, Dirt, South Park Rally, Crash Team Racing, Sonic All-Star Racing, Diddy Kong Racing, Kombat Kars (Mortal Kombat: Armageddon mini-game), and so many more. Well there’s a newer racing game on the market, and that game is Xenon Racer, from 3DClouds and Soedesco, and it is already getting all kinds of publicity; and although the Switch edition of the game may not be getting the best of publicity right now, don’t always go by what you read or see, but rather how you feel when you experience it. Let’s take a look at how I felt playing this newcomer-to-the-racing-genre, and just exactly how it stacks up against the “greats”.
Xenon Racer is a racing game that takes place in the future. In fact, the year is 2030 in the game. I don’t know if you recall or can recall San Francisco Rush 2049, but I absolutely loved that game, both in the arcades and at home on the N64, and this game reminds me a lot of it. I think it is because they are both futuristic-themed. And even though both are set in the future, neither has the crazy sci-fi set up, but more like realistic racing just years down the road. What I mean is that you’re not racing with, say, jet packs, but with normal cars that can just go really fast.
Back to the story. The year is 2030, and everyone is taking a break from traditional racing to get ready for the future: flying vehicles! Well, to hold everyone over in between the off season, a group of the top hybrid car manufacturers hold a rogue championship for rookie drivers. The cars are powered by electricity and xenon gas (hence the name Xenon Racer) allowing them to hit top speeds. You will race on the streets of Boston, Dubai, Tokyo, Miami, and more, all trying to become the ultimate Xenon Racer.
Xenon Racer is very traditional when it comes to the controls. It is so traditional that I was able to pick the game up (well at least button-wise) and go! I hate when racing games try to get all technical and add a bunch of junk you don’t need. All you need is accelerate, steering, hand brake, normal brakes/reverse, boost, and view adjustment. That’s exactly what you get, and it is very well executed in the way the command layout feels. With Xenon Racer you can also re-spawn your car (good if you are stuck against a wall and need a quick get out) and look behind you like a lot of other racers. I never understood needing to look behind yourself though.
Though Xenon Racer is far from the prettiest racing game I have ever played, it isn’t the ugliest either. In fact, it is visually appealing enough to make it entertaining and to keep you wanting more. I would compare the graphics of this game as being closer to an arcade racer than a next-gen console racer. That’s not a bad thing at all - in fact I love arcade racers more than console racers. If the graphics of the game were just a tad crisper this game would honestly be a pretty solid racing game just based on visuals.
Let’s talk about the soundtrack. I know not everyone has the same taste in music, but the main menu music should be a little more ear-pleasing. In fact, I would say it’s the only terrible track/sound effect of the game, and the worst track I’ve heard in a video game in a long time. It is called “Elevate - Rootkit”. If you could go into the settings and customize the soundtrack to the game like a lot of other games with soundtracks it would be such a game changer. Other than that, the tracks you get while racing are rather enticing, and sweeter to the ear drums.
ERS Systems have just been charged
I feel like I just started to make a delicious little compliment sandwich, so while we are in the middle still (the audio/visuals was the bad meat) I want to talk about a couple more spoiled pieces of the sandwich, so that way I can finish it off with something nice. There are a few more pet peeves of mine, and one of them really isn’t the developer’s fault, so I will save that one for last.
One thing that irks me is the inconsistency of the AI. What I mean by that is that I play on EASY because the computer difficulty is very inconsistent. One race I am getting totally annihilated, placing 8/8, and then I could restart the same race, use the same settings and smoke them all, and end the race 1/8, first place. I saw something online from the developers (their twitter to be exact) about an AI patch coming, so I am hoping that this AI issue gets resolved soon. Another issue is the load time. God, the load time is way too long. It is kind of a buzz/fun killer. For a racing game, the load time is rather slow. Sonic would so be tapping his foot at this.
The other thing that irks me, like I said, isn’t a developer issue, but more of there being a lack of something they can’t control: online opponents. Online racing in the game is slim-to-none, or already extinct. No matter when I try to find players online, there are none. I would like to test my skills out online. You can create lobbies, but again I couldn’t seem to get any online action. The only action I am getting via online is the leaderboards. It is cool to see where you stack up against other Xenon players, which is another feature that gives it a nice Arcade-style racer feel.
Okay we just talked about the ugly: the so-so graphics, the horrible title screen/main menu song track, the inconsistent AI difficulty, and the Wild Wild West online. Let’s turn this around and talk about a few things and features that were on the better side. Xenon Racer has a few modes that will keep you busy. It has the Championship (Racing through a bracket to be the ultimate Xenon driver), Fast Race (single player), Online (well an area that is where online would be if there were players online), Split Screen (multiplayer), Edge Mode (race the clock/practice mode), a Garage (customize your cars), Extras (Tutorials, and the ability to watch the intro video as you please), and Settings.
First of all, there's the tracks. There are 7 total locations, each with several tracks available. My favorite is Boston, not because they are the best tracks but because that is my home town – well, home area. I am a Masshole, so my love for the Boston tracks is inevitable. I really like the DOWNTOWN Boston track the most out of the Boston tracks, because I drive through that track in real life at least once a week. It’s basically the Mass Pike. If we are going to judge tracks based off of looks, however, I am really fond of the Canadian tracks.
The final mile!
One thing that I have personally always enjoyed was customizing the cars. I’m not saying it is a must, but it’s always a nice perk. It gets boring when racing others, regardless of if it’s just the AI or other players, when everything is the same or just set to a certain standard. In the garage, you can customize the paint design of the cars (body) and the color, tires (this will affect drift, handling, acceleration, and top speed), rims, front bumper (will affect some stats), side bumpers (will affect stats), the wing (affects stats), the windows, and the ERS, which will affect the boost stats. If you are having a hard time customizing the car, you can just always use the Random option and have a car theme randomly generated for you.
In racing games, another thing that will make you play a little more on the strategic side is when there is Boost available. You have to consider things, like when is a good time to use it? Are you using it right, and how does the boost meter refill? Well, in Xenon you have the ERS system, which is your boost. You get 3 boost batteries that can be refilled either by crossing little electric refills on the ground, or mastering drifts. The better and more frequently you drift, the faster you refill your boost. I am getting the hang of really good drifting and refilling my boost meters that way.
Finally, we’ll talk about car classes and race modes. Yes, there are multiple classes of cars that you can race. You have Normal, Performance, and Performance GT cars that you can drive across different race modes. There are Standard Races, Elimination (last place gets knocked out when timer goes off), and Race the Clock, where you need to get from checkpoint to checkpoint before the timer goes off. To become the ultimate Xenon racer, you must master all the car classes and all of the race types.
And the winner is?
Overall, Xenon Racer is an interesting topic. It has the potential to leave a mark in the racing game leaderboards, but at the same time, fell short. The graphics for the Switch edition of the game were butchered compared to its cousins, because it has to run on less powerful hardware than the PS4 and Xbox One. The online portion died before it even got started, and the AI is its own entity. If you can get past that and enjoy the music and the high-speed races with some killer drifting, then this game will work out. From what I have read, the developers are working on some patches to make the game for us Switch users a little more bearable, and adding some free content to make it a little more enjoyable. I have hopes for this game still, so I patiently wait to see where this game will go; but for now, as it is, I’m going to have to go with a final score of 7.5/10.
Buy Xenon Racers digitally from the eShop here.
Buy Xenon Racers physically from Amazon here.
*Review Code Provided by SOEDESCO