Review: Pacer

There’s a new Wipeout game? No, but you’d be forgiven for thinking that Pacer is. A futuristic ship racing game, if you didn’t know better you would assume it is Wipeout. Twisty tracks in a sun-kissed futuristic landscape, electro-dance music soundtrack, speed boosts and weapon power-ups. It’s the same game, right?

There’s no denying that Wipeout is a massive, massive inspiration for Pacer. But, and brace yourself here, Pacer might be better than Wipeout. 

This might be unfair given we haven’t really had a new Wipeout for many years, and when we did, it was a HD remake collection. But Pacer feels really fresh. The handling is sublime, and it sounds incredible. I always struggled a little bit with Wipeout handling, it just never really felt right for me. Or maybe I’m rubbish at it, but in Pacer I can deftly handle the left or right airbrakes and zip around corners.

Similar to Wipeout, you have the aforementioned airbrake, and the ability to pitch your craft up or down slightly which gives you some control over jumps but this isn’t well explained in the training. Weapons pads give you gear, but you can only hold one ‘shot’ at a time, and you can choose which weapon this is. Let me elaborate.

Before each race, you pick a loadout and a mode. Your mode might be performance – better steering at the expensive of top-speed for example. Your loadout will be two of a variety of weapons, added to either the left or right side of your ship. With each weapon, you can then add up to two modifiers – such as faster launching rockets, or slower but with a longer distance. These are then saved (or you can use the presets) which give you massive amounts of depth and variety on your playstyle.

This sacrifices variety a bit in a race, and if you go with a predominantly forward attacking build, it becomes useless to maintain a lead. But this is a tactical option then, one which requires thought and experimentation based on what track you’re racing on (does it have long site lines for example) or how tough the competition is likely to be. 

Loadouts are also important depending on mode. Again, Wipeout inspiration is felt here – standard race, career – check. But there are also time trials, and elimination (the last person gets eliminated after a period of time). Flowmentum has increasingly fast zones, and Storm is basically a battle royale… with the last remaining ship winning. This one is a bit weird. 

Given the number of options and customisation, it’s an unwelcome surprise that it all gets wrapped up in a bit of an ugly UI wrapper. It’s considerably more confusing than it should be. Whilst an excellent soundtrack helps further evoke Wipeout comparisons (although the ship and weapon noise is excellent, and arguably a much better ‘soundtrack’), team and ship names are forgettable, differing attributes aside.

Sadly, I’ve not managed to find any online games of this, which is a real shame, and the leaderboards at this point at feeling a bit sparse. This is a shame – Pacer is as good a sequel to Wipeout as one could possibly want. It’s an excellent racing game, and well worth some time.

Reviewed on PS4

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