As PCs and home consoles get better and faster over the years we've seen racing games split paths. Down one path, they became more beautiful than ever, highlighting the realistic world and racing your sleek car through it. The other path traveled a more obscure road with arcade game modes, cartoon graphics, and power-ups. While there are games that have mixed these elements Hotshot Racing instead brings us to the beginning. Hotshot Racing pulls us back in time to the kinds of racing games we'd see sitting in our local arcade.
Driving in Hotshot Racing
It's hard not to look at Hotshot Racing, even from store images, and immediately see its roots in arcade racing titles like Daytona USA. Each car has a chunky polygonal look straight out a 90s racing title. The game's 16 tracks also all receive this retro makeover. From beachside drives to a mountain village or even inside a casino, everything is stylized and colorful. For the brief moments, you're able to take your eyes off a race the world is filled with great touches. Something as simple as a cruise ship in the background makes the world feel alive, even if it's just set dressing. While the game looks like something you might have played on your CRT, it plays better than the arcade racing titles of today.
Each of the cars handles amazingly in Hotshot Racing. Whether you're accelerating on the straightaway or drifting around a tight corner the car feels responsive and fun to drive. Be warned, the rubberbanding is strong. By generating boost, power drifting, or taking advantage of the generous drafting, you can slingshot past opponents with ease. Needless to say, they can do the same to you. Each of the eight playable characters has 4 different cars with stats broken out into Speed, Acceleration, and Drift.
Car Choices and Customization in Hotshot Racing
When swapping between any of these builds you feel the differences. Once you get a hang for the drifting responsiveness and top speed it's not too difficult to swap between them. Playing normal difficulty, you can get away with having a ride with a good balance of stats, but you'll find your viable car selection begins to tank if you try to take on either of the harder difficulties.
One excellent feature Hotshot Racing brings back form the arcade age is that you need to make it to each checkpoint in a certain amount of time. As the difficulty scales the amount of time that you need to reach that next checkpoint will decrease adding further pressure to the player. You need to be finding their racing line, not colliding with anything, and maximizing drifting and drafting to keep on pace. Interestingly if you don't make it to the checkpoint in time but your cars continued momentum pushes it through it counts. Chances are though by the time you're experiencing that the other racers are well ahead of you. Like the greats before it, Hotshot Racing is easy to get into but hard to master.
Each of the car stats is set and there's no way to change that but developers Lucky Mountain Games have given players plenty of cosmetics. These upgrades are tied to spending time with each of the cars. You can change your car's parts and apply a fresh coat of paint. Some of the conditions for unlocking parts include winning races, drifting, and even how much you use your boost. These are fun objectives for a player, but this won't be what draws a player in.
Hotshot Racing does a great job of bringing arcade racing to its roots. While the visuals are nostalgic, the controls and physics are up to date and top-notch. It was a surprise just how good it felt making a smooth drift around a corner and weaving through cars. With an intended Spring release, it's clear to see the development team has this ride tuned just right.
TechRaptor previewed Hotshot Racing on Xbox One using a copy provided by the developer.