Futuristic racers are seldom seen nowadays. At some point in history they were all the rage, with F-Zero and Wipeout being some of the more popular and still very well known. So how does a new futuristic racer break the mold and become popular? Let alone an independent early access futuristic racer? I’m not sure if GameArt Studios' Quantum Rush Champions really does that, at least in its early access state.
The premise is simple enough. You have three different companies producing badass futuristic gravity defying racers, each with their own pros and cons, and you race them with other badass racers on courses both on and off road. Mix that up with some car combat and you've got a winning combination, right?
There are several different game modes, some work and some don’t. There’s normal circuit races and knockout races, where the player in last gets knocked out after a set time limit. One of the more interesting modes is ‘damage control’ where you must race around a course as your racer gets boosted faster and faster, and it resets if you crash. The aim is to get as many consecutive boosts as possible in order to reach the target score.
As you beat levels you can upgrade your racer with custom parts that change the car's top speed, acceleration and other attributes. The death match is an interesting addition, it’s essentially racing on the same courses, but you are scored on the other vehicles you blow up, and if you get blown up, you lose a point. It’s the weakest mode because the combat in this game is very underwhelming and could definitely use some retooling. If you get blown up even once, the racers are simply out of there, and you'll basically never see them again. Also, there not much of a visual indicator of damage given or taken, other than the armor gauge on the top of the screen. Some very obvious hitsparks or sound effects would have been useful. It's a problem with bare sound design that I will touch on later in the review.
At the end of each tier of racer, you face up against a boss, who challenges you to a one on one race. The boss usually has advanced weaponry or is especially fast. I found the first few to be a pushover, but the difficulty steadily increases from there. The difficulty curve through the campaigns needs some adjustment, but for the most part it's very challenging, with most racers leaving you in the dust if you don't drive well.
The two most important things to get right in a game like this is handling, and a sense of speed. By handling I mean controls that are easy to learn and are responsive, but difficult and fun to master. The controls in Quantum Rush certainly aren't rocket science, using an Xbox or PlayStation gamepad is highly recommended, but it’s A or X to accelerate, X or Square to use boost , the left and right triggers to airbrake left or right ,and the shoulder buttons use pickups and shoot your primary weapon.
This provides a pretty solid driving feel without it being needlessly complicated. There is no real sliding or loss of control, you either barrel into a corner at full speed and hit the wall, or you brake as appropriate. An implementation of sliding or a higher degree of yaw control like in F-Zero GX may have suited really well here. It would have given the driving and high speed corner attacking a much needed sense of urgency.
Which brings me to my next point. Even with kart racer style weapons and power ups, Quantum Rush feels very undramatic and unpolished, which is in no fault to the graphics. While the art style has been done better before, the levels, the scenery, and the racers themselves are put together very nicely, especially for an alpha. The repeating textures were noticeable but the game was running at a solid 60fps and it all whizzes by pretty nicely. The more interesting later levels really serve the game well, as they really show off the more creative course designs that move away from generic futuristic race courses.
The audio however really lets the game down, Anybody will remember the sounds of Wipeout and F-Zero, not even including the great soundtracks in both those games. The game in action is eerily quiet aside from a generic sounding electronic soundtrack that does very little to offset the lack of sound effects. There's a canned shooting and car launching sound, but other than that it's completely dead silent. There's no soundtrack earworms or memorable sound effects to take away from this experience.
There is multiplayer available as a free separate game that can be downloaded from here. I would recommend trying this first to see if you like the feel of the game. I didn't actually play it, because it is separate to the stuff you actually pay for, but it's there for you to try.
This unfortunately leaves me with the unenviable position of judging whether or not this game is worth the $4.99 they are asking for on Steam Early Access. While I think there's potential here, at the price point Quantum Rush Champions is at, I don't think there's enough here to warrant a purchase right now. You could do a lot worse on Steam Early Access, that is for certain, but I think that even diehard fans of the racing genre will be severely underwhelmed by this title in its current state.
This game was obtained from the developer and reviewed on the PC