[Review] Hotshot Racing – Nintendo Switch

Written by Richard Strachan
  • Developer: Lucky Mountain Games/Sumo Digital
  • Publisher: Curve Digital
  • Release date: 10/9/2020
  • Price: £15.99/$19.99
  • Review code provided by Curve Digital

Introducing: Hotshot Racing Switch Review

The last few years there has been a real dearth of classic style old school arcade racers. It seems we may have seen our last Ridge Racer, our last Out Run and dare I say it, our last F-Zero. Hotshots Racing has come at a time when we need the sugary blast of arcade joy. The big question is, how does it stack up when compared to the pantheon of greats. If you take a look at the game’s splash screen you’ll see everything you need to know. Hotshot is jointly developed by Lucky Mountain Games and Sumo Digital. Sumo had a big hand in bringing Out Run 2 to home consoles, so they know a thing or two about slick arcade racers!

Feel The Passing Breeze

Hotshot Racing is a thing of beauty. Upon loading the game you’re struck by the aesthetic, which is very much a gorgeous modern day spin on Virtua Racing, right down to the font on the UI when racing. Once you hit the track you’re graced with some seriously slick racing and handling that sits somewhere between Out Run 2 and the Ridge Racer series. A quick tap of the brakes kicks your back end out and sends you into the most buttery smooth drift, building your boost meter, a la Ridge Racer in its later days.

The racing is super slick and extremely satisfying. Drifts are easy to control and form a huge part of the gameplay, as you constantly seek to build a 4-part boost meter to get ahead of your rivals. You can also get a real speed boot by drafting behind opponents then using the boost to slingshot by them.

There are 16 tracks to race on, covering 4 styles broad styles, which are used to create tracks set in forests, jungles, temples, theme parks and even the game’s very own representation of Vegas, including the surrounding desert. Courses are bright and full of fun character, such as UFO’s in the Mojave desert and lots of other cool little touches.

The courses are fairly simple in terms of their layout, with very little in terms of verticality, which is one of my few complaints about the game. The courses are very straightforward with no jumps or anything of the like. The focus is squarely on the racing and getting the most from the smooth handling system the devs have created.

The game has a huge amount of charm, with 8 characters to choose form. Each of the characters has 4 signature cars to choose from, each with a unique look and style. Cars range from drift based to those focused on speed or handling.

Winning races earns you money which can be spent unlocking new parts for your cars as well as skins for your vehicle or character. None of the unlocks affect the gameplay, rather acting as cosmetics.

Each character also has a range of challenges assigned to them which allow you to unlock additional cosmetics. Challenges tend to focus around drifting and boosting a certain number of times or for a certain distance, encouraging you to play around with the game’s mechanics.

The main game mode is the Grand Prix, which runs you through one of 4 cups, each consisting of 4 races.The Grand Prix mode is playable in one of three difficulties, with Normal and Hard offering a fairly mild challenge, whilst Expert offers a real tough test! Grand Prix includes checkpoints with a time limit to reach the next. The times are fairly generous except on Expert where you really need to drive well to have any chance of meeting the time limits.

There’s also a time trial mode which allows you to compare ghosts with other players online and download them to race against.

Sega Blue Skies

Hotshot Racing is a visual masterpiece. It looks absolutely gorgeous, with homages to Virtua Racer as well as real nods towards the Ridge Racer and Out Run series in the level design and some of the visuals and track layouts. There are sections where you could easily be drifting along the coast in Out Run 3 or through those iconic motorway tunnels in Ridge Racer 8, but sadly I don’t think thee’s any chance we’ll ever see those games. Thankfully, Hotshot Racing is here to scratch that itch. In terms of the gameplay and the visuals it offers up something that manages to combine many of the game’s inspirations in a way which is visually arresting whilst offering a super slick racer that takes you straight into that flow-state that Ridge Racer and it’s ilk always did.

Audio design is solid, with the devs opting for more realistic engine noises in contrast to the hyper-stylised visuals. This works really well, giving the cars a real beefy quality. The cars look amazing when racing, with the back end kicking way out and churning up lots of dust or smoke as well as some real over exaggerated body roll, giving the driving a real visceral look. Rubbing against other players sets off a shower of sparks, which is a fairly common occurrence given the brilliantly balanced AI. I rarely found myself way out in front, instead tied up in closely fought races with lots of rubbing and smashing with the other cars for position.

The music in the game is a bit less exciting, mostly coming across as fairly forgettable, which is a real shame given the brilliant soundtracks in the Out Run and Ridge Racer games that clearly inspire Hotshot Racing, but this is a minor grumble and can;t take away from what is a brilliant racer.

0-60 frames

Hotshot Racing runs at a solid 60 frames per second, with really slick and responsive handling. The developers apparently started with the Switch as the lead platform, meaning this isn’t some shoddy port when compared with the big boy consoles! I did hit some occasional frame rate judders in handheld, but these were infrequent and never really affected the gameplay. It’s something special to see the game in action, with everything looking gorgeous and buttery smooth. The cars move along at a fair old speed, but the handling system combined with the performance helps you keep up and feel like a real Hotshot!

Final Thoughts

If you haven’t already guessed it, I absolutely love Hotshot Racing. For years I have wanted a new Out Run or Ridge Racer (or even just a Switch port or Out Run 2 or any of the Ridge Racer games). Hotshot Racing manages to fill the void that’s left, offering a generous portion of drifting magic. The game includes online multiplayer and up to 4 player local split screen, as well as ad-hoc wireless multiplayer. There’s a lot of fun to be had in multiplayer, with a Cops and Robbers mode and a crazy mode called Drive or Explode, which sets a speed limit each player needs to maintain or risk exploding. The speed increases regularly, leading to some breakneck moments later in a race. The devs set up some online sessions prior to launch, but we weren’t able to take part due to their time. We’ll be providing some updated impressions once the public servers go live, as we haven’t been able to find anyone to play with outside of the dev curated sessions.

There’s enough in the single player package to keep any arcade racing fans engaged or a while. The handling mechanics themselves manage to carry the game a long way, as everything just feels so good to play!

Pros

  • Drift mechanic is smooooth!
  • Beautiful visuals
  • The perfect homage to many classics

Cons

  • Unlocks and customisation feel a little tacked on
  • Courses could do with some verticality

Verdict

Hotshot Racing is a slick and satisfying homage to the 90s era of arcade racing classics. Fans of Ridge Racer and Out Run will find a lot to love, but the game stands on its own as something special.

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