Formula Retro Racing – World Tour Review (PC) – A Better Second Lap
The original Formula Retro Racing was a noble attempt by developer Repixel8 to recapture the magic of the SEGA classic Virtua Racing. When I reviewed it back in 2021, I complemented the lengths that had been taken to replicate the Virtua Racing formula while modernising aspects that sorely needed it. I also lamented the fact that in doing so, Formula Retro Racing lacked its own identity and felt like a missed opportunity for evolution.
I’m personally pleased then to see the developers take this series for a second lap. With the sequel ‘Formula Retro Racing – World Tour’, Repixel8 have addressed most of the feedback from the first game. With more content, new cars that handle in a different way and modern racing features, does it take pole position?
Following The Same Racing Line
Among those aspects of Formula Retro Racing – World Tour that haven’t changed at all since its predecessor is the aesthetic. The visuals of all of the cars, tracks and trackside environments are all presented in ’90s inspired chunky polygons and bold, solid colours. Obviously inspired by the classic racers from that era, specifically Virtua Racing, it’s a faithful homage to the visuals of the past. The frame rate (60 fps) and resolution (upto 4K) of the game are obviously higher and hit modern day standards, but you won’t find any grainy, washed out visuals or scanlines here. It’s vibrant, crisp and clean.
The structure and game play modes of Formula Retro Racing – World Tour are the same as the previous game too. There’s a campaign-like Arcade mode playable across 3 difficulty levels, single or local multiplayer races in the Grand Prix mode, eliminators and free practice.
The Arcade mode, where you’ll likely spend most of your time with World Tour, has the same progressions structure as the original game. As you complete races, you’ll win points based on your finishing position. The points are added to a cumulative total which will unlock new races as various thresholds.
This system is once again very accommodating to different driver skills. Points you earn in any of the difficulty modes count towards the total. If you struggle with one race and can’t rack up the points, you could instead win a more preferred race twice – once on beginner and again on a more challenging difficulty, for example.
Pimp Your Ride?
This is where the similarities between Formula Retro Racing – World Tour and its predecessor end. The racing, the track styles, the features – they’re all either an evolution of what came before or entirely new.
Let’s start with the racing itself. Y’know, the reason why you buy a racing game in the first place. Each of the cars in this game each have their own characteristics. There’s no statistics anywhere to say which of the 10 cars are faster than the others because in terms of raw speed, every car in every class of car is very similar. Where they differ is in their braking, cornering and in body shape.
For example, a car with a low ride height and front wings can clip into the road and judder when racing around races with lots of chamfered corners. This obviously slows you down. On a flat track however, they’re essentially glued to the ground meaning you’ll take corners quicker. If you struggle with a race in one car, it’s worth switching it up for a different car and trying again.
While the cars had moderate differences in performance in the first game, this feels greatly improved in Formula Retro Racing – World Tour. It certainly would have been nice to have the unique differences mentioned in the menus somewhere, so it feels less like experimentation, but it’s great that this element of the game is much more pronounced for the series’ second lap.
No matter what can you choose to race in, the car movement is precise, slick and well put together, aping on Virtua Racing’s style (at least for the sports cars) but at higher speeds. Depending on what class of car you choose depends on how you’ll have to adapt your racing style however…
A New Grid Line-Up
The high-performance race cars that were present in Formula Retro Racing are joined by a new class of vehicles in the sequel – muscle cars. These cars feel entirely different to the sports cars in every way. Rather than steering from the rear, their back wheels skid around to force the cars forward. Rather than Virtua Racing, these cars handle in a way more akin to the modern takes on Outrun like Horizon Chase or Inertial Drift.
Because of the change in the way these cars navigate the track, you have to totally change the way you take corners and race. Rather than hitting corner apexes, it can often pay to go a little wider to cover more of the track to stop people passing you.
To maintain competitiveness, when you’re racing as a muscle car, you’ll only ever be racing against muscle cars. There’s no way to mix the race cars with the muscle cars within World Tour. In essence, it feels like you’re getting 2 different games, both modern takes on retro classics, within one package.
Gear & Loathing In Las Vegas
The number of tracks within World Tour is greatly expanded in this sequel too. There’s a total of 18 tracks here, each unique in terms of looks and format that correspond to their location. Aesthetically, the track surroundings are thematically appropriate in their lovely low-poly art style. That’s sometimes represented in the landmarks you race by, but it’s true of the generic buildings that whiz by at high speed too.
What’s most impressive is how the track structures are representative of their locations too. For example, the Snowdonia Drift track, easiest the biggest track in the game, has long sweeping curves and long tunnels to drive through, just like you’d find when driving through Wales. Half way around the San Francisco track, you’ll find a zig-zagging set of bends, similar to the iconic Lombard Street, before you head over a very familiar bridge.
Surrounding the outside of all of these tracks are a border of dirt or gravel that slows you down as you drive through them. This is a direct inspiration from Virtua Racing and can be a real bane, holding you up when you’re trying to overtake, and a life saver if you’re heading too quick into a wall.
You’ll want to avoid those walls. As you’re racing, you have a damage gauge. As you might expect, this empties as you take hit those aforementioned walls or run into other cars. This is one element of Formula Retro Racing – World Tour that feels vastly improved over the previous game. Your car feels far less fragile this time around, meaning you can scrap with other cars and hopefully blow them up without having to be reset on the track yourself.
That’s complemented by an AI that’s not so wilfully destructive and kamikaze this time around. The CPU cars race their race, going around the track at their own pace, but will do a little to defend their place like try and force you wide. This is a massive step up from the AI that would simply drive into you as you tried to pass in the previous game. This isn’t to say that the AI in World Tour is ‘good’. It’s still lacking in comparison to those in the pole position of the genre, feeling a little robotic and samey. The AI seem to find themselves in the same formation, no matter the track, with a big group of cars making up the majority of the field but with 3 cars sprinting out in front for you to chase.
Car For The Course
Outside of the Arcade Mode, there’s a few other race modes you can play around in. Free Practice is exactly what it sounds like, allowing you to drive around each track till your heart’s content. The Eliminator mode is a little different; in this mode, you’ve got to stay above a designated place in the field to continue racing. This continues to get more difficult as time goes on. They’re both fine additions, but they don’t add a great deal to the variety of Formula Retro Racing – World Tour.
To put the contents of the game into context, I completed all of the Arcade mode races on the medium difficulty in a few hours. The Eliminator mode added another hour or so of racing before I’d finished off all of the content in the game on the difficulty I was comfortable with.
The higher difficulty really is difficulty. The challenge gaps between the easy, medium and hard races in Formula Retro Racing – World Tour are vast with the AI being much faster and more aggressive. If the game gets its hooks in you, this is where you might end up spending some of your time – trying to beat its hardest challenges.
Better With A Co-Driver
Your longevity beyond the single player content with World Tour will live and breath depending on whether you have friends to play with, or if you enjoy challenging leader boards.
The one and only game play mode that can be played in multiplayer is the Grand Prix mode. Here you take on races one by one, either in single player or in split screen against local players. There’s no built-in online multiplayer here, but if you’re smart enough to set up Steam Remote Play Together, you can use that on this game to play against friends. I’ve tested the split screen multiplayer against my family and the game runs as smoothly here as it does in single player.
I lamented the lack of leader boards in the original game, so it’s great to see them included in Formula Retro Racing – World Tour. These boards exist for each track and record both fastest lap and total race time. If you want to mount a challenge on these boards, you’ll have to get practicing with the race cars as the muscle cars can’t come close to putting up a decent time. It’s perhaps a shame that the two car classes don’t have their own leader boards.
For those that are interested, Formula Retro Racing – World Tour can also be played in VR. This isn’t an element I’ve been able to review, but it’s worth mentioning for those with a headset.
The Chequered Flag
The original Formula Retro Racing was an interesting gaming curio. It leant wholeheartedly into replicating the magic of Virtua Racing which meant that it was a neat but barebones modernisation of a classic formula. With this sequel, Repixel8 have taken a decent first step into making the series its own thing. More tracks, more cars, different driving styles, the same retro inspired art style, a suitably chirpy soundtrack – it’s most definitely better than its predecessor.
With all of these steps forward however, it highlights the areas that haven’t been improved, specifically with game modes. It feels like more could have been done in terms of variety to bring the game inline with the bigger indie games from the genre. With a damage system, a demolition mode could have been included. Now that it has cars that drift, could a drift mode be included? There’s a good few hours of retro inspired racing here for a decent price. If you miss Virtua Racing and fancy a bigger, more complete package compared to the original FRR, this is it. It’s hard to ignore that there are better titles on the grid these days though.
A much improved and expanded second lap for the series, Formula Retro Racing – World Tour is a retro inspired racer that attempts to modernise the Virtua Racing and Outrun formula. It succeeds, to some degree. There’s still unfulfilled potential however, as the game lacks a variety of game play modes and the single player content can be completed in just a few hours.
Formula Retro Racing – World Tour is available now on PC (review platform), Xbox consoles and Nintendo Switch. The game will be launching on PlayStation consoles on April 20th, 2023.
Publisher: CGA Studio
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional code from the publisher. For our full review policy, please go here.
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