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Preview: Star Racer

The F-Zero-inspired racer demo is available!

The gaming space has had several successful racing games over the last few years, with the Forza and Gran Turismo titles receiving significant success and acclaim. And while something like Forza Horizon provides some arcade-like gameplay, it may not be scratching some old-school itch some people may have.

In comes Star Racer. This racing title draws heavy inspiration from the F-Zero franchise, which has only recently seen a resurgence. But it’s not just a re-skin or a game that wants to be a retro racer without some fresh ideas strictly.

I had a chance to play the updated demo of Star Racer that will be available during Steam Next Fest, and here’s what I thought of my first couple of hours with the game.

Star Racer’s Retro Feel

It’s a pretty simple and familiar setup for booting up the game. Pick a race and several tracks, and choose one of four available racers. Each one (similar to F-Zero) has its own stat line, including Body, Boost, Grip, and Air.

The developers at Whatnot Games say the roster is set to include up to 20 racers when the game hits its full release.

I tried each for several races, settling on Mona Avdol as my go-to for the demo. Each character and vehicle felt different from one another, giving you a solid chance to pick one that will be tailored to your playstyle. I found this effective, whereas in many games like this from yesteryear, those stat lines never felt all that impactful.

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The gameplay is also somewhat familiar if you’ve gotten your hands on a sci-fi and F-Zero-like racing game over the years.

Star Racer has an impressive number of tracks to play in the demo. Each one is equipped with a boost, obstacles, portions of the map you can fall off, halfpipes, and flying portions where you can shoot down opponents.

Pew, Pew, Pow!

This is where Star Racer is truly trying to make its mark and be more distinctive. I mentioned the Air stat for each racer. This will happen when flying through the air and trying to fire on other racers.

It’s a fun mechanic that works most of the time. Some tracks have large portions missing, allowing everyone to fly through space and use their weaponry to fire upon those around them. A crosshair appears; you can shoot lasers or homing missiles to damage others. But you are limited in ammo, so pick up these nodes during your race.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a fun and inventive idea. It does an excellent job of bringing something exciting and new. But it felt very chaotic, and I often felt like I was mashing the shoot button and hoping I’d hit someone in front of me to gain a positional advantage.

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Rest assured, it’s still fun. Some tracks in Star Racer have massive wormhole-like areas that have you whipping around space and firing on opponents, touching the ground briefly. These are unique, and I can see how the developers can go wild with so many possibilities.

Speaking of that, the game also has a full-on track editor! I created one myself (it wasn’t great…oops!) and had fun playing with the available pieces.

This is something that I think will make Star Racer something extra special. Driving something wacky, over the top, and just plain fun for others to race through. Mario Maker has its chaos; this game could have just as much.

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I had a great time with this demo! There’s enough to try, including a Death Race mode where you drive in a massive ring track and shoot down other racers.

All in all, Star Racer is a beautiful take on a classic genre and franchise. With an expanding roster, a track editor, fantastic music, and fun gameplay, I recommend you give this game a go.