I have very specific tastes when it comes to racing games. While many of my friends grew up on a diet of Need for Speeds, I rarely obsessed over them the way I did with racers like F-Zero X, Midnight Club and Wipeout. They were flashy, stylish, and relied on a totally different kind of muscle memory that did, and always has, appealed to me.
So when I picked up Antigraviator, from developer Cybernetic Walrus, I was enthused by the potential of what I saw. An anti-gravity racer that moved at breakneck speeds, with customizable cars – or in this case, “Gravs” – and unlockable tracks, each more twisted and unpredictable than the last. And, for the most part, the game succeeds at fulfilling that potential. As with other games of this style, it would be improbable to be in first place on the first run of a course. Instead, Antigraviator wants your brain, eyes, and fingers to memorize each bend and turn until you hit every mark just right as you blaze past them at Ludicrous Speed.
The game’s library of races consists of eight leagues, each containing four races, and each new league is unlocked through in-game currency you can earn by completing a previous league. There are also three modes to zip around the 24 tracks in: Singles, which is your standard three-lap fair; Countdown, where you must reach each new checkpoint or face elimination; and Deathrace, placing you in an intense sudden-death survival race.
There are a number of aids laid along each track to help you zoom past the competition. There are boost pads that give you a short burst of extra speed, guard rails that you can barrel-roll other racers into, and over a dozen environmental traps, like rocks slides and pop-up crash walls, that can be triggered to squash your competitors.
High Energy Beats Amp up the Fun
From an audio/visual perspective, Antigraviator is everything you’d expect from this racing sub-genre. Each track is crisp and detailed, set in beautifully-rendered and diverse environments, from desert mesas to winding superhighways to neon-coloured futuristic downtown cores. These are all paired with bombastic high energy electronic music that will keep your heart pumping even when you’ve mastered every inch of every track.
Interestingly, that adherence to the expectations of this style of racer is both the greatest strength and weakness of the game. It simply doesn’t do very much new, and what it does try doesn’t work as well as I think Cybernetic Walrus had hoped. The traps are a great example of this failure to subvert convention. They are a fun novelty at first, but I felt they wore out their welcome fairly quickly because they don’t function the way an item would in WipeOut, for instance. They must be triggered instantly, and while you’re Grav is shielded from being damaged by them, they only really work if you time them with total precision – something that’s tough to do when you’re trying to hit perfectly-timed turns at hundreds of kilometers a minute.
As I said earlier the game also features an in-game currency – a relatively modern addition to racers – which can be used to unlock both new leagues and new parts for your Gravs. On the surface, this is a wonderful addition, but compared to its contemporaries, the selection of Gravs and upgradable parts is limited. It doesn’t help that there’s only one way to gain this currency, completing an entire league in one run, which means all Grav parts are behind a wall of constant and repetitious grind.
None of these complaints are condemning, mind you. There is certainly enough great stuff in this game to make Antigraviator worth buying. There is a healthy number of tracks that will take hours to master, cool Gravs and parts to unlock, and it’s a joy to look at and listen to while you do it. But with a little polish and workshopping, Antigraviator could have gone from really good, to really great.
*** PC code provided by the publisher ***
- A large variety of challenging tracks
- Three different race modes
- Speed boosts etc. help you stay in first
- Immersive experience thanks to visuals/music
- Does little to subvert genre conventions
- Traps are a novelty that rarely pay off
- Single currency requires lots of grinding