For decades, racing games used raster-based graphics to depict three-dimensional racing circuits. Although there was a palpable advancement in fidelity across titles like 1976’s Night Driver, 1986’s Outrun, and 1994’s Cruis’n USA, the method of rendering the road remained the same, where sprites moving in unison to simulate speeding down a highway.
But when polygonal graphics gathered momentum with the release of efforts like Hard Drivin’, Virtua Racing, and Daytona USA, the game industry left the old process behind, with most developers never glancing in their rear-view mirrors. The race for realism had seemingly made sprite-based, first- and third-person racing games irrelevant.
But the release of Horizon Chase Turbo reminds us that the genre still needs straightforward, pick-up-and play efforts. Instead of having to fastidiously follow racing lines and master the delicate art of drifting, Aquiris Game Studio’s title permits players to slide into the driver’s seat and hurdle toward the finish line without a requirement for hours of practice.
But that’s not to say, Horizon Chase Turbo is a pushover. Like the racers of yesteryear, you’ll still need to learn a few nuances. Sure, you can largely get by the game’s initial West Coast-based tracks by being a lead-foot, and holding down the accelerator as you careen around curves. Like Outrun, you’ll learn to be careful about not bumping into your rivals. Rear-end a competitor and you’ll lose a devastating amount of speed, most likely allowing other challengers to speed past you. And depending on the angle of collision, side-swapping another racer can slow you down a lot or a little.
Likely, your first try on a new course, will earn a place on the podium, but Horizon Chase Turbo pushes you toward perfection. Across the game’s World Tour, you’ll race across 109 different courses, but to stay competitive you’ll need to expand and augment your automotive fleet. This is accomplished by using your racing winnings to unlock and customize new cars. You’ll soon discover that first-place finishes accompanied by the accumulation of on-track collectables are the best way to do this. Yes, that means you’ll be replaying most tracks, striving to cross the finish line first while gathering every icon that appears on the course. It’s mostly fun, but those with less patience might lose momentum before the end of the circuit or even before the unlock the title’s Tournament and Endurance modes.
For those who’d rather compete against rivals who don’t have a propensity for rubber-banding, Horizon Chase Turbo offers a multiplayer component. Although online play isn’t an option, the game supports split screen, accommodating up to four local competitors. As titles like Mario Kart 64 and Beetle Adventure Racing once demonstrated, these showdowns can become spirited, especially if players own a large enough screen and possibly a USB hub to provide input methods for everyone. One welcome addition would be the ability to transmit gameplay across multiple monitors.
Marvelously, a four-player match performed remarkably well on a 1050 Ti-powered laptop, allowing each quadrant of the screen to deliver fluid sixty frames-per-second output. On lesser systems, Horizon Chase Turbo also performed admirably, with an upcapped framerate allowing for delightfully lithe racing. Undoubtedly, the game’s decision to use lower-poly visuals gives performance a boost, but pleasingly there’s enough artistically-applied gradient shading to endow Turbo with attractiveness. Musically, Aquiris tasked Barry Leitch (Lotus Turbo Challenge, Top Gear) to provide the game’s soundtrack, and while not every track is a banger, there’s more hit than filler across the twenty selections.
When compared to modern racing games, franchises like Outrun and Cruis’n seem exceedingly quaint. But Horizon Chase Turbo demonstrates there was something splendid about speeding past scaling sprites in carefree fashion. Naturally, the game provides a polygonal update, endowing environment and car with modern polish, while dutifully adhering to the basics. While staunch simulation can be fun, sporadically simplicity can be the best approach to the finish line.
Horizon Chase Turbo was played on PC
with review code provided by the publisher.
Platform: PC, PlayStation 4
Developer: Aquiris Game Studio
Publisher: Aquiris Game Studio
Release date: May 15th, 2018
Price: $19.99 via digital download