Hotshot Racing is a truly unapologetic arcade-like racing game, paying homage to past giants that paved the way for racing games of the future.
In my opinion there are three key elements in Racing Games: gameplay, soundtrack and progression. While Sumo Digital’s Hotshot Racing doesn’t excel or show anything new in any of these characteristics, it doesn’t steer away from its vision: a raw unfiltered throwback to the days of early 90’s racing games such as Virtua Racing or Daytona USA, packed to the brim with nostalgia and feverish speeds.
Accelerate, Slide, Boost, Repeat
If you ever played any recent arcade-like racing games, you will feel right at home. You drift, boost and put pedal to the metal on your way to victory on beautifully coloured and extremely busy circuits. While you race through the track, you will see helicopters dominating the skies, trains passing by and even the occasional Ferris wheel or whale diving over the racetrack.
You can easily sweep through the frantic races the game offers on Normal or Hard difficulty, but Expert is a true test to your skill, as every corner has to be calculated to perfection. Every bump against the rails will break your momentum drastically. The game flourishes under these circumstances, as simple things escalate to brand new heights, as any back-to-back drift will make you feel like a digital Keiichi Tsuchiya.
The brakes are replaced with a drift key and while the game gives you choice between automatic and manual transmission, the latter is too irresponsive to be viable in an already hectic environment.
With boost generating on drift, as well as slipstream and no power-ups, it might initially seem like it would be easy to keep the first place, since there are no “blue shells” to foil your raw skill on the track. However, the slipstreaming mechanic will give cars who have been trailing the leader and conserving all of their boost bar a decisive edge, with plenty of occurrences where the first place on the podium is robbed in the final lap.
All You Need is One Killer Track
A collaboration of Jason Heine and Waterflame, the original soundtrack for Hotshot Racing is pretty slick, mostly using heavy synthesizers to completely sell its 90s nostalgic aesthetic that permeates through the whole game.
Boasting some pretty killer tracks in some stages and drawing strong influence from past games in this genre, it suits the game to perfection and it is, without a doubt, one of its stronger assets.
Customize and Compete
Hotshot Racing tries to veer from its peers with the introduction of an eight character pool. Each of these characters has access to four cars, organized by their specialization: acceleration, speed, drift. In spite of the different models, unless you are sentimental to the real life counter-part of a certain vehicle, you will want to pick either the balanced option or the one focused on speed for optimal performance on most tracks.
Each of these cars can be extensively customized, with new parts being accessed through the completion of certain challenges.
The game has sixteen racing circuits and multiple game-modes: the classic Time Trial and Arcade mode, but also new additions like a Cops and Robbers mode where you pursuit and demolish other players and Drive or Explode where you must keep up the speed or risk instantaneous combustion.
You can take your skills to an online environment, although most of the time you will want to do that with friends, as matchmaking could take a while to fill out all the places in the grid with other players.
There is also a cockpit view that’s pretty hinted at, with some customization options tailor made for that camera angle. Since you are constantly going sideways, and don’t get much input on your car or the road, the cockpit view ends up being more of a nuisance and less of an alternative.
Make Your Own Path
While there is a notable absence of any “Campaign” mode, each of the eight racers unlocked from the beginning have their own backstory. Through the completion of the Grand Prix tournaments, you can complete the “ending” of that story.
While these eight characters feel very one dimensional and stereotypical, their voice-lines are what fills the races with life and completing each of their “story-arcs” is one of the better parts of the entire package.
Hotshot Racing definitely feels like it could had been something much bigger and fully fledged out, had it been a bigger focus on its progression and on creating an incentive for players to come back.
Whats the Conclusion on Hotshot Racing?
Overall enjoyment of this game will really depend on your nostalgia and the emotional connection to past games of this variety. As a racing game veteran, I had plenty of fun mastering every Grand Prix and unlocking all cosmetics that brought me closer to making these polygon cars either more similar to their real life counter-parts or bringing them closer to some sort of Hot Wheels Frankenstein monster.
There is no room for failure and while that might make those looking for a more casual experience drift to other video-games of the genre, I think that’s the best attribute of Hotshot Racing. The simplicity in its systems and the skill it takes to master them.
The biggest flaw in the game would be its content, and the lack of drive to keep playing many players will experience after completing every Grand Prix on maximum difficulty. Nevertheless, Sumo Digital has promised the addition of post-launch content, which may help lessen the draught and keep some of its fanbase hooked.