Mantis Burn Racing is a top-down racing game available for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS4. Top-down racing games have been a tradition in the competitive driving genre for decades with the Micro Machines series certainly being the most well known and successful of the genre from its inception in 1991 throughout the majority of the gaming generations since including PS1, PS2 and PSP. However, there are older entries into the genre such as Street Racer on the Atari 2600 in 1977 and Championship Sprint on the Amstrad, Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum in 1986 as well as more recent examples of the genre such as MotorStorm RC on Vita and PS3 in 2012. The development team of Mantis Burn Racing at VooFoo Studios has an excellent track record of delivering exceptional experiences throughout their back catalogue of games including Backgammon Blitz, Big Sky Infinity, Hustle Kings, Pure Chess, Pure Hold‘em and Pure Pool which bodes well for Mantis Burn Racing, but can it live up to the games that have inspired it?
You receive your first vehicle for free in order to be able to start competing in the career mode; the car is called Renegade and is categorised as a rookie class of a medium weight. Progression in career mode is dependant upon earning a specific amount of gears by completing challenges such as winning events and proving your driving skills to unlock the next event, therefore advancing towards the final event of each season throughout the course of all 7 seasons comprising of 3 rookie seasons, 3 pro seasons and a veteran season. Players can unlock new events on the career grid by collecting enough gears through winning previous events and completing such challenges as winning without boosting, drifting or jumping over a certain distance, achieving a great or amazing drift, draft or destruction and much more besides. There are some occasions resulting in simultaneously opening up multiple new events to participate in such as winning an event that is followed by an event directly above and below it on the career grid.
There are 10 event types including a race to the finish line over the course of two laps known as a Sprint, while Race and Endurance follows the same formula over the course of three and five laps respectively. Time Out entails the winning driver to have travelled the furthest distance than any of their opponents when time expires, although what makes Time Out more interesting is passing through checkpoints increases your available time, but making contact with other cars and trackside barriers will reduce your remaining time; resulting in a smoother more controlled driving style coming first rather than track position. Knockout is an eliminator style event in which the driver in last place will be eliminated at the end of each lap until only one driver is remaining, while Spotlight tasks players to remain within the spotlight or be eliminated in a battle to be the last player remaining on track. Accumulator requires the winner to reach 10,000 points with the first place driver earning points quickest and the last place driver earning points slowest, alongside Overtake which sees every driver attempting to overtake five cars faster than everyone else. Time Trial sees players trying to beat their personal and other players’ best lap times and climb the online leaderboards in the process, while Hot Lap provides a specific amount of time to set a fastest lap time within. Given how similar Sprint, Race and Endurance as well as Time Trial and Hot Lap are; it could be argued that there is in fact 7 event types instead of 10 as it would have be great to see some more unique event types such as smashing into rival cars to takedown a certain amount of rivals from the event within a specific duration. Further event types beyond that could include having a set of gates positioned in varying areas of the track with maximum points awarded for driving through the centre of the gates or less points for clipping the outside edge of the gates and a multiplier for consistently driving through the centre of the gates, alongside a survival event type in which you would have to avoid projectiles being dumped onto the track in an attempt to survive for a certain duration. Team-based variations of every event type such as aggregating the points total or lap times of two or four drivers from each team would effectively double the amount of event types and provide much greater customisation of the racing experience.
Earning in-game currency also known as G to invest in purchasing new cars from the garage such as the lightweight buggy named Duster for G 8,000 to be able to enter into the first lightweight event during the first season of career mode. There are five different types of unlockable car upgrades including engine, gearbox, tyres, suspension and boost with each providing a varying degree of improved performance to your respective car, although you have the ability to scrap upgrades resulting in losing an upgrade but gaining some in-game currency from scrap value which can be re-invested into purchasing a better car. When you have reached the point of filling all of your car’s upgrade sockets; you can pay G 6,000 to level up your car resulting in not only an improved look, but also new sockets will be added to the upgrade dial providing the ability to further upgrade your car by a significant degree on both occasions when levelling up your car from mark I to mark II and from mark II to mark III.
XP and levelling up is vital as new vehicles will only become available to purchase from the garage after you have attained a specific level with new upgrades also unlocked to be equipped on your car as you gradually level up, although some upgrades are positioned at a mid-way point between levels. You can earn XP by having a positive finishing position in an event such as placing on the podium or even winning an event, while there are a variety of additional methods of earning XP including amazing performances of drifting, airtime, a clean sector, personal best lap times and more besides. A further incentive to level-up is the reward of 2,000 in-game currency to put towards purchasing a new car or levelling up a car from the garage.
Track design comprises of 8 tracks that each have a forward and reverse track configuration with the first environment set in the daytime and the second environment partly set in the night time with tracks evolving as tyre tracks are carved into sandy or muddy surfaces. Tracks contain undulations and sharp turns that lend themselves to drifting, while shortcuts such as wooden fencing can be taken by any weight class, although there are some shortcuts only available to heavyweight vehicles such as enforced barriers. It would be amazing to see further improvements to increase the variety in track design so it would include a mirrored track configuration for both forward and reverse track configurations resulting in efficiently doubling the tracks. Applying the daytime and night time as well as customisable weather conditions to every track would allow players the freedom to experience every track how they wanted to. For instance, instead of racing through the canyons in the daytime you could in the night time with heavy rain or a snowstorm making the acceleration, braking, handling and grip all feel very different to the normal conditions.
Car design is incredibly varied as there are three weight classes including light, medium and heavy with individual cars having their own unique strengths and weaknesses throughout speed, acceleration, grip, suspension and boost which are further complimented by three separate classes of quality including rookie, pro and veteran for vehicles that range from dune buggies to road racers and even 6 wheeler trucks. Car liveries can also be customised from a wide range of 22 bodywork colours and 24 boost colours.
There is a pretty good sense of speed, especially when upgrading your vehicle to improve the relevant attributes to provide faster acceleration. However, the responsiveness of reversing out of a collision after facing a barrier is too slow bringing your car to an abrupt and unwelcome standstill for a few seconds that results in a single mistake or incident taking you from first to most likely last position.
Five camera modes including standard, dynamic, tight, static and far result in effective re-positioning of the camera albeit more in certain angles than others that should provide every fan of top-down racing with a preferred camera mode throughout every track during gameplay. A camera angle in the build-up to the start of the race is set from just above and behind the field of cars allowing a view that is further into the distance; it would be great to see that camera angle available during gameplay. There is unfortunately no replay feature which is a missed opportunity especially in split-screen multiplayer as it does not allow a player to re-live the glory of a victory in the company of a player which they have just soundly beaten.
Statistics provide a complete statistical analysis of everything including your total time spent racing; total distance travelled within each of the three car categories; amount of vehicles overtaken; total air time; total drift time; total draft time; trackside objects smashed; total race wins; percentage of career progression; career gears won; total in-game currency earned; total shortcuts used; fastest ever 0 to 60 miles per hour time; and much more besides.
Downloadable content includes free and premium content packs with the snowbound pack being free to download including four new challenging tracks set within environments that are covered in snow and ice available in forward and reverse track configurations which is certainly a welcome addition given the quality of the track and environment design, while also providing an expansion to the career mode comprising of 34 new events spread across an all-new second and third season of the veteran class. The Elite Class pack priced at £1.99 takes Mantis Burn Racing into an entirely new dimension of racing with three Elite hover vehicles and an exclusive Elite career season spanning 12 events.
Given the amount of VooFoo Studios games that have previously released on Vita; it is disappointing to see no sign of a Vita native release, although there is remote play as a consolation. No optimisation has been made to the control scheme which requires players to hold the right of the rear touch pad to accelerate and the left of the rear touch pad to brake; resulting in a needlessly unoptimised control scheme which could have easily been mapped to R and L respectively with the camera mode re-mapped to the touch screen. Therefore, Mantis Burn Racing provides a disappointing remote play experience, especially considering VooFoo Studios’ previous incredible output on Vita.
The controls are appropriately mapped to the DualShock 4 controller as the control scheme consists of pressing R2 to accelerate; pressing L2 to brake; pressing X to apply the boost; pressing R1 to change camera mode; changing the direction of the left analogue stick to steer your vehicle; pressing the share button takes you to the share feature menu; and pressing the options button to display the pause menu. The DualShock 4 controller vibrates when colliding with another vehicle and mild vibration when drifting, although there are no customisable elements to the control scheme resulting in not being able to re-map steering from the left analogue stick to the gyroscopic motion sensing functionality of the controller, while there is also no touch pad implementation which could have been an appropriate alternative to applying the boost or changing the camera mode. There is no light bar implementation which could have displayed a tint representing the colour of your car livery, while momentarily changing colours to produce purple when setting the fastest sector or lap time, green when overtaking a car, blue when lapping a car, yellow for a crash to avoid up ahead and flashing red when falling off-track or having a big crash.
Graphically, Mantis Burn Racing mostly achieves what it sets out to do with appropriate lighting and shadows with enough trackside detail such as a waterfall, building work or skyscrapers to keep the tracks interesting, although some trackside details appear unnecessarily blurry on occasion. VooFoo Studios have produced a PS4 Pro patch providing 4K resolution at 60 frames-per-second on 4K televisions and downscales the 4K output when running on the PS4 Pro with a 1080p television to provide double the quality of Super Sampling Anti-Aliasing (SSAA) at 4x SSAA in comparison to that of the base PS4 model’s 2x SSAA for smoother graphics.
The presentation of the game is mostly solid with a great user interface across various menus such as the main menu, career menu, local and online multiplayer menus, garage menus, settings menus and gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons, although it does not include support for navigation via the right analogue stick or touch pad. The background of the menu screens displays vehicles varying in size, weight and colour within a large scale garage.
Voice-overs include exclaiming “Go!” at the start of an event, although speech outside of that such as from your mechanic is reduced to speech bubbles instead of voice-overs. Sound effects include a countdown to the start of the race, screeching tyres during drifting, applying the boost, a heavy landing after a large jump, collisions with cars or barriers and ambient sound effects such as a waterfall, factories, foliage rustling in the wind or police sirens which brings more life to the surrounding environments. However, the car engines could be better as they do not provide the impression of driving a powerful car without any difference in sound throughout the varying pace of any car under acceleration, braking and climbing back through the gears to full acceleration, while every car sounds exactly the same without any noticeable distinction between a single car or the entire field of cars when they are within close proximity. The audio mix is not the best as screeching tyres can be only just about heard, while an ambient-electro soundtrack has been composed exclusively for the game. There is no DualShock 4 speaker implementation which could have produced the countdown leading into the start of the race with further sounds such as screeching tyres, boosting and ambient sound effects.
The trophy list includes 43 trophies with 30 bronze trophies, 9 silver trophies, 3 gold trophies and 1 platinum trophy. Easier trophies include the First Tweaks bronze trophy for adding an upgrade to any car; the Cheating, Surely bronze trophy for driving through 3 different shortcuts; the Excursion Through the Scenery bronze trophy for falling down 3 bottomless pits; the Airborne Division, Forwards Is So Overrated, Move Up To The Bumper and Wrecking The Joint bronze trophies for achieving awesome air, drifting, drafting and damage respectively. Harder trophies include the Geared Up gold trophy for winning 150 gears in career mode and the Driven gold trophy for completing season 3 in career mode. Two controllers are required for the Unplug Their Controller bronze trophy for participating in a split-screen multiplayer event. There are five online multiplayer focused trophies including the Taking On The World silver trophy for finishing first in 15 online events; the Punching Above Your Weight bronze trophy and The Bigger They Are… silver trophy for beating an online opponent with an XP level 15 and 25 higher than your own respectively; the (Weekly) Challenge Accepted bronze trophy for competing in a weekly challenge; and the I’ll Bring It Back Without A Scratch bronze trophy for racing online in a loaned vehicle. It is estimated that depending upon skill, two controllers for a split-screen multiplayer event and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 20 to 25 hours to platinum the trophy list.
The rookie, pro and veteran vehicle classes reflect the quality of not only the car performance, but also the quality of the A.I. drivers that players must compete with to win races. Unlocking better cars for purchase, earning car upgrades and levelling up your cars to mark III will naturally improve the performance of your car resulting in a much greater competitive capability of winning events that would have previously been harder to do so.
Mantis Burn Racing produces 4 player split-screen competitive multiplayer racing with 30 frames-per-second performance and the ability to select from a limited amount of loaned cars. All 10 event types are available as single events which is really what begins to reduce the fun factor in split-screen as there is a distinct lack of customisation such as no custom championship, season or career mode. There is an ongoing local points scoring table for 2, 3 or 4 players for as long as you continue within the same local multiplayer session, but that does not extend to the A.I. controlled vehicles. This decision results in single events that has a significantly less genuine competitive outcome than what it should such as there being no podium congratulating the top 3 participants and no customisable championship containing a series of events decided by a local points scoring table for every participant including A.I. controlled cars. The points scoring system is already technically included in the race league events in career mode with 12 points for a win, 8 points for second place, 6 points for third and so on through the field, while the event types are already there, so effectively it would just be a case of combining the race league format for a longer duration of multiple event types. There is an option to have no A.I. or a full grid of 8 drivers with between 4 to 6 A.I. (set to easy, medium or hard difficulty) depending on 4 or 2 player split-screen respectively, therefore you can have a 1 on 1 event, but you cannot have a 2 player split-screen event with only 1 or 2 A.I. resulting in there not being full customisation of the field. Given the amount of customisation in the career mode including the ability to upgrade your car and customise the colour of bodywork and boost; it was rather odd to see such an omission in split-screen multiplayer. This could be a problem for any players who cannot read small text as you will not necessarily know which car you are driving due to the lack of car colour customisation, while the attributes of player 1’s car will be shown during vehicle selection, yet you cannot see the attributes of the second player’s vehicle and there is no horizontal split option, although that can be forgiven as the camera angles lend themselves more to vertical rather than horizontal display.
The performance during online multiplayer is exceptional as it provides the same sense of speed and graphical quality as the single player game modes and up to 8 players racing. The ability of including A.I. drivers of any difficulty level to complete the grid results in the host player not having to wait for anyone else to join the lobby before being able to start an event, although it would be better if players joining your lobby could drop into a previously A.I. controlled car to join the race immediately instead of waiting in the lobby, while a spectator mode would also be a worthwhile addition to what is already a decent online multiplayer experience. However, it would have been preferred to have the ability to also participate in a custom championship in split-screen multiplayer during online multiplayer to create a more social and competitive experience.
Online multiplayer provides players with the opportunity to join a public lobby or host a private race. Hosting a public or private lobby allows players to customise the experience to their preferences including any of the 10 event types, a specific vehicle class and if upgrades are allowed, choosing one of your own vehicles or a loaned vehicle, selecting a track and a forward or reverse direction for your chosen track, while you can also invite your friends into your own customised lobby for 2 to 8 player online multiplayer races.
There are weekly challenges as players are challenged to complete specific missions as successfully as possible such as driving a loaned vehicle the furthest distance within the set time limit of 3 minutes in which players must all drive the same vehicle as they participate in a global leaderboard focusing on the length of distance travelled by each player on a pre-determined track or lapping your opponent four times in the fastest possible time.
The online leaderboards focuses on best scores such as for furthest distance travelled or fastest possible time for the current weekly challenge with the top 3 players followed by the two players directly above and below your position with the online leaderboard containing each player’s rank; name (PSN ID); and best score, while there is also an online leaderboard for the fastest lap times set for each track. In the spirit of competition; there is also a further online leaderboard acting as a celebratory podium congratulating the top 3 participants in the final results from the weekly challenge that previously took place.
The replayability stems from an exceptional career mode spread across 7 seasons before downloadable content, 10 event types, XP and levelling up to earn new upgrades and unlock new cars, earning in-game currency to purchase new cars, split-screen multiplayer for up to 4 players, online multiplayer for 2 to 8 players and weekly challenges in conjunction with a global online leaderboard as well as online leaderboards for the fastest lap times which will collectively have players returning for quite some time.
- Title: Mantis Burn Racing
- Developer: VooFoo Studios
- Publisher: VooFoo Studios
- System: PS4
- Format: PSN Download
- Cross-Buy: No
- Cross-Play: No
- Players: 1-4 (Split-Screen Local Multiplayer) 2-8 (Online Multiplayer)/Online Leaderboards
- Hard Drive Space Required: 4.78GB (Version 1.03)