Obliteracers is a combat racing game available for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS4. Space Dust Studios was founded in 2013, containing development talent who has previously worked in major roles at Atari, Crystal Dynamics and Visceral Games having contributed to major franchises including Battlefield, Burnout, Dead Space, Need for Speed, Silent Hill and Tomb Raider. Obliteracers has been met with critical acclaim during development and the build-up to release including winning the Best Technology award at Freeplay Games Festival in April 2015 and winning the Indie Game Showcase at iFEST Independent Games Festival in March 2015 in Space Dust Studios’ home of Melbourne, Australia. Can Obliteracers compete with the best of car combat racing games on PS4?
Career mode initially has a single event unlocked in which the player learns the ropes within survival mode on a tropical paradise named Clawtopia that sees you pitted up against three A.I. controlled opponents in a battle to be crowned last man standing over a period of multiple rounds. Every event result is important as successful podium finishes are required to unlock further events in career mode as they yield collectibles that gradually accumulate to potentially not just unlocking a single event but even multiple events on some occasions depending on the quantity of collectibles you have gathered. Career mode comprises of 24 events, although unlike other modes; career mode cannot be played in local or online multiplayer.
There are four event types including endurance, knockout, survival and leader. Endurance events is essentially a deathmatch with instant respawns in which points are scored for taking out other racers’ cars, while Knockout is a form of Endurance albeit without respawns and Leader which provides a different approach to deathmatch as the race leader pinches everyone else’s points, alongside Survival that produces last man standing gameplay as the survivor of the round gains a point towards an overall victory, but also introduces airstrikes which can be fired by a player who has been eliminated from a round. There is technically a fifth event type available within versus mode as a no pickups modifier allows for a race that is purely about the pace of pulling away from the rest of the field by eliminating them from the round after leaving opposing cars in your dust and out of sight of the camera in order to win each round.
Track design is quite diverse as it includes four unique environments named Clawtopia, NuVark, Chicane Station and Transporter comprising of three tracks per environment for a total of 12 tracks which are quadrupled in versus mode via a pair of modifiers that revert the course from clockwise to anti-clockwise or vice versa and mirror the tracks from a right-handed corner to a left-handed corner and vice versa. NuVark: Sunset Strip has an outstanding jump within a part of the track where flying cars are navigating through the area so cars participating in the race have to make the jump without receiving a heavy contact with a flying car. Every track finds a perfect balance between straights to fire your power-ups at opposing cars, alongside tight and twisty sections that allows players to strategically go wide to let a car through in order to fire a power-up in their direction.
Character design is excellent as it is very fitting and in keeping with the visual art style and tone of the gameplay. For instance, Picollo Diablo is a pig, Chic is a large bird, Herman looks akin to a blue egg with crab claws for hands and Sarge is a robotic soldier. Car design is as entertaining as the character design as Picollo drives a yellow taxi hover car, Sarge drives a tank and numerous futuristic cars.
Power-ups include a huge arsenal of weaponry for temporary use such as a machine gun, a flamethrower for both sides of the car, multiple varieties of rocket launchers and much more besides. There are only a small amount of weapons that can be fired backwards such as mines and pouring space lube particularly on the corners to make it difficult for opponents to manoeuvre through corners.
A single third-person dynamic camera follows the action around the track such as tracks with large jumps that push the camera forwards and pull it backwards to create the desired affect of track undulation, steep curbed corners and jumps, while the positioning of the camera is panned further back when more cars are simultaneously on-screen but zoomed in when there are only two cars on track.
The Vita is adequately covered in the car combat racing genre with games such as ModNation Racers: Road Trip, Sonic and SEGA All-Stars Racing Transformed and Table Top Racing, although given the fact that Jak X and Little Big Planet Karting never received Vita ports; there is still room for Obliteracers to shine if it was to be ported to Vita with remote play providing consolation. Obliteracers’ remote play performance is amazing as it retains the quality of graphics, audio and general performance as the PS4 version. There are no remote play control optimisations as accelerating and braking or reversing are mapped to the top right and top left of the rear touch pad respectively by default, although it does not detract from the gameplay or responsiveness of the controls as it does in some games, therefore resulting in Obliteracers remaining quite playable in remote play.
The controls are appropriately mapped to the DualShock 4 controller with the control scheme consisting of pressing R2 to accelerate; pressing L2 to brake or reverse; pressing square, O or R1 to fire a power-up or taunt; pressing triangle or L1 to drop a power-up, engage a shield or absorb a power-up; pressing X to jump or drift; and changing the direction of the left analogue stick or alternatively pressing up, down, left or right on the d-pad to steer your car in every event type or perform an airstrike after your car has been destroyed in a round of survival mode. Tapping the touch pad to talk, while vibration occurs when a rival car destroys your car or you accidentally drive off the track. There is no light bar implementation which could have produced the colour representing your car or the power-up collected by your car.
Every track showcases a different facet of Obliteracers’ graphical capabilities such as Transporter: Sea Sick’s realistic rain effects, while there is superb water and particle effects, alongside lighting and shadow effects such as the sun in NuVark: Sunset Strip and night time races in the Transporter environment. There is always a genuine sense of speed no matter what car is chosen on every track which becomes even faster in versus mode as a certain modifier allows the pace of the racing to be increased twice beyond the normal speed.
The presentation of the game is solid with a great user interface across various menus such as the main menu, career menus, car selection menus, local multiplayer menus, online multiplayer menus, online leaderboards, options menu and various 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 and touch pad. Menu backgrounds include a different character or track for each menu.
There are no voice-overs as each character is capable of taunting their rivals via mumbling combined with a gesture. Sound effects include the countdown to the race start, cars accelerating and braking, power-ups activated by cars and collected weaponry from power-ups being fired from one car at another accompanied by upbeat music curated by The Otherworld Agency. There is no DualShock 4 speaker implementation which could have produced the mumbling of taunts between competitors.
The trophy list includes 13 trophies with 9 bronze trophies, 3 silver trophies and 1 gold trophy. The easiest trophy has to be the First Victim bronze trophy for taking a car out such as during a race or a survival round. Harder trophies include the 360 Dunk bronze trophy for performing a 360 mid-air and stomp a car on the landing and the Big Boss of Mayhem gold trophy for earning all collectibles in career mode. There are two online multiplayer trophies including the Making Friends bronze trophy for joining an online match and the Ungracious Host silver trophy for hosting and winning an online match, although the latter can actually be rather easily achieved by hosting a private online lobby racing against one A.I. controlled car and winning the event. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 10 to 20 hours to 100% the trophy list.
There are four difficulty levels including beginner, normal, experienced and veteran with the major differences being each step up in A.I. difficulty results in A.I. controlled opponents becoming more aware of their surroundings and respective scenario. For instance, utilising a certain power-up in the most effective area of the track for maximum damage to the opposition and engaging the shield when their car is under attack and nearly destroyed in order to retain an outside chance of winning the round.
Local multiplayer supports 1 to 4 players, although there can be up to 16 characters competing simultaneously due to the capability of having anywhere from none to 15 A.I. bots participating which also means that the local multiplayer component doubles as a feature in which a single player can fully customise their race event. The dynamic camera angle does not become a split-screen, although that is due to the nature of the gameplay, therefore the local multiplayer plays exactly the same as single player or online multiplayer. The only criticism of the local and online multiplayer is that multi-event tournaments cannot be constructed; therefore it is only a single event at a time, although the event types do naturally offer multiple rounds, but it is nevertheless lacking the capabilities of having various event types held on different tracks with a points scoring table.
Online multiplayer supports to 2 to 16 players in which players can choose to join an online lobby or host their open or private lobby. Hosting an online lobby allows players to select modifiers, choose a track or race on a random track, one of four event types, quick, normal or extended game length, anywhere from a maximum of 2 to 16 players, autofilling spare grid positions with between none to 15 bots and one of four bot skill levels. An excellent design choice which should certainly be in more online multiplayer racing games is the ability to create an online lobby and start immediately racing against A.I. controlled opponents, while anyone joining your online lobby during the race can automatically join the race in place of one of the A.I. controlled cars; resulting in no inconvenient waiting around for the host of the online lobby or the players joining the online lobby, therefore creating a far more user-friendly and entertaining online multiplayer component than expected.
There are a vast range of modifiers that completely change the gameplay during local and online multiplayer including three adjustable gameplay speeds; changing the track direction to forwards or backwards in combination with horizontally flipping the track for a multitude of alternative track layouts; and various handicaps such as bonus armour, a starting weapon, driving faster or dealing more damage for losing racers. Further interesting modifiers include successful drifts yielding a free weapon; colliding with other racers for bumper mayhem; every race track becoming extra slippery; cars exploding when ramming into each other unless a shield is engaged to block the damage; taking damage for touching the ground; weapons dealing half or double damage; and much more besides. You can also turn off specific power-ups such as no machine gun, rocket launchers or space lube and abilities such as no shields, absorption, slipstreaming, jumping or stomping. There are also pre-set grouped modifiers such as Wildcard Rules containing three random modifiers, Party Rules adds handicaps for new players and Hardcore Rules which provides shorter rounds for experienced players in addition to three customised sets of modifiers that can be saved for future use.
Online leaderboards are focused on global rankings and friends rankings with each leaderboard containing each player’s rank; name (PSN ID); score; the amount of wins from matches played; length of time played; the quantity of repairs and shielded; the amount of kills, deaths, damage and shots in endurance, knockout, survival and leader modes in addition to an overall leaderboard.
Obliteracers’ replayability stems from a 24 event career mode, four difficulty levels, local and online competitive multiplayer, dozens of modifiers that completely change up the gameplay in local and online competitive multiplayer, online leaderboards and more besides that will keep players returning for quite some time.
- Title: Obliteracers
- Developer: Space Dust Studios
- Publisher: Deck13 Interactive
- System: PS4
- Format: PSN Download
- Cross-Buy: No
- Cross-Play: No
- Players: 1-4 (Local Competitive Multiplayer)/2-16 (Online Competitive Multiplayer)
- Hard Drive Space Required: 1.25GB