Xenon Racer is an arcade futuristic car racer available from retail stores and for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS4. 3DClouds.it have experience in the racing genre as they have co-developed graphical assets with Milestone for Ducati Challenge, MotoGP, Ride, Sebastian Loeb Rally, Valentino Rossi: The Game and more besides; comprising of former development talent from Milestone and Ovosonico. Can 3DClouds.it create the best futuristic car racer since the PS1 retro era of Motorhead?
The opening sequence sets the scene of the racing as the World Prototype League (WPL) informs manufacturers in 2029 that the Xenon Racing Championship is the racing series of the future featuring magnetic levitation cars from the year 2031. However, taking place in 2030 as a competitive yet unofficial championship created by the manufacturers utilised to prepare and test the enhanced Energy Recovery System (ERS) and artificial intelligence technology, alongside an unparalleled aerodynamic car design. Gameplay begins with a tutorial showcasing the basics such as how to accelerate, steering, braking and reversing, switching camera angles and more besides, while the advanced tutorial focuses on drifting and ERS.
Xenon Racing Championship mode comprises of dozens of events competing against 7 cars in races; beginning with a three race WGT tournament requiring a fifth placed finish before unlocking a two race event titled WGTE 1st Race that has the objective of placing in third in order to unlock the next event.
Fast Race mode allows the player to choose from one up to five specifically selected or randomized races, alongside a choice of selecting unlocked locations and tracks for anywhere from one to ten laps, weather conditions and a car in a customised single race or championship against 7 A.I. controlled opponents. Meanwhile, Edge mode encompasses time attack that challenges the player to set the fastest lap time within a single lap, while checkpoint attack tasks the player to survive for three laps by reaching the next checkpoint before time expires, alongside elimination that sees 7 cars being eliminated from the race over the period of five laps until only one competitor remains and free mode that allows the player to practice a track for an endless quantity of laps; providing the opportunity to experiment with racing lines in an attempt to reduce the player’s fastest lap time. However, the time focused events within Edge mode, especially time attack and checkpoint attack have a particularly strict time or certain amount of ground to cover within a time that can only be successfully achieved when driving a much faster car; therefore it would have been better for each car to have a designated time or repositioning of the checkpoint in time attack and checkpoint attack respectively that would be attainable by maintaining a very good pace.
Car design is unique as the cars are futuristic in design yet being driven on four tyres rather than the anti-gravity vehicles found in the majority of futuristic racers. Aerodynamically in design; the cars fuse together a mixture of Indycar, Le Mans and how a Formula One car would be anticipated to look if there were no restrictions in aerodynamics and engine power. There are 18 cars in total, although only two cars are available from the start with the rest of the cars having to be unlocked through winning championships. There are four car categories including normal, performance, normal GT and performance GT, while every car has 7 unique attributes including maximum speed, acceleration, drifting, handling, ERS boost recharging speed, ERS boost duration and ERS boost power.
However, the garage is where car customisation really comes alive as the player has further motivation to succeed in order to unlock car upgrades and cosmetic designs. Car upgrades include half a dozen wheel types, three front wing, three middle wing and three back wing designs that individually increase or reduce the quality of maximum speed, acceleration, drifting and handling, while there are three ERS component designs that increase or reduce the quality of the ERS boost recharging speed, ERS boost duration and ERS boost power. Meanwhile, the visual aspect of car customisation is produced over the course of five car body liveries, three sets of paint colours and surfaces within the body mask category. Each wheel type has numerous colours to choose from for both the tyre surface and logo, while tyre rims provide varying designs for the centre of the wheel followed by a colour for the centre of the wheel rim, a colour for the inner design of the wheel rim, a colour for the wheel nut and 7 surface types that make the inner part of the wheel more or less shinier and reflective of its surroundings, alongside the car window has as many colours to select from and 7 surface types.
Handling is actually reminiscent to that of Ridge Racer as drifting plays a huge part of your lap by lap pace as drifting is the biggest contributing factor to charging the battery prior to engaging ERS, although there are also some ERS battery recharging pods situated here and there on track. However, if the player begins drifting too early or too late into a corner, then there is a good chance of crashing into the trackside barrier; resulting in not only momentarily massively reducing your acceleration, but also incurring damage to your car that progresses towards your car respawning on the track after reaching 100% damage. Respawning on track after reaching 100% damage can be quite frustrating as the quantity of time it takes to respawn seems unbalanced due to the time and ground lost to your racing competitors in the process. One specific area of handling that could potentially prevent your car from smashing into the trackside barriers at high speed is the handbrake that significantly slows the car; ideal for sharp corners that are tough to drift round.
Track design is quite varied as there are 7 locations including USA, Japan, Dubai and more besides that each comprise of three tracks per location with forward and reverse track layouts for every track, although only two locations are immediately available, while the other five locations are unlocked via winning championships. Tracks are reminiscent to that of Formula E in the sense that they have more of a look and feel of street circuits rather than resembling classic motorsports tracks such as Spa and Monza, although the majority of new tracks in motorsports do tend to be street circuits, so it is an accurate reflection of modern track design trends in motorsports.
Xenon Racer has four track conditions per track including sunny skies, night time with lighting situated around the track akin to the Singapore GP, sunny with light cloud coverage and cloudy with rain that has fallen on track and partially dried up before the start of the race leaving puddles on the track surface. However, it would have been nice to see stars in the night sky and for it to rain during daytime and night races.
There are five superbly positioned camera angles including a first-person perspective from the front of the car without showing any bodywork, a first-person view from the bonnet and another first-person camera angle a little further back from the bonnet view, while there are also two third-person perspectives positioned close to the rear wing and further back. All three first-person camera angles can be rotated to look diagonally to the left or right and behind the car, while both third-person camera angles can be rotated a full 360 degrees in order to spot potential overtaking attempts from nearby opposing cars. However, there is no mid-race rewinding or post-race replays, while a cockpit view showcasing the car’s interior design and a helicopter camera angle from high above the circuit following the action with the sound effect of the helicopter in the audio mix would have made for further amazing gameplay camera angles.
Photo mode is available from the pause menu; allowing you to observe the closer details of the racing in the foreground and trackside environments. Photo mode is a really great feature; allowing the camera to be positioned with freedom within the vicinity of the racing action including extensive customisation of images such as panning, camera height and zooming in or out, alongside the ability to adjust sliders in relation to focal length, focus distance, aperture and roll; saturation, contrast and gamma; lens flare, chromatic aberration and bloom; exposure, vignetting and grain; and 12 logos and 5 borders in a fully immersive environment that works in perfect harmony with the PS4’s share feature.
Xenon Racer is the kind of futuristic racer that Vita has been crying out for a native port of as the most recent futuristic racer on Vita was actually Wipeout 2048 that released on the Vita’s launch day, although Xenon Racer will not be releasing on Vita, but at least remote play is a consolation. Xenon Racer’s remote play performance is pretty good as the graphics, audio and general performance maintains the quality of the PS4 version. However, remote play controls have not been optimised at all resulting in having to accelerate and drift using the top right of the rear touch pad, while braking is mapped to the top left of the rear touch pad. It would have been much better if players could re-map their controls as accelerating and drifting would be mapped to R and braking mapped to L that is quite realistic given the fact that R1 is not used at all and L1 is only used to look behind your car that can actually also be done by moving the right analogue stick backwards. It is possible to win races during remote play, but it will take some familiarisation of the rear touch pad within the remote play control scheme.
The controls are appropriately mapped to the DualShock 4 controller with the control scheme consisting of holding R2 to accelerate; pressing L2 to brake or reverse; releasing R2 when accelerating followed quickly by holding R2 again to drift; pressing O to engage the ERS boost; pressing X to use the handbrake; pressing triangle to change camera angle; pressing L1 to look behind your car; changing the direction of the left analogue stick to steer your car; changing the direction of the right analogue stick to pan the camera; pressing the options button to display the pause menu; and pressing the share button takes you to the share feature menu. Tapping the touch pad respawns your car on the centre of the track, while vibration occurs when ERS is currently deployed, when your car has collided with an opposing car or when crashing into a trackside barrier. There is no light bar implementation that could have produced an alternative HUD for your car’s health or representing your team’s colour scheme. Xenon Racer offers steering wheel support for Logitech G25, G29 and G920, Thrustmaster TX Racing, T300 RS, T150 RS, T80, TMX Force, T-GT, Ferrari 458 and TS-XW and Fanatec ClubSport and CSL Elite.
Graphically, Xenon Racer efficiently utilises Unreal Engine 4 to produce detailed aerodynamically driven and team focused liveries for every car model, while tracks are huge in the scale of trackside structures, buildings and billboards. Elsewhere, there are subtle graphical touches such as sparks that fly when making contact with another car or the trackside barrier, while a stylishly futuristic rear view mirror displays in a method reminiscent of a neon equaliser shaped in the width of the track and nearby cars. PS4 Pro support features a performance mode producing a consistent 60 frames-per-second, while quality mode provides a steady 30 frames-per-second, albeit with superior graphics settings, although both performance mode and quality mode displays in 4K resolution.
Xenon Racer’s presentation is solid with a great user interface across various menus such as the main menu, championship menus, fast race mode menus, edge mode menus, split-screen multiplayer menus, online multiplayer menus, car customisation menus, settings menus and gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons, while the camera can be panned around your most recently chosen car with the right analogue stick, although it does not include support for navigation via the touch pad. Menu backgrounds focus on panning and rotating camera angles of your chosen car as a showroom esque focal point. Meanwhile, loading screens provide facts and advice on the cars, engaging ERS and how the cars handle.
A female voice-over introduces the championship, when the ERS battery is partially or fully charged and a warning for a high quantity of damage inflicted on the player’s car, while a male voice-over introduces racing events and analyses overtakes during races, collisions and the player’s performance in a Ridge Racer styled approach. Sound effects include the player’s car and opposing cars accelerating, drifting, engaging ERS and crashing into trackside barriers or opponents, while there is ambience in the form of an atmospheric crowd, alongside a soundtrack that reflects many futuristic racers by mostly focusing on techno and electronica music. There is no DualShock 4 speaker implementation, although it could have realistically produced ERS related sound effects.
The trophy list includes 31 trophies with 14 bronze trophies, 10 silver trophies, 6 gold trophies and 1 platinum trophy. Easier trophies include a bronze trophy, two silver trophies and one gold trophy for naturally playing for 2, 4, 8 and 10 hours respectively, although time attack and free mode is not included in the total quantity of gameplay time. Harder trophies include the Faster Than The Wind gold trophy for achieving gold on all time attack tracks; the Cabinet silver trophy for winning all checkpoint attack races; and the Xenon Gives You Wings gold trophy for winning the final challenge. There are 9 online multiplayer trophies include a bronze trophy and a gold trophy for winning one and 20 online races respectively; a bronze trophy and a silver trophy for winning a 3 and 5 race online championship respectively; and 3 bronze trophies, 1 silver trophy and 1 gold trophy for reaching an online rank of 4, 5, 7, 9 and 10. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 20 to 30 hours to platinum the trophy list.
There are three difficulty levels including easy, medium and hard with the major differences being the increased pace of the A.I. controlled cars that will most probably result in the player finishing second position or lower, despite only making a single mistake in an otherwise almost perfect race pace. A further difficulty level comes in the form of a one up to five stars rating showcasing how technical the track is.
Split-screen multiplayer supports two players with the option of racing 1 vs. 1 or with four A.I. controlled cars in single races or customisable championships from two to five races. The fast performance and the vast majority of the graphical fidelity is maintained from single player including collision detection between cars from all five single player camera angles, despite there being up to 12 cars simultaneously visible between the two screens. However, it would have been nice to have a podium after each race and at the end of the custom championship in celebration of one or both players finishing a race or the championship in the top three positions.
Online multiplayer supports 2 to 8 players with A.I. controlled cars fleshing out the grid with customisable three and five race championships. Online multiplayer retains the high speed performance from single player, albeit without collision detection between cars.
Xenon Racer’s replayability stems from a career mode styled championship, fast race mode single races or championships and edge mode time trial and eliminator event types taking place at 7 locations each containing three tracks in forward and reverse track layouts as there are 18 cars with unique attributes to choose from after unlocking them. Elsewhere, there are three difficulty levels relating to the A.I. controlled cars, while there is split-screen multiplayer for two players and online multiplayer for 2 to 8 players with the option of A.I. controlled cars to complete the field in both local and online multiplayer. Developer 3DClouds.it and publisher Soedesco have confirmed that Xenon Racer will be supported with free post-launch content including two new locations, two new teams and more cars.
• Title: Xenon Racer
• Developer: 3DClouds.it
• Publisher: Soedesco
• System: PS4
• Format: Blu-Ray Disc/PSN Download
• Cross-Buy: No
• Cross-Play: No
• Players: 1-2 (Split-Screen Competitive Multiplayer)/2-8 (Online Competitive Multiplayer)
• Hard Drive Space Required: 6.31GB (Version 1.03)