Confidence. Every game developer needs it. Whether you’re the lead on a AAA game that’s costing millions of dollars or you’re an indie dev just trying to put food on the table, you have to be confident that what you’re creating is going to have an audience, and at minimum stand alongside its peers. That goes double if you’re putting a game together that bears a resemblance to anything even remotely well loved. Antigraviator is a future racer with shades of Wipeout, F-Zero, Redout and RMX, and its developers deserve at least a touch of that confidence, even if they haven’t quite managed to equal their peers.
As the name might suggest, this is an antigravity racer, with the kind of sleek, well-glossed craft that Feisar have been slapping their name on for years. You won’t be too surprised to see them barrelling through the looping metallic curves of some impossible tracks that are suspended in the sky, and they absolutely look the part. The handling is suitably twitchy while retaining just enough heft to give each of the vehicles some real-world believability.
Unlike Wipeout, there’s no direct weaponry as such, but you are equipped to unleash traps with which to hinder your opponent, from crates that fall onto the track to a missile salvo. They’re nearly all indirect, but you can only unleash them at set points which also makes them a little easier to predict and can be avoided if you’re quick enough. Make too much contact and your craft will blow up, causing a reset and knocking a chunk of time off. It’s not the most effective system for taking out opponents, but while it’s nice to see something a bit different it’s just too inconsistent and imprecise for this type of game.
Boosting is the key to victory here, and the development team have been keen to emphasise that this is a game with no speed limit. Arguably that’s not entirely true, but Antigraviator can be hellishly fast. There are boost pads dotted around each of the tracks, but you’ll mainly be aiming to use your own boost which you need to build up by grabbing the generously numbered pick-ups on the track. You can hold up to five boosts, and rather than burning the whole lot in one go by holding a button down, you get a short boost each time you fire it off. If you consistently miss out on the pick-ups, it’s a nigh-on impossible task to be at the front of the pack.
The only way to be sure of success is to familiarise yourself with the track, and that’s where you’re likely to struggle the most with Antigraviator. Everything does look fantastic, particularly the fly-bys at the beginning of each race, but a number of the tracks just don’t have enough in the way of memorable geometry or landmarks to truly stand out. There are exceptions, like Michael’s Bay, which is bizarrely free of explosions and features a leafy track with sections removed, but I’d have loved to see more memorable efforts alongside them. It’s fundamentally combatted by having swift reactions, but overall the track design doesn’t feel like it’s going to trouble the top tier of futuristic racers.
There are also a few niggling issues that are currently keeping Antigraviator from reaching its potential, and the first and foremost for me is the inability to change the viewpoint. You’re locked to a standard third-person view of the ship which is just a little too zoomed in and shallow to be comfortable. The action would be a lot easier to follow if you were able to play in first person or from a slightly more distant vantage point.
On top of that, collisions with other craft don’t feel consistent, and make both your ship and those of your opponent feel far flimsier than the rest of the game leads you to believe. It breaks the immersion that the game’s impressive visuals and solid handling otherwise create. The soundtrack does at least completely fulfil the genre’s penchant for pumping dance music, and playing with headphones on really brings out the best in it.
There’s at least a good number of tracks, with a challenging campaign mode to work your way through, but while the modular method of upgrading your ship is interesting, it would have been nice to have a wider array of preset ships. There’s also a straight up quick race options and an online mode if you’re able to find an opponent, but it feels as though it’s a game that’s going to struggle to find much of an online community after long. Thankfully, you can indulge in some local split-screen action, where playing with a bunch of friends does at least help to cover up some of the game’s other flaws.
Antigraviator has tons of potential, and there’s every chance that it could attain it a few updates down its spiralling road. However, as it stands there are too many problems with the game’s underpinnings that the fantastic visuals can’t quite cover up.
Version tested: PC – Coming soon to PS4 & Xbox One