Pure brutality. As the futuristic lovechild of F-Zero, Wipeout and Ikaruga, it’s perhaps no surprise that Fast Racing Neo is tough, but nothing prepares you for quite how punishing its action is. The sequel to 2011’s Wii exclusive Fast Racing League, developer Shin’en Multimedia has created a 60fps technical showcase for the beleaguered Wii U, proving once again just how capable the machine can be in the right hands.
You’ll immediately be drawn in by the game’s visuals. Wonderfully well drawn, with a high class sheen, you’d be hard pressed to know that this isn’t a AAA release based on the action on track, with the bare-bones menu presentation the only giveaway. Lens flare, motion blur, and various other visual effects all help to give the appearance of a production budget far exceeding the reality.
Of course, being beautiful to look at isn’t much cop if the game is as uninteresting as a rainy day out in Chipping Norton, but thankfully Fast Racing Neo delivers in spades. Anyone who’s played F-Zero or Wipeout will immediately feel at home, with your anti-grav craft floating above sweeping and convoluted tracks while you try to wrestle your way around the circuit.
You have two methods of boosting, one which you charge by collecting glowing pick-ups, which you can also use offensively to knock opponents out of the way, and another which involves your craft phasing with the correct portion of the track. As in Ikaruga your craft can phase between orange and blue, but in this case you’re choosing the matching colour in order to speed up your craft up, while getting it wrong slows you down. Occasionally you’ll catch a glimpse of the forthcoming colours, but very often you’ll need to have learned their position throughout each track in order to maximise your craft’s speed.
Reaching as high a speed as possible is the absolute key to success here, and if you don’t make full use of choosing the correct phase in addition to boosting as often as possible there is next to no chance that you’ll finish in the top three of any event, even in the opening cup.
There’s literally no second chances here, no rubber-banding AI to slow down when you fall behind, and one mistake will generally see you finish in sixth place or lower. The first run at any cup should be treated as a practice because you need to know the tracks inside and out, particularly in order to finish first.
This can make Fast Racing Neo frustrating. Taking part in a cup can be completely ruined by a poor result in the third or fourth race, meaning that you’ll end up quitting back out to take another shot at it and lose all of your progress. The key is that you when you do try again, you’ll have learnt from your mistakes and can try to do better. Of course, all racing games benefit from you learning the tracks inside out, but here it’s an absolute. So many modern racers don’t crank the difficulty up until much later, or they allow you to undo your mistakes at the push of a button, but Fast Racing Neo retains a purity that is uncommon.
It’s only the external presentation that really shows that this isn’t a full priced title, as there’s plenty to keep you engaged otherwise. You’re provided with three steadily intensifying leagues to work your way through, each made up of four cups that each house four tracks, and there are ten craft that unlock as you play.
Alongside that you have time-trial and online and offline multiplayer options to round out the package, as well as the frankly ridiculous Hero mode that somehow makes things even faster and tougher. Wrapped up in the visual and aural finery on show here, it’s a wonderful package at a budget price.
Fast Racing Neo isn’t F-Zero, nor is it Wipeout, and it’s definitely not Ikaruga. It is, however, a shining example of futuristic racing that’ll help fill a void in Nintendo’s Wii U catalogue. While its difficulty level may not be as welcoming as most modern gamers are used to, those who persevere will discover a pure racing experience that manages to retain its own identity.