With its fourteenth birthday fast approaching, Star Wars Racer Revenge recently witnessed a surprise revival, being one of the first emulated PS2 titles available on Sony’s latest home console. With such a raft of fantastic Star Wars games out there, it may seem like a strange choice, but it’s one that helps bring some diversity to the recent four-pack of Star Wars titles retooled for PlayStation 4 by Disney Interactive.
Last week, we had a brief look at Super Star Wars, the sidescrolling SNES platformer that was one of the first games I ever played. With Racer Revenge, however, there was no such connection. Despite being a sequel to what Guinness enshrines as the “best-selling sci-fi racing game” I’d never come across it in my early years as a PlayStation owner. For those wondering, the original – dubbed Star Wars Episode I: Racer – garnered sales of approximately 3.12 million when it launched on multiple platforms at the turn of the century.
The concept, as you might have already guessed, is centred around that one podracing scene from Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Although plenty decry the film as a bungling blemish upon the franchise, a sizeable number of fans actually enjoyed it, or at least parts. The Mos Eisley podrace is one of those rare highlights for some.
In a nutshell, Racer Revenge isn’t particularly complex or sophisticated, yet delivers something that is surprisingly fun, even if a bit short-lived. Where contemporary racing games have spoiled us with extensive tour modes and a bevy of multiplayer options, Revenge sticks to the very basics. Aside from playing single races or hopping in for some time trials, the only other mode on show is Tournament. Here, you can select one of the various championship hopefuls before taking on a sequence of thirteen races.
Getting gradually more difficult, these events are punctuated by frequent visits to Watto’s workshop where players can spend currency to upgrade numerous attributes. It’s a fairly basic progression system though one that feels noticeable as you zoom from race to race.
Although your career starts in Mos Eisley, it’s worth mentioning that Racer Revenge takes players to a variety of planets in the Star Wars universe. Even for a game released in 2002, it’s clear to see that developer Rainbow Studios had made a decent effort to differentiate each track, and has done so with moderate success.
As for the actual racing, it focuses on a small cluster of simple mechanics. Apart from your mandatory braking and acceleration controls, you can hold down the left and right triggers to repair your ship and temporarily boost. Again, it’s a very straightforward approach to gameplay, made even more so by the steering assist employed every time you hit a corner. It holds your hand, but it’s not as if any Star Wars games out there are professing to be a racing simulator.
This simplicity makes Racer Revenge incredibly easy to pick up and play, whether alone or with a buddy via the local versus mode. It’s not entirely positive, however, as races start to become more repetitive the longer you play. Aside from the actual podracing itself, your only other objective is to nudge against your opponents and wear down their health. Suceed in doing so and they’ll explode, sending pod debris across the track. However, with no weapons or any pick-ups to speak of, scrapping your fellow racers takes far too much effort. With any luck, you’ll have enjoyed everything Racer Revenge has to offer before the repetition finally sets in. It may be short, but there’s definitely enough content for two to three hours of solid racing fun.
Of course, the one thing many will be waiting to hear about is how well the game holds up under emulation. Some will obviously take issue with the letterboxing, yet it runs quite smoothly, and the framerate only taking a hit when there’s simply too much happening in-game. The heightened resolution also helps to inject characters and environments with more detail, the racer selection menu looking suitably on point. Another that took me by surprise was that Disney Interactive or Sony have recently gone back to Racer Revenge to mend a few bugs with a patch.
Needless to say, there’s plenty of positives to take away here. As my first experience with PS2 emulation on PlayStation 4, Racer Revenge has left me thoroughly impressed, but whether punters should go out and splurge seven or eight quid on it is another issue. As mentioned before, you’re bound to get at least a couple hours of joy from this re-release, maybe more if playing with friends or hunting for trophies.