Crash Bash on wheels was the first impression I got from playing Obliteracers. Although it may look like your typical kart racer, with its zany power-ups and vibrant colour palette, there’s definitely more of a party vibe going down.
You see, instead of completing a set number of laps and aiming for a place on the podium, that mentality won’t always serve you well in Obliteracers. Whichever of the game’s several race modes you’re in, you’ll always want to destroy any surrounding players while keeping yourself on the track as long as possible.
Even for the most seasoned of kart racers, there are a number of key design choices that you need to adapt to. First off, the camera, which is partly top-down and always gravitating toward the current race leading, making a big change to the steady chase camera views that we’re used to in other racers.
It’s a strange choice yet one that works incredibly well in serving Varkian Empire’s nuanced approach to kart racing. It has a few shades of Micro Machines’ screen limits and it also reminded me of the rubber-banding present in co-op games found throughout the ages, where players who fell too far behind would be forced to respawn. That same principle applies in Obliteracers and actually makes sense given the game’s competitive focus.
Aside from simply trying to outrun your opponents, there are plenty of power-ups to assist you in besting your opponents. From homing missiles to oil spills, they tick off just about every archetype found in the kart racing rulebook, though any of these weapons can be blocked with the simple press of a button. Triggering this defensive bubble will force its user to drop their current power-up while gently applying the brakes. It’s touches like these that create a welcome level of balance.
Riding solo, there’s a selection of increasingly tough campaign stages to get through. Even for the completionists out there, grabbing the top spot in each event shouldn’t take too long. To keep things fresh, the developers occasionally bend some rules here and there, introducing pinball-like physics, invisible weapons, and many other entertaining tweaks.
That said, Obliteracers was clearly built around the core idea of hectic multiplayer action. This is where it gets that party game feeling. While it’s easy to point out the cheap and infuriating tactics employed by AI opponents, racing against humans is far more fun and unpredictable, especially when there are up to 16 racers all at once.
Of course, for some, Obliteracers just won’t click. While fun, the singleplayer campaign doesn’t have much of a lifespan – a problem for those who don’t have the means to play online or locally with a group of friends. Then there are the raw mechanics, tuned to give Obliteracers a frantic, sometimes nonsensical feel. Needless to say, if you’re looking for something similar to Mario Kart, you’re in the wrong place.
Version Tested: PlayStation 4