Arcade racing is coming back from a bit of slump recently. A genre that had regular entries to it over the decades suddenly found itself floundering as this generation started, partly due to there being fewer titles and partly due to those experiences being offered just not meeting the grade. With Horizon Chase Turbo, Aquiris is one of the latest studios to attempt to not just revive arcade racing, but also give it a soft reset and going back to basics.
This is a throwback to early arcade racing titles such as OutRun, Top Gear, and Virtua Racing. Aquiris has taken the aesthetics and gameplay of those games and updated them enough to suit the present age while maintaining most of the spirit of the games the studio was inspired by. The graphics evoke the nostalgia of that era while looking much cleaner, brighter, and more eye-catching in races and in the menus. Colours pop and each of the tracks have their own identifying marks that reference the locations they are set in.
The music has also been composed with classic arcade racing in mind, but with a few modern tricks applied. While the songs will repeat across race tracks, they’re catchy and do not outstay their welcome. In fact, the majority of the music tracks really manage to compliment the racing action as it happens. It’s the racing itself though that can be both rewarding and frustrating.
As fits the genre, you’ll always start at the back of the pack and have to battle your way to the front for victory. Battle is the right word here since the AI cars are aggressive as if filled with copious amounts of road rage. They’ll have no issue with slamming into the side of you or each other to push opponents off the track, and they seem to be stronger than you. The AI also seem to be able to manoeuvre to get just in front of your car so you hit them and slow down while shunting them forward. The challenge here is exacerbated by the narrow tracks.
The World Tour is the first stop and you’ll be able to race through various countries on tracks that are inspired by those nations. You’ll start off in the USA, specifically California, where the races are quite simple affairs despite the best efforts of opposing racers. However, that smooth ride quickly comes to a halt, as the following regions amp up the challenge quickly. To help combat this you’ll unlock newer and faster cars, but that is only part of the journey.
As you race you’ll earn coins and as more are accumulated more cars, bonus races and regions become unlocked. The bonus races are key to success because it is here that you’ll earn upgrades for cars but these races are a challenge in and of themselves, and you need to win in order to unlock the upgrades. There are also points where you’ll have to repeat races to improve your performance and earn more coins just so you have enough to unlock the next region. While this barrier offers a challenge, it also makes Horizon Chase Turbo’s World Tour mode frustrating, as some barriers where the coins required seem a bit too high, killing off smooth progression.
Aside from World Tour you also have tournaments and endurance modes, which offer additional challenges. In tournaments, for example, you can’t restart races so where you finish in each race will affect the points earned and the final leaderboard. While there are no coins, you do need to complete a tournament to advance to the next tier.
What can elevate Horizon Chase Turbo is local multiplayer as you jostle with family, friends, or enemies for pole position. The way Horizon Chase Turbo has been put together makes it accessible for anyone, regardless of gaming skill. It’s a proper pick up and play experience that can entertain.
Horizon Chase Turbo is an old school inspired arcade racer that can be both fun and frustrating to play. When it is at its fun moments then the attitude of just one more race takes over as you become engrossed. When the game throws up its frustrating moments they can override a lot of goodwill. If you’re looking for an arcade racer then Horizon Chase Turbo is worth considering, but don’t let its charming looks fool you as you’ll face a tough challenge within.
Version tested: PlayStation 4
Also available for PC, coming soon to Xbox One & Switch