Arcade style racing is a genre that flourished back in the heydays of PS2 and early-PS3. But over time this has become a largely forgotten niche thanks to studios often leaning towards more simulation-oriented games. Franchises like Need for Speed who once championed the arcade racing genre have moved in all kinds of direction to mix things up, losing sense of fun in the process.
Just when hope for the genre seemed all but lost in my mind, we got not one but two throwbacks to the good ol’ days of arcade racing in the form Hot shots racing and Inertial Drift, the latter being a drift-focused, anime-inspired, strangely addictive, old school-type affair. And how could we not play such a game?
This is the review of Inertial Drift.
Right off the bat the game’s inspirations are very clear. The cell shaded art style, colourful characters and elaborately designed cars all set the premise of the game very clearly. There is a level of confidence that can be seen in how the game wants to present itself and the tone it tries to bring. Anyone who has been following shows like Initial-D will be right at home from the very first frame of the opening cutscene.
The game employs a twin stick control scheme for drifting which admittedly took some getting used to, especially because the left stick now steers the car. The right stick is solely used to control the drift of the car. It is a somewhat jarring idea at first and seemed like a novelty that would quickly wear off.
But similar to the likes of the original Skate, and Fight Night where the controls were questioned before release and then widely praised, the twin stick controls here are a fantastic fit for a drift focused game like this. And no, the novelty doesn’t wear off.
What appears like a trial and error control scheme during the initial tutorial soon reveals itself as a wonderful gameplay element with a whole lot of depth and nuance that requires quite the commitment to master.
And it would be quite easy to commit to as the gameplay, once you get into the rhythm, is quite addictive and will have you going for another round in the quest to shave off some precious seconds from your lap time. I haven’t been this obsessed with my lap time in racing in a very long time and this is courtesy of the various little tricks the game employs during and off gameplay that encourages you to do so.
Finally, the game would be nothing without its limited, but wonderful, array of cars. I can go on about them for pages together, but let’s just say that each ride feels significantly different from the other and would negate the hours spent perfecting the handling of the previous car the moment you set foot on the new one.
So be ready for a lot of learning behind the wheel. Oh, and one more thing. There is a split screen local multiplayer mode. I guess that speaks for itself.
As mentioned earlier, the art style in Inertial Drift is quite unique to say the least and it helps the game stand out from the crowd effortlessly. The cell-shaded, hand drawn-ish visuals may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but it works quite well in nailing the aesthetic and gives the developers some liberties in the graphics department.
As good as the retro inspired, neon-soaked world, tracks, and cars look, I felt the characters and writing could have used a little more work. Yes, I say writing as there is a story, sort of. But the story, if anything, serves as an elaborate tutorial for you to stay obsessed while tackling other modes.
The sound department is a mixed bag unfortunately. One one hand we have each cars personality reflected in the way their engine grunts and groans during races. Entering a tunnel amplifies the engine’s roar really pumping up the feel of the race.
There are little things like this peppered here and there which is great. But on the other hand, we have the game’s soundtrack which is a let down in my opinion. While the music tracks in the game do a serviceable job, it does not quite land the feel of the game, at least for me. Here’s hoping that it is something that the developers will fix in future updates.
Coming out of nowhere this game is the perfect throwback to old school racing games that we need but perhaps don’t deserve. At a time where racing games are made for the sole purpose of making enough money through microtransactions, this is an honest to God drift game that checks most of the right boxes.
The twin stick drifting may take some getting used to but is super satisfying once you find your rhythm, the art style is gorgeous, the gameplay rewards taking risks and to top it off it has a split screen local multiplayer mode which in my book makes any racing game a winner.
All of this will have you obsessed over your lap times, mastering different cars and their nuances and generally keep you addicted to the game if you commit enough time to it. Simply put, this game delivers what most AAA racing games miss these days. The sense of unadulterated fun. Playing this game is highly encouraged if drifting is your thing. Show some love to this game and have a blast in the process.