Pacer (PC) Review

By Josh Di Falco 07.01.2021

Review for Pacer on PC

For those who grew up with the original PlayStation, the WipeOut franchise was probably become synonymous with the console for most. However, since then there has been an extreme lack of titles to fill this void of futuristic, high-speed racing. Well, R8 Games has heard the call, and has delivered Pacer to the PC marketplace, filled with jam-packed mayhem, mass carnage, and break-neck speeds on many winding and twisting tracks. With a campaign that delivers on easing new racers into the experience, while teaching the various different events, and basically acting as preparation for the online modes. So time to strap in, and get this show on the road!

Pacer kicks off the campaign by featuring a handful of different vehicles to choose from - though these are purely cosmetics that have no unique stats or any other bearings on how each aircraft will control. After dressing up from minimal options, the campaign's tutorial does a great job of slowly easing new racers into what to expect from this title. The first event focuses on a time trial, encouraging racers to hit those fast times, while also getting accustomed to the controls of manoeuvring the ship around the track. Before too long, the vehicles can then be outfitted with two different weapons, and each weapon can have two modifications that can influence various statistics of those weapons, while performance modifications can also be assigned to improve things like handling, acceleration, breaking or top speeds.

The mechanics of Pacer are the strong suit of this experience. The floaty racers speed through the various tracks, and rather than "breaking" to a slow around corners, there are "drift" elements that look splendid when they are pulled off well. Getting used to these controls can be tricky, and can cause plenty of moments where the vehicle may bounce off the walls, but with enough practice, finessing these corners actually feels like a marvelous trick that took a lot more effort than it actually does. It does feel pretty good, especially when curving around those corners at high-speeds flawlessly.

Screenshot for Pacer on PC

Over the course of the campaign, there are different types of events to burn those kilometres on. There are the 'Standard Races' that basically require a top-three finish to earn, either a gold, silver, or bronze, and there's the 'Speed Laps' that are simple time trials. Beyond that, there is the Elimination event, where the last-placed racer will get eliminated at the conclusion of each lap, while 'Destruction' removes the focus off the racing, and instead puts the emphasis on destroying the most vehicles on the track. The two headline modes are 'Flowmentum,' which increases the speed of racers after they pass through each checkpoint, gradually getting faster and faster. The other mode, is 'Storm,' and this involves racing, and trying to remain inside the bubble that is racing across the track. Anyone caught outside the bubble takes damage until they killed, all the while this bubble gets smaller.

Storm and Flowmementum are the two best modes, as they are a heap of fun to play in, and this probably comes down to how unique the two are. Butting heads with other racers in a frantic dash to remain inside the bubble, while trying to force opponents to the outside of the bubble makes Storm a glorious and hectic experience. While there's nothing inherently wrong with the other events, Races and Eliminations are pretty stock standard: come first to win. The 'Speed Lap' is simply that, finish a lap with the fastest time. Destruction is the other mode that had the most potential - and it could've been a grand and joyous experience if only the weapons in Pacer were better designed.

Screenshot for Pacer on PC

The first weapon introduced into Pacer is the homing missile, which is designed to lock onto the next opponent in front... basically like the red shell in Mario Kart, except here the missile is useless, and is instead a green turtle shell that runs straight into the wall rather than following the opponent on the track. The missile may lock on and actually work one in ten attempts, but it's not clear what exactly makes this homing missile work. There is a nice gun that seems to be the best weapon though. With a couple of the right mods it shreds through opponents vehicles. Other weapons that can be useful are the mines, which, again, are the banana peels for those familiar with Mario Kart, that get dropped behind the racer to blow up enemies close behind. Then there's the Swarm; a cluster of mines that latch onto the next opponent at the front, before they explode and cause that vehicle to ricochet off the walls.

While there's a large variety of weapons to choose from, there is only one, the Gaussian Gun, that actually destroys vehicles with ease... whereas all the other weapons seem designed to stun, or temporarily set-back an opponent. During the normal races, stunning an opponent is important to getting the win, but during Destruction, where the aim of the game is to destroy, well the weapons are quite limited to one or even two, when the homing missile decides to work. The swarm weapon that looks quite destructive barely seems to do any damage, and even after five uses it still fails to destroy a vehicle, and that includes attaching the mods to increase the damage output.

In terms of using these weapons, the race track is littered with orange weapon icons, and only racing through these icons can one of the two weapons then be used. Each icon is only one charge - so choosing between which weapon to use becomes a sort of strategy. There are also purple shield icons that add more juice to the shields, and speed boosts to gain an edge over the opponents. It's quite arcade-y in its design, but all these help make Pacer as bombastic as possible - with high speeds, lots of explosions and plenty of health to restore incurred damage, so that the vehicles can go around again.

Screenshot for Pacer on PC

At the end of each event, credits are earned despite winning or losing - and these can be used to purchase new weapons, modifications, or performance parts to improve the speeds, turning circles, accelerations, and more of the vehicle. Because of the ease of earning credits, it doesn't take too long to end up purchasing most things in the store, and at that point when all the best parts have been bought, then there isn't any further room for improving the ship. Even better is that these parts only have to be purchased once, and then they can be used on all the different ships. Cosmetic items can also be purchased that don't do anything to improve the performance or anything else… but they do make for a nice visual display.

The visuals are incredible to look at - from the location of the race track to the on-field carnage, explosions, or even the flames that trail each vehicle. Due to the futuristic setting, everything seems to have this 'flair' to the visuals that enhances the overall experience. Combined with the roar of the ships, sounds of wreckage, and crashes and explosions, Pacer is at its best when everything becomes a chaotic and speedy mess. While the tracks are quite varied with 14 in total, unfortunately some tracks go against the grain of what this title is all about. For example, some tracks are just too windy or bendy, and at the speed that the vehicles race at, making such corners becomes almost impossible, with the preference being to just ricochet off the walls due to the inability to slow down to pull off a drift. On the flipside, the tracks that are more open and wider, with limited turning points, are a treat and this really glows during those races.

In addition to the campaign, each of the events are available for offline general play, or for online multiplayer. The main downside to playing online is the real lack of racers to find in an online lobby - especially considering that the AI is quite easy to defeat. Pacer is a fun title that has all the ingredients for a fantastic experience, and the easy AI detracts from the fun somewhat. However, while this could normally be counteracted by taking on racers from across the world, at this stage, finding a game online is proving to be quite tricky.

Screenshot for Pacer on PC

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Pacer is a delightful racer, filled with plenty of action-packed moments. It also has some of the more glorious drifting mechanics that are hard to find in most car-racing games. For those looking for the spiritual successor to the WipeOut series, look no further. While the vehicles are quite limited, and some of the tracks don't truly compliment the high-speed racing that this wants to be known for, when the right ingredients are in play, then the experience becomes quite memorable. If only the online community had more going for it, or at least if the offline modes had the option to increase the difficulty of the AI. Despite some of the setbacks, overall this is a very good racer that is worth jumping into and getting lost in.

Developer

R8 Games

Publisher

R8 Games

Genre

Driving

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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