KartRider: Drift (Xbox One) Review

By Neil Flynn 13.03.2023

Review for KartRider: Drift on Xbox One

Nexon is a South Korean gaming company that isn't necessarily a studio that many gamers, particularly outside of Asia, would recall as a prominent player in the industry, largely owing to the free-to-play and microtransactional model of their previous titles. KartRider: Drift isn't actually the first, but another entry in the Crazyracing Kartrider franchise, which dates back to 2004. The prospect of a cross-platform racer has been in the works for at least 4 years, and finally the game is getting its console release, with the PC and mobile versions launching in January 2023. There are many kart racing clones out there, and many do not come close to the supreme Mario Kart franchise, with Crash, Sonic and Diddy Kong all trying over the years to become the new mascot driver of choice. Does KartRider: Drift stand a chance?

On first approach KartRider: Drift has the look, feel and sound of an entry level kart racer for 4- to 8-year-olds, and perhaps that is the target market. The music, the character voices and animation feel incredibly focussed on aiming at the younger market. That isn't to say that any aforementioned mascot racer is pumping out the mature vibes either, but KartRider: Drift certainly skews younger. The game starts off with a rather simple tutorial before thrusting players into the deep end with some races which can be against AI opponents or online players (or a mix of both). Races feature up to 8 characters over 3 laps duking it out for top spot. Weapon boxes are also scattered on the track and contain offensive weapons such as bananas, missiles and brick walls. There are also defensive shields to block incoming attacks. One of the most over powered items is in the form of a magnet, which can be aimed at any racer in front of the kart, ideally aiming for first place if they can be seen and attaching it to them. The kart will fling itself forward, although the caveat is that, if overtaken, the polarity reverses and all of a sudden, the attached driver now gets the benefit. Another interesting item is the Electro-bomb that can be thrown forward and catches multiple racers in its blast. If caught in this blast radius, drivers will be caught in an electro-field bubble and be unable to move. This weapon feels brilliant to execute, but annoying to be caught in. Two weapons can be held at once and they can be interchanged just like in Mario Kart Double Dash, adding a little bit of strategy and items management.

Screenshot for KartRider: Drift on Xbox One

There are differing control schemes that utilise the face buttons for most of the action, or an alternative of using the triggers to accelerate and brake. The ultimate decision would really be down to user preference, but the real difficulty curve is the drift mechanic, which is a little cumbersome to get the hang of. The beauty of a series like Mario Kart is the simplicity in the execution of drifting and mastering the tracks. However, the challenge of drifting in KartRider: Drift has made it somewhat intriguing to get to grips with. The X button begins a drift, and unlike Mario Kart which starts this process with a tiny hop, KartRider: Drift starts with a handbrake turn. Players can also master turning into the drift, counter-balancing the drift and then re-accelerating to get a tiny boost on top. This certainly isn't a technique that younger gamers are going to master in a hurry and it can feel a little alien for those coming from other mascot racers. The number of times that this has been successfully pulled off during the review process, where it felt like it had been an advantage, is at a minimum, and in some cases, it might had been better to not drift at all (there is an exception to this mentioned later in the review). Finally, there is also the art of Drafting, which is when racers are directly in the slip stream of karts in front of them. Staying in the Draft zone gives the user a temporary speed boost, but staying too close and bumping into them can cause karts to slow down. There are over 40 tracks in the game, and there will certainly be more that are added. Desert, Forest, Glacier, Village, Mine and World Tour are the main themes for the tracks and there is more than enough distinction between each of the worlds to make them worthwhile to race on. Track layouts are quite wide, so there is enough room for 8 racers clamouring through the grid to get to 1st.

Screenshot for KartRider: Drift on Xbox One

Luckily KartRider: Drift has a fair few tutorials and challenges to help acclimatise players to the control scheme. Tutorials and challenges are under the guise of getting new licences. To get a new licence, players will need to complete a few challenges of varying difficulty to earn a better ranked licence. Completing these challenges allow for harder tracks to be raced on, and other licences to be earned. It would be better to get through the licences before progressing to the actual racing, but these can be tackled at any time.
There are four key modes to play in KartRider: Drift; Grand prix, Item mode, Speed mode and Time Attack. Grand Prix mode is the big new edition, which launched in tandem with the console release and features a ranked mode, allowing for better match making and progression throughout the season. However, Grand Prix mode, like other modes, still means that players are only able to match in one race at a time, which means constantly having to find and match with opponents each and every time. At the time of review there could be easily a 2 minute wait to get into a race, or sometimes even more. It does feel like Nexon could have kept the same room open for those that want to race continuously and add any newcomers into a room when drop outs occur. Grands Prix can be played in two different modes, Item and Speed, both of which can be played individually. Item mode sees the use of items within the race, but Speed Mode removes the items altogether and puts users on an even playing field, using their skills to determine the winner. This is where mastering the drift comes into serious necessity. In Speed mode, holding and turning into the drift can build a boost meter which then rewards players with a Turbo boost item to use at leisure. After a number of successful drifts, a secondary meter is also filled which turns all Turbo boosts into Super Turbo boosts. This certainly feels like the definitive competitive mode within KartRider: Drift. Within all these modes are other options to play; Solo, where it is every kart rider for themselves; Duo's where multiple teams of 2 riders compete to take the throne, or Squad races, where two teams vie for top spot. The placing in Duo and Squad races is determined by whomever finishes first, despite the placing of the other team members crossing the finish line. Time Attack mode is a great place to familiarise with the available tracks and set the best times.

Screenshot for KartRider: Drift on Xbox One

KartRider: Drift is free-to-play but, as with all free-to-play, there are some caveats to this. First off, there is no limit to how many races can be competed in one day, no restrictions on what modes are available and no competitive advantage to racers who partake in microtransactions. The model is very much based on cosmetic upgrades, new karts, characters, liveries, avatars and emojis. A number of these can be purchased with in-game currency known as Lucci, but others will need K-Coins which is the premium currency. K-Coins start at £4.49 for 500 K-Coins, with more expensive packages offering a higher return of K-Coins. 500 K-Coins is enough to get a new vehicle or a character. Earning Lucci can be quite a slow process but it isn't hard to do. Log-in bonuses and daily challenges at least allow for a generation of coins on a daily basis. Amongst this, the Garage mode allows for customisation of tyres, liveries and decals, of which there are a number of free options to choose from or even a create mode. Lucci can also be used in the garage to upgrade the performance of cars, which start from 'Common' up to 'Fine' and then to 'Rare'. Each promotion allows for upgrades to speed, acceleration boost acceleration and boost time. Unfortunately, this severely unbalances races for newcomers, meaning there is a bit of a grind to finish higher up the grid and earn Lucci if all the other racers have maxed out their car to the rare tier.

Screenshot for KartRider: Drift on Xbox One

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

KartRider: Drift has made an indelible impression during the review process. It is rare that a free-to-play game offers so much for free and continues to offer a fun experience. As harder difficulties unlock via the licence system, the challenge opens up, alongside new tracks and content. The tracks are varied in style and items give the game that frantic fun while Speed mode allows experts to showcase their skills. A lack of local multiplayer modes is certainly a shame, especially as it would allow families and younger gamers the chance to play against one another, although there is a mode to create private lobby custom races. Given that there should be more content coming further down the line there is plenty of good reasons to get stuck into KartRider: Drift.









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

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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