The 8th generation of consoles truly has some of the best racing games of all time. Be you a fan of simulators (Forza Motorsport series, Project Cars series, Gran Turismo Sport, Grid), open-world (Forza Horizon series, The Crew series), demolition (Wreckfest), kart racing (Team Sonic Racing, Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled), vehicle-combat (Grip, Redout ), rally (Dirt series, WRC series, V-Rally 4), or life-based competitions (F1 series, Nascar series, FIA European Truck Racing), motorcycles (Ride series, TT Isle of Man, Moto Racer 4) there is a title for you. Even some racing games whose main purpose isn`t the race itself, like in Rocket League, MudRunner TrackMania Turbo and SnowRunner. And those who are facing a long identity crisis – yes, I`m talking about you, Need for Speed.
But there`s one racing gender that I love that, despite having some great titles, was still missing something more… traditional. Something similar to what those arcade racing machines delivered us back in the ’90s, like Daytona USA and San Francisco Rush: a true arcade racing experience where you needed to be a good player to win a race – without tricks, shortcuts or powerups to aid you in this task. Luckily the British studio Lucky Mountain Games is about to fill this gap with Hotshot Racing, their new title developed with Sumo Digital and published by Curve Digital.
In Hotshot Racing you will need to drift like a true king, to drag behind your adversaries and boost your way to the finish line while competing against treacherous opponents! Choose one of eight pilots, select your favorite car and take him/her to the podium. And keep in mind history won’t remember the third or second places: the golden trophy is only for those who get the first place!
What we liked!
- Playing like it’s 1995: I had the opportunity to try a demo of Hotshot Racing back in August (or maybe July… sometimes my memory deceives me) and from the moment I started playing it, I knew it was going to be something special! Today, with the final version of the game, I can tell how amazing it feels to play it! The feeling of speed, the drift and drag – and the boost you can use when the bar is full – is something that places this game among the legends of the genre – Burnout and Ridge Racer, you better watch out for hits title. A racing experience I can’t remember the last time I’ve felt.
- Colorful retro visuals: Not only the racing experience reminded me a lot of the aforementioned games from the 32-bits era: Hotshot Racing teleport you back to the ’90s with its eye-catching retro-visuals with colorful scenarios, cars and special effects! ‘What!? After mentioning all those heavy hitters above, you’re saying that Hotshots Racing is in the same visual level of them?’ No, my little grasshopper: retro games shouldn’t be subject to comparisons. They try to emulate the experience that older gamers (like me) had a long time ago with modern technology. And this is something to admire when done with mastery, like Lucky Mountain and Sumo Digital just did!
- The roar of the engines: Although I’m not a great fan of the music style used in Hotshot Racing, I must admit they stick to the ear and are a perfect match to the experience. Especially when the beats intensify in the last lap as you fight for the first position: a sensation of ecstasy will take over you as you overtake your opponents in the last turn! And let’s not forget about the amazing roar of the engines: each one of the cars has its own and very specific sound and you can differ one car from another – and this small aspect of the game shows how much love and dedication the developers have put into this title! Finally, I shall congratulate the team of voice actors for their performance dubbing each one of the pilots, giving them some welcome personality! Good job, guys!
- Game modes: In Hotshots Racing you have a small but interesting array of game modes: We have the Championship, with 4 GPs of 4 four races each, Time Trial, where you can see how fast you really are against the developers’ ghosts, and Classic, that corresponds to the arcade mode. In arcade mode, you will find the Classic racing (whoever finishes first, wins), Police and robbers (a good and old Hot Pursuit mode where two random pilots start as cops and must prevent the other pilots from finishing the race – plus every eliminated racer becomes a cop too) and Drive or Blast (where you need to keep your car above the always-increasing speed limit or your car will explode! Keanu Reeves said hi). And every mode can be enjoyed in local or online multiplayer, exponentially increasing the fun! I must say that I couldn’t try the online multiplayer of the game – one of the problems of early-access codes. But considering how much fun I had while playing alone, I believe the multiplayer of this game is going to be a blast!
- Every pilot has a story to tell: Hotshot Racing offers you the possibility to play as eight different pilots, each one with a collection of four cars for you to try. Finding your favorite pilot and car may take some time, but you will enjoy playing with them all: every time you finish first in a championship: there’s a short but interesting cutscene showing more about the racer history and aspirations. A small but interesting addition to this game.
- Too easy for you? After beating the first two championships, I started to think the game was taking a little too easy on Normal me and decided to try the other two difficulty levels. On Hard, I got a silver cup after someone throw me out of the track (we will talk more about it later), so I believed I could take one more step and try the Specialist level. And that’s when I was beaten so hard I had to go back to Normal with my tail between my legs. This game can be really challenging depending on what difficulty level you’re playing and will require you to master each car and track to
- Customization: After every race, you will get some money that can be used to buy new color palettes or customization items for your car! Some of them are initially locked and will require you to complete some tasks to unlock them – but we will talk more about it later. Although this customization allows you to create interesting new vehicles, all these modifications are only cosmetic and won’t interfere in your car’s performance. So, if you were expecting a low-poly NFS Underground, you better go easy on it.
- Excessive grinding: If you want to unlock every available item of the game, you will need to play. A lot! If you’re aiming for those sweet 1000G, you will need to win every championship with every car and every pilot. Not that playing a game you like is bad but being forced to play it for cosmetic items felt unfair and uninteresting.
- MPH or KPH? It may sound a little selfish to mention it, but since I’m not from the UK or other countries that use the Imperial system, it’s hard to comprehend how fast my car is when I see 163 MPH on the speedometer. Yes, I can easily convert it to 262 KPH with the help of a calculator, but I believe it wouldn’t hurt to add the metric system, don’t you?
What we disliked
- Few tracks, little variation: My only complaint about this game is about the number of tracks it offers: four areas (coast, desert, jungle and mountain) with four different tracks each. Even though they all have the option to race the track inverted, as races take around 3-4 minutes each, in less than 60 minutes you will have seen them all. Let’s hope the studio adds more free tracks in future updates to keep its player engaged and interested in the game for longer.
- Playing dirty! I’d expect it from other players, but the AI spare no efforts to take you out of the track – even in normal mode! I lost the count of how many times I lost a race because one of the competitors decided it was better to make me spin and hit the wall than to struggle for the position with me. Frankly, this is incredibly annoying!
Hotshot Racing is the arcade racing game I have been looking for. It offers an incredible racing experience that few games tried to explore in this generation. It’s fast, it’s challenging and very fun – even though little rewarding in the long-term. An obligatory and recommended addition to your library of games – even if you are not a racing fan. And since it’s coming day one to Gamepass, I can’t see why you wouldn’t try it
With a history of gaming that goes from his old man’s Atari 2600 to his Xbox One, Rafael or RAF687, our Brazilian editor, has a love for games as old as he can remember. He has already spent countless hours in many consoles (Mega Drive/Genesis, Sega Saturn, PS1, PS2 and Xbox 360) and is always ready for more (as long as his wife is asleep). Raf has been writing for LifeisXbox since 2017, with a passion for games of almost all genres – though we know he has a special place in his heart for RPGs, racing games and anything that includes pixel art. Writing about games has always been a childhood dream to Raf, dream that he has fulfilled reviewing games for you here. You can drop him a message at Twitter, Facebook or Xbox Live at any time.