Can You Smell What The Devs Are Cooking? GRIP

Can You Smell What The Devs Are Cooking? GRIP

Since the first few months of 2014, a massive nostalgia wave seemingly shook Kickstarter and the gaming industry alike, and we’re not talking about some weak, two meters wave, but a full scale tsunami of hopes, dreams and returning gameplay formulas that were believed to be lost in time: a hype storm that promised to deliver a new hayday to many amazing sub-genres that have been silent for too long.

One of those subgenres happens to be arcade racing, which scene has been bombarded with titles, being them classy Anti-Grav racers like Formula Fusion and Red:Out or powersliding-based games like Drift Stage or Power Drive 2000, soaked in neon lights and synth beats…this roll call left only one type of game behind, and that’s what we’re talking about today: a spiritual successor to the PSX’s Rollcage, GRIP takes it to the streets with the speed of a bullet train and the grace of a steel-plated rhino.

 

 

The Flipside of Future Racing

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More Furious than Fast, if you ask me.

Welcome to GRIP, the future you can watch via pirate TV for just 9.99 a month.

Basically, this game explains what happens while the shiny anti-gravity crafts of the official racing leagues smoothly zoom through exotic racetracks on earth: a bloodsport originated from traditional street racing -you know, the one without military grade weapons mounted on the cars-, but that devolved into all out battling once it got more and more famous throughout the solar system, because as we all know fame means money, and there’s never enough money, so why not murdering your opponent with a Scorpion Missile to get your hands on his paycheck too? He won’t be needing that anymore, right?

Well, i hope you took that into consideration, because that same opponent is now charging a railgun at you. Good luck.

 

 

Unstoppable Force

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Just like a Turbo Spin!

There’s a high chance that the first thing you noticed while looking at the thumbnail, were the strangely big wheels on that armored behemoth hardly resembling a car anymore, well guess what: they’re the game’s main gimmick!

The vehicles currently come in two classes: the all-rounder Dominator and the sturdy, combat focused Dreadnaught, and the friction caused by their insane speed makes them stick to the ground so much that they manage to challenge gravity, wallriding to extreme extents, making even ceilings possible surfaces to take advantage of.

But wait, did i say ceilings? So what happens when the tunnel’s over and the craft hits the ground upside down, you must be asking. Well, there’s when the wheels’ size comes into play: being them actually larger than the frame, they make the vehicle un-overturnable, and effectively unstoppable unless it’s hit by a weapon (even then, when that happens the craft is just sent flying without any great momentum loss, but still taking damage from the hit). And this is what this game is all about: exploiting momentum and physics to shave off your times, while trying to land and dodge as much fire as possible.

Now, as far as the weapons go, in this current build (updated the 7th of july) we have the Scorpion Missile, a simple guided missile with medium damage output, the Aegis Backshield, which is…well…a shield that protects your backside, the Gattler machine gun, which is self explanatory, an EMP emitter that sabotages all the vehicles in its area of effect and the equivalent of the much feared Blue Shell from Mario Kart, the Assassin Missile. More weapons are in the making of course, including the aforementioned Railgun, for a total of thirteen weapons, chosen randomly by passing over a weapon pad, in a Mario Kart-ish fashion.

 

 

The Aestethic of Violence

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From the ground up: Jahtra, the space colony “Orbital”, Norvos and Liddo, just some of the various worlds you’ll find yourself charging onto to get that first place.

Needless to say, this carnival of burning wreckages and roaring engines has quite a grittier tone than other futuristic racers : gone are the fancy branding, elaborate team color schemes and titanium plated tracks, leaving the place to gritty alien landscapes that have been clearly bulldozed down to build the makeshift courses in which the races take place, and their “DIY” nature is reflected both in their visuals and gameplay, with details like flares signaling where the road is supposed to be on FIC Outpost, or most of the track on Transport, built around what used to be a minecart rail, and shortcuts made up by parts of the enviroment that didn’t get torn down probably because of the organizers own lazyness, and because leaving them there could spark up the competition a bit.

As of now the current build has four total tracks, two of them i already mentioned: the FIC Outpost on Norvos and Transport on Liddo, while the other two are Figure 8, a night-time track possibly located on Jathra, and Yuri Industrial, the track featured in most of the press material and the first to be added, definetly located on Jahtra. They’re playable in three competitive modes (eliminator, time trial and of course, regular race) and a practice mode, while Playground Mode is more of a “lab” to test tricks, weapons and physics on, and it’s only playable on its specific “area”, a textureless arena reminiscent of Team Fortress 2’s fan maps, which is not even a flaw, being it a “test mode” that will probably get removed somewhere near the game’s full release.

 

 

Killer Grooves

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“Minds of industrial”, a perfect album to choose from for a game like GRIP.

While the original Rollcage didn’t have people like Tim Wright and The Prodigy in its OST, quite a few big names got their song to be part of it: we’re talking Fatboy Slim, E-Z Rollers, Ed Rush and Hoax, but in this case the music didn’t have the pivotal, mood-setting role that it had in WipEout, so when GRIP came around the artist selection was completely redone, shifting to a more industrial, heavy sounding shade of DnB, to better give that feel of speed and ferociousness, and artists like Full Kontakt, Xtigma and Silence Groove did god’s work, with tracks like Cyborg, Power Train, Reconnect and The Creeper flawlessly managing to give that “mechanically savage” vibe to every race.

 

 

 

What ARE those devs cooking?

To wrap it up, we can say that the lovely folks at Caged Element are cooking something the likes we haven’t seen in a long time: a mixture of simplistic yet effective driving mechanics, slightly busted combat and physics shenaningas that, combined with the fair share amount of customization promised during the Kickstarter campaign, and the yet to be implemented online AND local multyplayer, is probably going to be a must have for hardcore racing fans and casual speed demons alike.

I hope you found this article entertaining and somewhat insightful, this is the 3rd Runner, looking for a cheap ps1 to play Rollcage on.

 

Can You Smell What The Devs Are Cooking? Formula Fusion

Can You Smell What The Devs Are Cooking? Formula Fusion

Alright fellas, who here doesn’t know about WipEout? If you do, please skip this paragraph, if you don’t, it’s story time:

In 1995, the british software house Psygnosis, already known for…well…unique games such as Microcosm and the Lemmings saga, decided to try and make a game that combined high-speed racing, combat aircrafts and techno-trance music, with the artistic direction of The Designers Republic (a british design firm that made the logos of most of the stuff you own, probably): a fun little experiment that first got advertised in the movie Hackers (1995), with not many expectations from its makers. Surprise surprise, it was an astronomical commercial success, and became a bestseller both in Europe AND America in two months. After that came seven games and two re-releases, and the franchise grew to be one of the most respected racing games of all time, thanks to its pretty steep learning curve, blood-pumping music that, from the Tim Wright & Orbital soundtrack of WipEout 1, came to include tracks from artists like The Prodigy, Aphex Twins and Daft Punk, and captivating visual design that reached its perfection in Wip3out. In 2014 though, Psygnosis (now renamed Studio Liverpool) was disbanded by Sony Entertainment, of which it was a subsidiary, and with it the perspective of a new WipEout after the stellar 2048 for the PS Vita became unlikely.

Fin…or, not.

 

Anti-Gravity Racing Reborn

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Enter R8 Games, a middlesbourgh based studio that in 2015 came out with quite a big statement: “we’re gonna resurrect AG Racing”, claiming to be what was left of Psygnosis after the disbandment.

AG fans rejoiced, and promptly donated to the Kickstarter campaign that, after two months, reached 175.000 dollars: the funding goal was reached, the lights were green. 3…2…1…Nope, not yet. Sadly, after the release of two Early Access alpha builds on Steam, the team went silent for a year, and most of the crowd that waited and donated left in bitterness, thinking they got scammed by some band of Con Artists, or that the game was not gonna be worth the cash anyway…until February 19th 2016.

A new track, Niagara GP, got added to the one track-one speed class build, and with it a whole lot handling and general updates, aiming to achieve WipEout 1’s ship handling model: what resulted wasn’t the best, of course, but the updates kept (and keep) coming in a steady stream since then, up to the current build, that now includes two speed classes (F4000 and F3000) and three tracks (MannaHatta, Niagara GP and Atlas Torres).

 

Welcome, to the World of Tomorrow!

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As Ian Anderson of The Designers Republic (which are also on board with the project) explained in an interview, this time the setting of the game is a lot more near futuristic, sometimes borderlining cyberpunk, that distances himself from the pure sci-fi of most AG racing games and feels more “grounded”, and even though the tracks are still being refined and reworked, what we got right now is pretty convincing: MannaHatta, a street circuit coated in fog and cloudy weather, with his shining neon signs and animated billboard looks straight out of a William Gibson novel, all it’s missing is a big Coca-Cola LED panel on the side of a buiding. Niagara GP, a flooded industrial compound turned into racing track, is a blending of ruined architecture and overgrowing vegetation, a stark contrast with the cutting-edge and immaculate crafts that blaze through it. The last for now is Atlas Torres, the one in the picture above, which is incredibly reminiscent of WipEout 2048, and with its solid light bridges and “F-Zero X” tunnel at the start is meant to show the spectacular, reckless direction AG competitions are taking in this racing-dependent world.

As of now, Niagara GP is the next track receiving a reskin, that will probably feature in the next update.

 

The Art of Branding

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Some of the in-game company’s logos, made by the one and only Designers Republic.

By being not so far in the future, the setting actually helps with the designing of in-game branding: like in the original WipEout games, the tracks are filled with beautiful digital billboards designed by TdR and from the real world itself, like the british high-end computer building company Chillblast, the game developing engine Unreal Engine 4 (that powers the game, by the way) and THE Electronic Sports League (ESL), which will host professional tournaments after the full release. The in-game branding was one of the most captivating aspects of WipEout’s visual design, since made the tracks feel alive and vibrant, and gave the players a little insight of how the world turned out in that semi-dystopian future. Yeah, it’s stuff that’s mostly irrelevant in a racing game, but having always been part of the originals’ charm, i figured mentioning it would have been appropriate.

Faster, Faster!

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A glimpse at the F4000 Teams, from left to right: RedRock UK, Wonderkind Technologies, Team R8, OK-MEN and Team Yokonomo.

And finally we talk gameplay! As far as the vehicle choice goes, you have a different ship for each speed class, going from the subsonic F4000, to the dual hulled F3000s, to the soon-to-be released F2000, the equivalent of WipEout’s Rapier Class and theoretically the fastest class, since there seem to be no plans for a “Phantom” class like in the last WipEout games. As of now, sadly, there is no craft customization outside of weapon and team choice (skin) before a race, but apparently is going to be added a Doom 2016-like system, where completing “extra” challenges mid-race (go at a certain speed for a certain period of time, for example) will unlock mods to Weapon Systems, Outer Shields, Propulsion System and all sorts of technological goodies, that will reset for each team, making the “Loyalty System” from the last WipEouts actually useful, so yeah, for balancing purposes gone are the days of the mario kart-ish weapon pickups mid-race, replaced by shield regenerators and “ammo pickups”, a la Unreal Tournament. Unchanged are the boost pads though, that now come with a little camera shake after each consecutive boost, and a “sonic barrier” effect after passing over four of them in rapid succession.

The controls are pretty similar to, again, WipEout’s, with acceleration, two airbrakes that allow better control in tight corners, and a *moderately* variable vertical pitch of the craft’s nose, but they’re still a bit off in comparison, even if the updates did their job. A particular quirk of the current build is the camera, that being fixed to the center of the track (behind your craft) sometimes makes your ship look like its steering by itself, a minor visual problem that can be solved in a couple of races, but that sometimes can be annoying.

About the races, there are currently three modes: Practice Run, Time Trial and Quick Race, all offline for now, and…yeah, there’s not much to say that’s not in their names. What IS there to say is the splendid job R8 Games did in keeping the community competitive without online modes, with monthly Time Trial Competitions where the first to place in the community leaderboard of a certain track chosen by the devs can win an exclusive and extremely sleek looking crystal trophy, depicted below.

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Beats To Drop

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We miss you, Tim.

Does this game have any? Sadly, it’s the weakest part of the game at this state. The current OST is made out of three tracks, chosen between a pool of community-made ones, and it’ll probably stay like this until the “proper” artists that were promised in the Kickstarter will be contacted. These are the tracks mentioned above:

Kraedt – Homebound

Seledrex – Ultraviolet

Silva Hound – Cool Friends (Veschel & Murtagh Mix)

And about what was promised in the Kickstarter, R8 Games dropped names like DUB FX, The Prodigy and Tim Wright (CoLD SToRAGE), who also composed most of the music for the first three WipEout games. Don’t get me wrong, the current music is fine, but when names like those show up it’s fairly hard to compete with them. So, again, as of now this game has 7/10 beats to drop, but it’ll probably go up from here.

 

 

 

What are those devs cooking? 

To wrap it up, those devs are cooking a breath of fresh air in the racing genre, that will still need some time to shape up as intended, but that if everything goes as planned will end up being an instant classic and a long waited return of AG Racing in the eSports scene.

The game is on Steam Early Access, if you liked what you read, go ahead and try it out!

Steam link: http://store.steampowered.com/app/389670/

I hope you found this article entertaining and somewhat insightful, this is The 3rd Runner, signing off.