Those of who you who regularly follow my blog are undoubtedly familiar with my stance on many modern arcade racers. I’ve repeatedly pointed out that, for whatever reason, the genre is actually going backwards as time goes on. Whereas the amount of content in racing games was once growing, it’s now decreasing rapidly to appeal to casual audiences.
A perfect example that I’ve beaten half to death: Cruis’n Blast (released in December 2016) only featured six tracks, while each game in the original trilogy all boasted 12 to 14. And of course, Super Bikes 3, the upcoming entry in Raw Thrills’ “The Fast and the Furious” series, will only feature five tracks, while Super Cars showcased a whopping 27. Luckily there have been a few exceptions—like Maximum Tune 5 and, to a lesser extent, Storm Racer G—but on the whole, depth of content is simply not a priority, it seems.
While raw content isn’t everything, it is important. Unfortunately, we hardly see it anymore. I was just about convinced that beefy racers were just about extinct, too. The industry had changed, and we dedicated arcade gamers were being left behind. But then came a little PC-to-arcade port by Italian developer Tecnoplay.
For those not in the know, Racecraft is a Formula One racing simulator originally developed by Sandbox Games and currently available for the Steam Early Access service. The title allows players to customize their cars and create procedurally-generated racetracks to race AI-controlled opponents. Although the arcade version is so far looking to be quite different from what’s available on PC, it still seems incredibly promising. Even in the absence of any car/track crafting mechanics, Racecraft Coin-Op already promises infinitely more depth than I’ve come to expect from a modern arcade driving game.
Unlike many arcade racers, this release will feature a robust single-player mode, with three different campaigns to complete. The easy campaign, Superspeedway Tracks, in which players “Race on exciting and super fast tracks,” and “Fight until the end and take the slipstream to win!” The medium-level campaign, Classics Tracks, allows players to “Race on classical and demanding tracks,” where “Corner speed is a necessary feat to win.” And the hard campaign, Toboga Tracks, prompts players to “Race on windy tracks,” where they must “Learn the splines and take the rhythm to be fast.” Although we’ll have to wait until release to see how deep this single-player mode really is, we already know that Racecraft is providing considerably more value than any racer currently on the market. This is really, really exciting.
And even in multiplayer, our prospects look super promising. Like many current racing games, Racecraft will support up to 8 players simultaneously through linked cabinets. But that’s not the magic number here, kiddos. No, what I’m really pumped about is that this title will feature 15—yes, 15!—original race tracks. Not three or five, but 15. For a modern arcade racer—plagued by the casualization of the market—this is a phenomenal number. And assuming every course is relatively fun, dedicated gamers will have a lot of content to sink their teeth into. I’m already super stoked.
And even better? Players will have multiple options for how they explore the game’s mechanics, as well. Despite the fact that many modern racers have removed manual transmission entirely, Racecraft will fully embrace it, while still allowing for simpler play through other means. In Kid Mode, players (presumably small children) will use gears to accelerate, and pedals are not enabled. In Automatic Gear, you can “Drive without worry!” as the proper gear will be shifted on every occasion. And for the cool kids out there, you’ve got good, old-fashioned Manual Gear, where you shift gears up and down without any assistance. As the game will tell you, it’s “Just for professionals.” This is the kind of stuff I like to see. Instead of dumbing down the whole game for a solely casual audience, Racecraft allows for every kind of play-style. Deep? Shallow? Kinda in-between? It’s all there, and I love it.
My only concern so far is that Racecraft may not be as high-quality as I’m hoping. The Steam version, albeit still in a prerelease state, has “mixed” reception out of the 117 user reviews. However, most of these reviews aren’t complaining as much about the quality of the game itself as they are the pricing. There’s a free version available, but most of the enticing single-player content is locked behind the $20 premium version. (And keep in mind, this is an Early Access title.) But after sifting through some reviews, I’ve determined that it’s not really a bad game—people just hate the pricing. Here’s one user review that sums it all up perfectly:
“I have had this game for over a year now. Played it from time to time. It's pretty fun and quite a good chunk of features. It handles pretty well with a controller and recognizes it immediately, tho the AI still needs some tweaking as they'll run into the back of my car far too often on slow corners. The costumization (sic) is also pretty complete, a ton of liveries to choose from and you can, obviously, edit it, hopefully they'll eventually let us freely place our sponsors too. And the track generator works very well, giving you unlimited options.
“Recently the devs made this game F2P with an option to pay for the full features as ‘Premium’ and giving those who had already purchased it for free (as you'd expect). I don't know if making it F2P was the best option for new players who might want to try this out, particularly locking the complete single player content with it, from what I'm reading.
“Nonetheless as a 'full' user since I've bought it, I'm pretty happy with it. It's a game that, although is no pure sim, it's arcady fun. Hopefully the 'Championship mode' and the car crafting comes soon, as those as (sic) two things this game needs.”
And from the gameplay I’ve seen myself, it really does look like a fine racer. It may be a tad uninteresting (because there’s no personality to it whatsoever), but I can picture it being a lot of fun. Admittedly, it’s a bit tragic that procedural track generation has been removed from the arcade version, because that’s really what makes Racecraft what it is, and it would have made this a very unique experience in the coin-op realm. Either way, I think I can get behind this release. Maybe it’s a tad bland, and maybe my standards are too low, but I sure think I’ll have fun. Here’s some arcade gameplay footage from Team VVV, a UK-based automotive gaming and simulation YouTube channel (and a very good one at that). You can make your own judgements from this.
Beyond the actual meat of the game, the presentation looks quite nice, as well. The cabinet is one of the slickest I’ve seen in a while. I adore the bright marquee, the crisp 55-inch monitor, the ergonomic seating, and the excellent theming. Everything about this cabinet is bold, stunning. And this clean-cut sonuvagun will apparently be loaded with fancy features, too. The trailer boasts “professional peripherals,” including some 2.1 channel audio, a force feedback steering wheel, and really good-lookin’ pedals. Tecnoplay is clearly going for that authentic Formula One feel.
Boy-oh-boy do I hope coin-op Racecraft is good, because it’s got so much content. Features like single-player modes and high track counts should be celebrated. Arcade racers, or at least those released in Western regions, have been so woefully “casualized” for so long that those of us yearning for more depth have been totally out of luck. The idea of playing through three campaigns and 15 courses—the idea of spending that much time with one driving game—has me super pumped. So yes, I wish the highest of quality upon this game, because it’s doing right by us dedicated players. If Racecraft ends up being awesome—and achieves solid success outside of Italy—perhaps we’ll see other developers take notes. It’s a long shot, but I can dream.
Racecraft isn’t the only upcoming racing game I’m eagerly anticipating, but it’s one that definitely caught my eye. Maybe it’ll stay largely exclusive to Italy and the broader Europe region; maybe it’s not going to be all I’ve made it out to be. Regardless, I want it to be good. Every game deserves to be of high quality, even they don’t all end up that way. And with Racecraft potentially proving the desire for hardcore arcade racers in the modern market, I’m especially invested in its success. I guess we’ll have to wait until its Spring 2019 release to see what happens!
There’s a lot more I’d like to talk about, but I’m a busy boy. Regular high school stuff, impending college stuff, and daily work stuff have been sucking the time right outta my schedule. I want to write blog posts so badly—because it’s what I love to do—but I can never find the time. And I’m always exhausted. And I have no time for video games anymore. And I’m soooooo sick of it.
But that’s okay. Maybe I’ll talk about ATV Slam, Space Invaders Pinball Jam, Kraut Buster, NESiCAxLive 2, The Munsters pinball, or Super Panic Ball on other occasions. (And I’ve still got a special review in the proverbial oven.) Or maybe I won’t, because I have no free time anymore.
Man, what a downer ending that was. Sorry, y’all. I’ll let you get back to your day now.