Micro Machines, Rock 'N Roll Racing, RC Pro Am and Super Off Road; remember those games? Good! It's time to add another title to that list. In an age where everyone seems to be hell bent on bringing out HD re-masters of every last generation game imaginable, we often find ourselves asking why so many old school classics have been overlooked. It could be down to appetite, licensing or cost, but every now and then someone brings something back that you never realised was missing. Hats off to the folks at VooFoo Studios because they have done just that with Mantis Burn Racing.
Racing games in recent times seem to have defaulted to simulation or straight up arcade racer but always from a first or third person viewpoint. It's great to see a studio bringing back this style of racer and the good news is they do it really well. Don't let the old school feel fool you though, what we have here is a very in-depth racer with a variety of upgradeable vehicles. Mantis Burn Racing features a detailed career mode with three seasons at the rookie level before turning pro and facing three slightly longer seasons at an increased difficulty. Get through that and you have a final grueling season of veteran difficulty to master. Events vary from straight up races, mini championships, time trials and variations of these. When you complete one you will be awarded some "gears" and unlock the next event. The amount of gears you win depends on where you finish with 1st place earning you six of them.
As you get to the end of your season you will need a certain amount of gears to unlock the final event and then move on to the next one, so the incentive for replaying those earlier races is always there. The difficulty increases quite steadily as you progress. Each race will provide an initial challenge but once you get used to the track layout a first place finish will soon be yours. Some of the later tracks will pose more of a challenge and will require practice to beat but the AI does feel balanced for the most part. If you prefer racing with your friends the game supports online multiplayer for up to 8 players and local 4 player split screen action. Whilst the single player game is great, the competition really picks up when you play with a few pals online
Mantis Burn Racing is one good looking game. The cars are simplistic in nature but as the camera zooms out this doesn't matter since the tracks themselves have been given a lovely level of detail. From mountainous rocky terrain to high rise cityscapes the level design is excellent. You even drive by a marina complete with boats floating on beautifully textured water. I haven't noticed any drop in frame rate or any performance issues and, from what I hear, the game is only going to look better with the 4K and HDR support planned for the PlayStation Pro. I can't wait to see the dust billowing up behind my car as I smash through a shortcut barrier in glorious 4K.
If the game has any drawbacks, I would say the sound is fairly flat and the music does get repetitive fairly quickly. Fortunately, when you're in the thick of it, you soon forget this. Camera angles, as mentioned on the podcast (Ep128), can take a little getting used to. The default camera angle always follows the car but the swinging right and left can cause a bit of motion sickness. VooFoo has listened to feedback and added a more old school, static camera which follows the action without twisting and turning so much. Whilst this is a nice addition I do feel it makes the game more difficult. Knowledge of the track layout is vital and in this camera mode you can inadvertently pass under 3D scenery and collide with other cars or the track itself. These are minor complaints in an otherwise excellent game. It's fast, it's addictive and it's gorgeous. We definitely recommend picking this one up. Can you feel the burn? Can you?