Whether it’s from the expense of making modern games, the experience of developers and the lessons they’ve learnt, the risk minimisation of publishers, or even the critique from reviewers, but there have been far less bad games to hit physical and digital shelves in recent years. And then a game like Horse Racing 2016 comes along to make the previous statement seem like the ramblings of a fool.
Horse Racing 2016 is utterly terrible. It’s an example of amateurish design from top to bottom, with its only redeeming features left behind in the concept phase. Because a horse racing game with four player local multiplayer is a great idea. Racing through multiple events culminating in a championship finale has the potential to be exciting, fun, and a somewhat different experience. Unfortunately, what we have here is a barely playable mess.
The premise is simple: you choose a horse and a jockey from a limited pool – one which increases as you progress through the game – and race in five events per season, for ten seasons, culminating in a finale comprised of horse jumping and an endurance race. You’re competing against a top position in the season leaderboard and the overall championship, jostling for the top spot as you win and lose events, unlocking new, better horses, and honing your racing skills.
However, there aren’t really any skills to hone. Racing is very simple and shallow. You tap A repeatedly to trot and you can whip your horse to gain a temporary boost in speed. Whipping your horse however, understandably angers the animal. If you whip them too much your horse will collapse and you’ll forfeit the race, so managing your horse’s anger bar is critical. Beyond that, hurdles can be jumped with a press of left bumper, with a natural delay in the command and your horse jumping throwing a timing challenge in the mix. Then there’s the start of the race, which challenges you to match two lines parallel to each other to gain the best start. There’s very little to it, and after your first race you will have mastered the mechanics entirely.
An hour and a half later, possibly two if you’re dead set on collecting all achievements, you’ll be through with the ten seasons, almost certainly the victor of the championship, and have very little left to entice you back for another race. In fact, you’ll be lucky to get to the end of the championship. The racing is extremely dull, repetitive and boring, with no commentary, stats, advanced mechanics in the racing or care of your horse and jockey, and not even the slightest of charm or appeal to its presentation.
Textures are simple and plain, the race tracks are devoid of detail, there’s no lighting or particles effects at all, and animations are janky and poorly looped. Meanwhile, the generic music is difficult to listen to due to terrible sampling and are utterly bizarre choices for the act of horse racing. In fact, many of the tunes are the same but with a different pitch.
Once you’ve completed a season you can re-race events to improve your standing, which in turn affects your championships standing. This allows you to cheat the championship a bit. Once you’ve unlocked the best horse you can simply go back and better your standing on any events you choose, securing your win of the championship. The AI does appear to scale to your horse’s stats at least, offering tight races, but some rubber banding does make it feel a bit cheap to lose a lead so close to the finish line.
If the singleplayer experience hasn’t completely turned you off, you can race with up to three friends locally, but with the racing being so shallow, there’s no quicker way to lose friends. Meanwhile, the tapping of A to trot aches after a short while, making the whole experience even more unpleasant.
Horse Racing 2016 is a good idea very poorly executed. Awful jockey and horse models, horrendous looking race tracks, terrible music and an ill implemented championship career, all make this a joyless experience. And yet there is potential hidden below the surface, such as with the multiple, smart camera options – including a first person perspective – suggesting knowledge of the sport and its presentation on TV. But Unfortunately, these camera options aren’t nearly enough to make up for the otherwise poor quality and experience.
Thanks to Xbox and Yash Future Tech Solutions Pvt Ltd for supporting TiX