Top down arcade racing has never really got to grips on next gen consoles as developers moved focus to handheld and mobile devices. Gone was the era of greats like Championship Sprint, Micro Machines, Super Cars, Ignition, and Mashed. Where so many have recently tried, in the form of titles like Grand Prix Rock ‘N Racing, Obliteracers and Coffin Dodgers, only a few have come out unscathed. So with the release of Mantis Burn Racing I was interested to see if it would race ahead of the pack of just become another loser on the asphalt.
Developed by VooFoo Studios, Mantis Burn Racing is described as a fast-paced bumper-to-bumper racing game that combines intuitive, tactile gameplay with stunning visuals, and as soon as you start the game you can see why. From the start menu you are given several options including Career Mode, Local Play and Online. Let’s start with Career Mode as this is where you will probably spend a lot of your time in the initial phase of the game.
Laid out in a map and spanning several seasons, the Career Mode puts you through your paces by challenging you to various races and objectives. These can be in the form of a simple race against other AI competitors, to the fastest lap or even elimination, where the last car is removed after each lap. Within each of the races you are trying to achieve the maximum score of 6 gears, which are normally allocated as three for a win and then two and one respectively for side mission or objectives. These gears have to be collected to unlock the next race in your Career. Alongside the gears, is also your standard XP reward system. These are collected after races for performing skills like power slides, longest jumps, winning races etc. This XP is then used to reach milestones to unlock new vehicles for you to race and upgrades for your cars performance. As you progress through the Career mode and the seasons, the game slowly gets harder and with the option of Rookie, Pro and Veteran this game will keep you busy while you try to unlock that last gear you need to progress.
Controls for the game are very simplistic, left trigger accelerate, right trigger brake/reverse and X button to boost, and because of these non-overcomplicated controls you find yourself in the game and racing straight away. The handling of the cars is what I feel is the make or break point to these top down racing games and so many have failed because of it. However, Mantis Burn Racing is not one of them, as the controls are sharp and the cars move around the tracks will great precision and responsiveness. Cornering and turning is enhanced with the ability to drift and power slide, as this in my opinion is how to win the game. A well timed power slide in Mantis Burn Racing will give you the edge over your competitors and this is reflected in the stunning movement of the cars as you go sideways around the track and it reminded me of the first time I played TrackMania Turbo.
The tracks themselves come in two flavours, New Shangri-la (the urban asphalt of the city) or Sand Town (jump ridden dirt tracks), and within these multiple flavours and even reverse options. Now the tracks in my opinion aren’t massively different to one another compared to some of the other games on the market but I have to say graphics wise, they are stunning. Time has been taken to put the smallest details in to the tracks from the breaking and shattering of fences as you drift round corners to the general dust trail the cars leave as they race around Sand Town, breath-taking.
Once you have given Career Mode a run for its money or just fancy something different then you have local play and multiplayer options available to you. Local play supports up to four players split screen and each race can be customised in detail to which vehicle you race, which track, which custom race type and how many laps. Online mode supports up to eight players simultaneously online and again has the same race type setups. It also has weekly events for you to take part in and the few races that I did worked really well, apart from the odd occasion when I was having difficulty finding other players to play against, but you can always fill the missing spots with AI so it’s still bumper to bumper racing.
The gameplay is fast and frantic and the slightest wrong move can have you drop back several places especially if you have to use reverse, (I didn’t get on at all well with this). Add to this a thumping customised soundtrack that took me back to the days of Wipeout, Mantis Burn Racing is nonstop, top down, fun fueled racing at its best. If I had to moan about it anything it would be the loading times for some of the races, as this can take a while and can be frustrating when all you want to do is jump into a race and get going. As for the future of the game, well it looks like DLC’s are coming in the form of free and paid content updates. Now if this is new cars or tracks I don’t know, but whatever it is it will ensure this top down racer will stand the test of time and come out on top of the podium.
If you are looking for a top down racer that doesn’t re-invent the wheel but is easy to pick up, fun, fast, frantic, challenging and graphically breathtaking, then this is the game for you. Mantis Burn Racing is available for the Xbox One and PC now at a very reasonable price of £11.99.