The demand for futuristic combat racers is alive and well. Sadly, with Nintendo remaining tight-lipped on the prospect of another F-Zero after an eleven year hiatus and the closure of Wipeout developer Studio Liverpool (Psygnosis), the prospect of a future racer is decidedly unlikely.
It is into this arena of fallen and disused giants that GameArt Studio stride with a singular purpose.
Quantum Rush Champions is GameArt’s less than tentative foray into the world of high-octane, futuristic combat racing. Packed with features, weapons, power ups and a faux techno soundtrack, they have aimed to not only live up to the legacy of its predecessors, but to expand upon it.
First up is the conventional career mode. Selecting from one of the three manufacturers on offer, each with their own benefits and drawbacks; one has faster speed and greater boost but can overload if overused, one has greater defensive capability but reduced speed, and the third has greater control but reduced defence and acceleration.
Once you have chosen, you are presented with a series of challenges for each of seven classes, with varying levels of difficulty and rewards. Completing these challenges to an adequate degree unlocks customisation parts for that class of ship, which made sufficient difference to performance to improve your potential in other challenges. These range from the expected time trial, single race, and demolition modes to the more outlandish Courier mode; where you must compete to pick up packages littered around the track, and boss mode, which along with being more combat focused, is also essential to unlock the next tier.
Arcade mode gives you the opportunity to play any of the missions from the tiers you have unlocked, and as such, allows you to practice the challenges you have yet to face or change the options, allowing you to set specific key targets and parameters that are locked down in the career mode such as AI difficulty, track, direction or even spawn chances.
Quantum Rush successfully hits a lot of key notes with its gameplay. The control of the ships is comparable to its predecessors, and there is a tangible feeling of break neck speed to each and every race, though some benefit more from this than others. The aforementioned Courier mode and Damage Control; where your speed is increased the longer you manage to avoid collision damage, both benefit greatly from more reserved acceleration.
It is these variations that, for the majority of the time, keep the game interesting.
One of its greatest drawbacks though, and quite a considerable one, is the combat mechanics. With a wide variation of defensive and offensive pick ups available, and on ship cannons that use the same energy pool as your boost, there is plenty of firepower to eliminate your opponents but this in itself is also a weakness as well as a boon. Holding three of the large array of buffs allows you to utilise abilities that benefit you most; do you go for the close range area attack, draw on the reserve battery for an extra few barrages of cannon fire or boost, or do you use your ranged missiles to needle the opponents.
Sadly, despite all this choice by the time you decide, it is normally too late to use them optimally unless they are more indirectly beneficial. This is especially true in the “Boss” levels, where you face off against specific pilots with the aim of destroying them within a specific time/lap limit. This is mainly due to the culmination of speed and accuracy not exactly marrying up.
While traversing the level at a sufficient speed to maintain a firing solution on the boss, I found that numerous shots were going astray, but slowing to take aim leaves you in the enemies dust. This duality never truly feels balanced and as such combat in all levels feels like a crap shoot with the exclusion of Defeat the Enemy where the AI seems to be willing itself to be shot.
Overall, Quantum Rush Champions shot for the stars but fell short. The fast paced racing is sufficient in its own right, but the reliance on combat to progress beyond your current tier is the stumbling block for this title that ranks alongside its single player only limitations.
If you are having withdrawals for a good futuristic racer, this will satisfy that need, but there may be some frustration to be contended with in order to get the most out of the title.
Thanks to Xbox and GameArt Studio for supporting TiX
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