Hotshot Racing Switch Review – The Best Spiritual Successor to 90s Arcade Racing Games

The moment Hotshot Racing (formely known as Racing Apex) starts up you know you’re in for an arcadey good time as the game proudly shouts out it’s own title in classic arcade Sega style backed with some perfect blue skies tuneage. Hotshot Racing is a beautiful low poly arcade racer inspired by the early 3D racers such as Virtua Racing but adds in more modern gameplay such as insanely powerful slipstream, drifting a la Ridge Racer and Outrun 2 and a boost meter with 4 chargeable boosts, developed almost entirely by Trevor Ley of Lucky Mountain Games and nitroed across the finish line with help from Sumo Digital and Curve Digital.

Slipstream your way to glory.

It all starts out a bit mundane, a bit of a let down, you might think “but Hotshot Racing had so much promise” as you cruise to easy victory time and time again, that is until you wack the difficulty up to expert. Hot damn do these cars fly then, an extra 50mph even the acceleration based cars are whizzing round at 200mph as you barely have time to breathe, with some of tightest finishes I’ve ever experienced in a game. How’s the top 5 within a quarter of a second sound? All 8 drivers within half a second Or if that’s not close enough the top 3 within 0.034s with the title decided by whoever wins. Now some people don’t like rubber banding and such extreme slipstreaming but in Hotshot Racing you’ll rarely have a big win and you’ll be fighting most of the way round, I don’t play an arcade racing game to lead from the front and never see another car (there are time trials with some insanely fast developer times to beat if that’s your thing). You don’t need to bother playing on normal or hard either as you get all the trophies for playing on expert. 

Close as you like.

As soon as the difficulty is on hard or expert the racing becomes fast and frenetic. “Rubbing is racing” is definitely the mentally here as you’ll often be 4 cars wide all bumping into each other into and through the corners. The tracks are very wide to the point of losing character and feeling a little bland but at the insane speed you’re drifting through the corners, bumping and barging the whole way thinner tracks just wouldn’t have worked. Boost reigns as king as it’s all about saving some boost right for final dash to the line and there will be some intense final corner boost battles when playing multiplayer. However boost isn’t the be all and end all as after a big mistake it won’t help very much, at low speeds there’s too much power and you wheel spin not gaining much speed so you need to wait till you’ve got going again before hammering the boost.

The CPU do sometimes make mistakes.

Each of the 8 drivers have 4 cars all based off iconic real world cars such as The Ford GT40, Bentley Speed 8, Dodge Viper, Mercedes CLR, McLaren F1, Lamborghini Diablo, the Pennzoil Nissan GTR, I could go on but you get the idea. These are split into balanced, acceleration, speed and drift specialities but even within these there’s 4-5 different stat variants so you can really find your favourite car. Plus there’s very minor tweaking of the appearance of the rides with colour scheme and a few cosmic bits unlockable through gameplay which adds something to replay value if you want to unlock everything.

The cars look stunning and I really like the cosmetics as few as they are.

The main draw here is the Grand Prix mode that consists of 4 championships of 4 races with 8 drivers. Amazingly you can play absolutely everything up to 4 Player split screen which will create some insane races especially with the way the game is geared towards everyone catching up as slipstream is so strong and builds boost. There’s a weird point system that works it’s way from 12 points for 1st to 5 points for last but this keeps championships tight as often 4 of the 7 CPU drivers finish within 2 points of each other. 

Time to smash some bandits.

Other modes include Drive Or Explode which is absolutely awesome and adds so much excitement to an already fast paced rollercoaster ride it’s just a shame there’s no championship mode just single races for it. In Drive Or Explode you have to stay above a certain speed or KaBOOM! Eventually, once your health hits zero. It makes races even more frantic and adds an interest even if you’re sure you’re going to win. There’s also Cops & Robbers which is a British Bulldog style game where the robbers try to evade the popo and turn into cops once their car has been totalled. All types of racing are available for online play including ranked and custom rooms however there’s a minimum requirement of 4 people unless in a custom room so it can be hard to find a game. When you do the action is ludicrously fun as you jostle and purposely, I mean inadvertently smash others out the way. As it’s hard to get a game online it’s a shame the championship mode is limited to just the 4 when mirrored tracks and two other modes are available in single race formats, adding championships for all these plus a whole 16 race championship would really improve Hotshot Racing’s replay value.

The tracks, trackside objects and backgrounds are all colourful and would fit in perfectly in 90s arcades.

Back in 1992 Sega released what was probably the best looking arcade game ever: Virtua Racing. It’s low poly 3D cars looked simply breathtaking in arcades but very quickly that amazing look went out of fashion. Hotshot Racing has successfully recreated that look with a modern twist and silky smooth 60fps.

Multiplayer is where the real fun is at.

All the cars sound fine and the soundtrack is reminiscent of 90s arcade racers. Drivers give you a constant commentary of one liners and have a little ending story akin to old arcade fighting games when you win a championship which is a nice touch but while some of the one liners are funny the endings all seem to take themselves a bit too seriously and be boring rather than tongue in cheek.

I believe I can fly.

Unfortunately Hotshot Racing has the worst placed up and down shift ever as ZR is accelerate and R is change gear up, meaning you have to awkwardly shift your finger up and down a bit to change gear unless you’re some kind of crazy person that uses their middle finger and not index finger on triggers. To make matters worse you can’t customise the controls or switch from manual to automatic on the pause menu. Continuing the matter of gears, drifting only works Outrun automatic style with a dab of the brakes, no quick shift down and up to start a drift. Motion controls aren’t available playing handheld which is an odd choice and I also have a problem with then going out of sync mid race so it’s extremely hard to go straight.

The in car view makes things even more hectic.

If Hotshot Racing was released in the early 90s in arcades with graphics similar to Virtua Racing, I would’ve pumped a ludicrous amount of coins into it and now be desperately waiting for a remake/reboot. Hotshot Racing is beautiful, fast, frantic and perfect to play with friends as it’s easy to pick up with rubber banding and slipstream that keeps everything tight. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a pure over the top arcade racer this much since Outrun 2006 and with free DLC on the way Hotshot Racing will keep you playing for a good amount of time.

A huge thank you to Lucky Mountain Games and Curve Digital for providing the review code. Hotshot Racing is available now on the eShop for £15.99/€19.99.

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