Developed by Repixel8 (aka London based collector and coder Andrew Jefferys) and CGA Studio Games with we assume multiplatform ports handled by the latter, we have Formula Retro Racing: World Tour. Very much the throwback to the halcyon days of Sega’s Model 2 arcade heyday and the blue sky gaming ideal, this is sure to make those of a certain age a little misty eyed.
This is apparently a follow-up to Formula Retro Racing, released on PS4 in late 2021. That passed us by entirely, so we can’t even lay claim to being the only review on Metacritic as we usually are. Though having unlocked trophies, World Tour is showing on a couple of tracking sites without the suffix. So this might be the same game but we doubt it. Most likely a server-side issue at Sony’s end.
Regardless, this is resolutely an arcade racer in the grand tradition of any number of games with flat-shaded polygons and very little in the way of texture mapping. Not quite the level of the glorious gouraud shading as seen in the original X-Wing & Tie Fighter games by LucasArts, but in that ballpark. Man, those games were superb.
Yer man Repixel8 has previous in developing games for the Megadrive, 2600/7800 and our beloved Spectrum among other obsolete platforms, so it’s not entirely surprising that FRR:WT has something of a throwback feel. At any rate, FRR:WT looks very much the part. Admittedly, it’s all very arcade-styled, especially in terms of recognisable landmarks doing the comedy London Has Fallen thing where they’re all in close vicinity.
What’s immediately apparent is the high frame rate that Formula Retro Racing: WT clips along at, even on our bog standard base PS4. There’s minimal pop-in too which definitely helps. Just like the classic Sega VR buttons you get multiple views from close chase camera, further away and in-car view. The latter option works well in the single seater open cockpit cars, but less so in the drift machines. Just like any car built in the last fifteen years, the bloody A frame obscures your vision to the extent you’ll sack off the view altogether.
Graphically, everything is very evocative of arcade racing games heyday with lots of fun little details off-track as well as nice sparks coming from the back of your car as you drive along at full pelt. You’ll choose either a race car or a drift car. The former are single seaters in the F1 or Indycar vein, with one fun outlier being a classic open wheel like what Fangio used to drive.
There’s also a Porsche 962 Le Mans style racer. The drift cars are variations on the NASCAR theme from the ‘70s onwards with handling that is entirely different to the other class. Those familiar with NASCAR will either be pleased or irked anyway.
Races, regardless of difficulty, are hard fought affairs with twenty racers altogether. The AI has a tendency to barely slow down all, so you’re obliged to drive in a similar manner if you want to get any sort of decent placing in the races. Let’s just say we encountered something we’d not had happen since MSR2 on Dreamcast, controller claw! The computer opponents do have an annoying tendency to hold their line until you’re almost on them, then suddenly decide to veer erratically, especially if they’re dicing alongside another AI driver.
Similarly, the relentlessness of the computer opponents comes into play in the eliminator race format. Put simply, you start a race as normal and it begins properly when you get up to tenth place. It’s down to you as to how many opponents you manage to pick off until you cross the line to begin your next lap. The AI’s speed increases at this point, but yours doesn’t.
This is all well and good for a few laps, but after a while the disparity between your speed and that of the computer opponents is so high that they’ll pass you in no time. Before you know it, game over as you’re quickly overwhelmed and find yourself timed out. Just as the AI gets exponentially quicker, you don’t at all and have no means to do increase your speed besides playing with manual transmission on where you gain a 10 km/h boost over automatic.
This is only a stay of execution though as the AI will soon pick you off, your only realistic hope being to shunt them off the track or to hope for a momentary speed boost by drafting them. It’d be nice if you could increase your speed from time to time if we’re honest.
Amusingly though, some enterprising achievement whores on True Achievements discovered that one specific drift track becomes a place to exploit the AI model in this specific mode. While the AI gets quicker by the lap, the driving model doesn’t take account of the car handling.
Meanwhile, you can cope with the track corners by driving in the normal manner and the AI struggles after about lap six and comedy crashes into one of a couple of corners. We won’t moan too much though as this method snagged us the otherwise horrible finish an eliminator race with thirty laps trophy.
Talking of drift races, some of the tracks billed as drift tracks have such stringent time limits that you’ll struggle to even snag a single lap in a drift car. It seems a daft oversight that this is so. It’s exacerbated by playing with automatic over manual due to the slight speed difference, but it seems a weird quirk anyway.
There’s not a huge amount of progression to be made other than accruing enough points to unlock extra tracks and gain arbitrary licences. You can do grands prix but they’re very much on the fly and there’s no career mode as such. It seems a little churlish to mither about it, especially given that’s clearly not the aim of the game here.
Gloriously, the PS4 version supports up to four local players. We’re immediately glad that we’re not playing solely on PS5 as who has more than a couple of PS5 controllers kicking around other than those with deep pockets.
We suspect that this is where Formula Retro Racing: World Tour really comes into its own, as unfortunately the single player game can feel a little lacking. There’s far too many occasions where you’re racing and simply driving straight for a lengthy period with nary a curve in sight.
Music and sound effects do the job, but we have to confess that the endlessly looping music started to annoy after a while so we opted for Ridge Racer fan music via Spotify instead. Not a patch on the Daytonaaaaaaa tunes by Takenobu Mitsuyoshi or early Ridge Racer happy hardcore delights sadly.
The engine note is fairly monotone when you’re at the redline, with a slight change in pitch when you’re slipstreaming an opponent. Race announcements are by a lady announcer who does a fair job but doesn’t have quite the same excited pitch as any number of hyper mid-90s Namco/Sega voiceover artists.
In conclusion, Formula Retro Racing: World Tour is a love-letter to a certain era of arcade driving games. It’s no triple A, but nor does it need to be.
Yes, it’s a little rough around the edges and the presentation is a bit on the spartan side, but it’s a solid enough package. Four-player local split-screen is a definite must if you’re able to corral enough controllers together too.
+ For what is labour of love by a solo dev, it is remarkable how much content there is
+ High framerate even on a stock PS4
- Eliminator races are a harsh proposition and rapidly become unbalanced
- Music can become repetitive and a bit annoying