Pacer preview (Gamescom)

Pacer, currently in development at R8 Games for PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One, recently made an appearance at Gamescom. We were there for it – here’s our preview.

What we know

Previously launched on PC as Formula Fusion back in 2017, Pacer is the rebranded and heavily expanded version of R8’s “Wipeout meets F-Zero” racer – now coming to consoles as well. Running at 60 frames per second with a 4K resolution (on PS4 Pro, Xbox One X and PCs that can handle it), it’s designed from the ground up for high speed futuristic racing with modern technology in mind.

At Gamescom, R8 unveiled a brand new track for the game – appropriately set in Germany and called Satawald. The addition of new content, as well as extra layers of technical polish, address the initial critical response to Formula Fusion as the game gets closer to its console release under the Pacer name. The game will also re-launch on PC at the same time and is currently scheduled for this coming winter.

pacer2

What we saw

We met with Pacer’s designer Carlton Gaunt at Gamescom, who gave us quick intro and the choice to either play the game in single player mode or through a (networked) multiplayer race. We took the opportunity to try both – getting comfortable in single player first before venturing into a four player race.

What we thought

We were familiar with Formula Fusion already, so Pacer didn’t surprise us in that sense. With a team that, at least in part, also worked on games like Wipeout 3, it’s no surprise that the game feels similar to the Playstation classic as well. The controls took a few minutes to feel comfortable (read: for me to stop confusing the left and right air brake with the acceleration and brake controls), but a single race was enough to get confident enough to try out multiplayer as well.

What was evident right away is that Pacer is one of those titles with a learning curve where practice pays off. Starting out, I was hitting the wall on every high speed turn and losing a ton of speed in the process, but I quickly improved through better use of the air brakes and I was fairly competitive in both multiplayer races, finishing second.

pacer

In a game where small errors can make a big difference, multiplayer is definitely a great way to play – the pressure that you pile on to each other forcing you into making mistakes in a way that is very hard to simulate for an AI opponent. As such, the multiplayer session was a blast even though none of the four players in the session were seasoned pros at the game – and I imagine things to stay the same as skill levels improve.

One concern is the lack of local (split-screen) multiplayer support though – Pacer would make for a great local multiplayer title (the networked session we had showcased this). Of course this wasn’t in the original Formula Fusion release either, but last year’s Grip did have support for it and even included four player split screen.

The track we played (the new Satawald track) looked great though, so I’m sure that implementing split screen would bring serious power requirements with it. Let’s hope the team at R8 considers it and pulls it off though, because it would make an already promising futuristic racer even better. Just a few months of waiting left….

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