A clear homage to classic 3D arcade racing, Hotshot Racing feels like a great fit for the Nintendo Switch. It’s also out for Xbox and Playstation, but we tried it out on Nintendo’s handheld/console hybrid. Published by Sumo Digital and developed by Lucky Mountain Games, here’s Hotshot Racing.
Whenever mainstream genres are tackled on the Switch, we often see the same issue pop up – Nintendo’s hardware might be extremely versatile but it can’t provide the kind of horsepower that we see on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One – and that gap will only widen when the new generation of consoles arrives. Racing games are a good example of this, with Mario Kart 8 still miles ahead of the pack and little in the way of anything that’s not an arcade racer.
The Gear.Club Unlimited games are decent, but nothing more than that and clearly show their mobile roots. Burnout Paradise is probably the closest thing to a modern racer on the Switch, but it doesn’t feel like it’s far ahead of Need for Speed: Most Wanted on the Vita and for arcade racing it’s better to stick to the classics on the Switch. Virtua Racing is one of those rare games that makes excellent use of the Switch’s multiplayer features, and while Hotshot Racing doesn’t have 8 player local multiplayer support it does take inspiration from Sega’s classic arcade title.
Like Virtua Racing, Hotshot Racing features low polygon models for its cars, characters and tracks – but comes away with a more detailed look and feel, ultimately settling somewhere in between Virtua Racing and Daytona USA when it comes to the level of on-screen details. It feels like a sweet spot, because not only does it give the game a visual style of its own, it also keeps the game’s performance at a good level with 60 frames per second gameplay. That’s for the docked more, but the game also delivers a similar experience once in handheld or tabletop mode, especially in single player modes. Frame rates drop a little in the busier (police chase) modes while doing split screen multiplayer in handheld, but ultimately this is a game that performs well given the Switch’s limitations.
Gameplay modes include a career-like mode dubbed ‘grand prix’, featuring 16 tracks spread across four championships – a nice high number for an arcade racer and we understand that more (free) tracks are on their way as well. Even as a single player experience, this mode is a good showcase for how well Hotshot Racing performs technically, and also shows us that the car handling is responsive and fun. With a driving model that sits in between Virtua Racing and Ridge Racer, there is a good sense of speed as well as an ability to drift and boost around and out of corners.
Borrowing a little from kart racers, you also get to choose from a selection of different characters, each of which brings his/her own personality into the race with (frequently repeated) voiceovers. What’s better is that they also have their own unique roster of cars, each one sporting different stats so you can choose speed over handling comfort or vice versa. You can also visually customize your cars, although you’ll need to spend your hard-earned prize money to do so.
Hotshot Racing comes with a nice full set of features. You’ve got different camera angles (including a perspective from within the car), a suite of game play modes and support for multiplayer. Cops & Robbers isn’t as thrilling as what we’ve seen in the Need for Speed Series and Drive or Explore is just a take on the checkpoint-based system of arcade racers like Outrun, but the real gold in the multiplayer portion – especially offline. The game may support up to eight players when you go online, but it’s split screen multiplayer where the game really shines and is going to have tons of lasting appeal.
It’s similar to Virtua Racing, but it’s great to have a completely original (non-port) racing game for the Switch that is a solid fit for the platform. We’re looking forward to the additional free content and hopefully a few performance tweaks for the handheld mode, but this is already a great alternative to Sega’s seminal classic.