Speed Racing the Night Away
By Philip Orona
Speed. I am speed. Or, does this game make me feel like I am on speed? I wouldn’t know, I’ve never touched the stuff. However, if this is the feeling of speed simply on screen perhaps I should opt to skip the available VR option. As if the International space station VR didn’t make me motion sick enough already. 22 Racing series bills itself as a futuristic Real Time Strategy racing sim, a Gran Turismo of the Wipeout XL generation with its vehicles of ludicrous speed that go from warp factor 1 to plaid in a matter of microseconds. That is quite a statement and a very ambitious goal to live up to. 22RS is really aiming for the esports crowd in its mission statement but does it have what it takes to live up to the high standards of esport racing sim? Can the ultimate speed rush co-exist with technique and skill? Let’s find out.
Right out the gate, you are greeted with a race hub where you can select your game mode. Your home base shows leaderboards, community message boards, special events and it hosts a tutorial. Use that tutorial! It really explains the functions of your Batmobile Formula-E throttle machine. You have a racing section where you can choose your racing modes with local, online or custom settings. There is a vehicle section where you can change vehicles, up to 5 current vehicles in the stable, each with a different load out. You can also attempt to build your own and tune the vehicles. There is also a track section that allows you to build your own custom track for the highly ambitious designers out there..
Tuning is where the “Gran Turismo” aspirations show itself. When you go to tune your future rocket, you are taken to a live track and you tweak your settings in real time while the car is in motion. Everything from settings from suspension, steering, aero, tires and magnetics of the wheels is at your disposal.This way you can instantly test the changes you make to your e-sled and quickly add or undo adjustments. The amount of adjustability here certainly lives up to the simulation aspect to a near exhausting degree but it’s everywhere else where things start to fly off the track.
When it comes to seat time, this game feels more Wipeout XL and less GT. Speed is the mantra of this game. No more is this evident than playing against bots in a straight up race. From the go flag, the cars behind you plow right through you with near impunity. I can rev up and stomp on boost from the jump and still get plowed right off the course from everyone behind me, ensuring a near last place finish. Time trial seems to be the least overbearing and obnoxious mode right now. Once you get into a competitive race, you are doing your best to keep up to speed and not fall off of the track. You see, the whole idea behind the space race is that there is flexible gravity allowing you to drive on the ceiling of an enclosed track while surpassing speeds of 800kph. Unfortunately at that speed, most technique goes out the window and you are doing your best to keep up and stay facing forward.
The Real time Strategy part plays its hand with upgrades that can come mid race when you pass through gates such as plasma boosts and upgraded engine power. Fortunately, if you are steadfast to notice when the upgrade becomes available, it’s just a touch of a button to upgrade. Multiple levels of upgrades are available during a race but I am not so sure if that qualifies 22RS for the RTS moniker. There are other sims such as Project Cars and the F1 series that allow you to make changes to aero angle, brake power and balance mid race, so on the fly changes are not anything new. Doing upgrades during the race is nice but it does little to change the strategy of mashing the go fast buttons and hoping not to flip the car into no man’s land. With games like F1, GT and Project Cars, you not only have to manage speed through corners, know where the best lines are for turning and depending on your sim settings, manage fuel consumption and tire wear, you must also keep any eye on your competition, looking for the right time to pass, avoiding collisions and keeping a solid pace. These are sim aspects that get lost at the warp factor breakneck pace of 22 Racing.
The futuristic music, presentation and graphics do a great job of placing you in an F-Zero type mindset. The sharpness yet blurring effects of speed are executed very well but when moving at speeds that exceed 1000 kph it becomes a little disorienting, especially when your vehicle decides to ride the express tube to the ceiling and now you are upside down and the multi-neon colored surroundings blow by you at epileptic speed. This could put people off from trying 22 racing in VR. When you fall off the track, it seems like the race is being held in some near barren planet or moon far off in the galaxy. I found myself playing land rover more than a few times after I fell off the track and did not get reset. The outside environment is pretty sparse save for the odd lodge looking cottage. However, I don’t believe this is where you are supposed to spend any amount of time but the fact is, because of the physics, I did. Speaking of physics, this seems to be a huge talking point of the game by looking at the official website. While they do convey a sense of speed and the gravity works well for the most part, the race cars had little heft to them. Trying to course correct leads to a darty shift in direction. When that kind of speed hits a corner, you are pulled to the corner like you would expect thanks to inertia and it leads you to riding the edge of the track or if there is no edge to hold you in place, you go upside down. So do the rest of the cars you race, which again, takes out actual race strategy from the game play.
As alluded to before, the AI needs work. As well as plowing into you at the start of a race, AI bots seem to be just on plasma boost constantly and riding the contour of the track. Granted this game is still in its early phase, there are a lot of things that can be improved and/or added in the coming months and years. The way 22 Racing series is staged, it feels very reminiscent of BeamNG.drive. The bones of a good physics racer are here but it’s waiting for other people to get its hands on it and start modding. BeamNG took a while before it really came into its own thanks to community involvement and I feel like the same could happen here. However that doesn’t make for an esports darling like iRacing, Assetto Corsa and the like. Perhaps if the dev slowed the game down a bit, close up the tracks to prevent flying off into the wild yonder and increase the gravity pull of the surfaces a little more it would feel like a more polished racer in an F-zero kind of way with actual tunability of vehicles.
There is a lot to like but also a lot to improve on for 22 Racing series. The RTS isn’t so much a real time strategy as it is a futuristic speed fest with mid race upgrading. While this game may have been born with Esports DNA it has a lot of growing up to do before those genetics kick in. As a futuristic arcade racer it is fine but it lacks polish and a solo career mode. As an open ended future sim, it’s an intriguing idea and it is shooting for something new but in execution, it needs more vehicles, more tracks, smarter AI, better gaming wheel support and a revised gravity system. Modes such as online and team battle certainly add a chaotically fun multiplayer aspect which helps replayability going forward and it’s a great place to start but not the place to stop. This is far from a ho hum racer but it isn’t exactly Formula 1 2022 levels of racing involvement and excitement. 22RS has the potential to become the future racing esports flag bearer after a few more years of development and input from the community but just like the year that this game takes place in, we are not there just yet.
Things I like:
Cool car designs
Adjustability and tuning of vehicles
Things I would improve:
Pace of the game
Additional assets like tracks and vehicles
Make it harder to leave the track