Mantis Burn Racing (Xbox One Review)
The top down racing genre has pretty much been left in the dust for the past decade for more first-person and third-person experiences – see here. Games like R.C. Pro- Am and Micro Machines are relegated to the status of legacy collections and nostalgia. A few have come close to returning the series to the forefront with games like Hydro Thunder and Blur taking liberties and innovating where they could. Mantis Burn Racing is VooFoo’s homage to the genre, wrapped up in a neat package and delivered with the promise that you and 3 other friends can once again crowd around one console for the night. Drinking and driving at the forefront of a few arguments coupled with a generous competitive spirit.
Mantis Burn Racing is typical of the genre, with the player viewing the race from a bird’s eye view as competitors litter the race track. It’s easily accessible with anyone and everyone being able to pick up for a game or two and feel right at home. The controls boil down to accelerating, braking, steering, and boosting. It’s simple, enjoyable, and open for all, making it ideal to break out with a few younger players to pass the time or with a few friends after a few pints.
Although Mantis Burn Racing’s controls are simple, the mechanics hold a certain finesse. Anybody can pick up and play, but not everyone can win. The boosting system is based on your ability to drift, draft, and gain some awesome air as you sprint round Mantis Burn Racing’s tracks. To truly master the game you will need to learn how to take corners and perfect drifting on the three car types; light, middle and heavyweight.
It’s the different type of vehicles that keeps Mantis Burn Racing interesting, while the lightweight vehicles have brilliant acceleration that can prove skitter and fail to break through the shortcut barriers that the heavyweight vehicles can. But when it comes to the differing race types it does feel that other cars are far better suited. Ultimately I always found myself to gravitate towards light vehicles as they were really fun to play and their pace and drift capability suited me perfectly. Let’s face it, nobody really wants to drive a heavy tank like car that crawls at a snail’s pace.
What’s worse still is that during Mantis Burn Racing’s career mode you are forced to drive these sluggish vehicles, occasionally halting progress unless you drag these tanks haphazardly across the finish line. Thankfully there are plenty of other races to make up for it. Mantis Burn Racing’s career mode is extensive, perhaps a bit too extensive, but keeps you occupied when you can’t gather a few pals to play. That’s right Nigel, you can pretend you have friends and play by yourself.
Throughout the career you will level up through successful completion of events, performing drifts, drafting, and beating personal times. All these skills amount to more money in your pocket to buy better cars, upgrade your vehicle and level up. It’s a nice tight gameplay route that ties in well with the gears you earn, gears are required to unlock the final race in a season, through various challenges in races. The gear system can be a double edged sword as it sometimes requires you to sacrifice pace and position for their completion, but adds a new more interesting layer to the racing that feels a bit monotonous after a while.
Even though Mantis Burn Racing offers a reasonable offering of 8 tracks and a handful of games modes it only really shines with quick drop in and out play. Personally it’s an issue I have with all racing games, regardless of the mode, be it endurance, elimination, or sprint, you are still pretty much racing. The only saving grace is the accumulator mode which requires players to pull off impressive drifts, gain big air, and beat their personal lap times, but funnily enough it tends to be whoever is in front of the pack that takes home the gold.
Just as you would expect, all of these modes are also available online. Although that’s a given. What’s more interesting about Mantis Burn Racing’s online is the weekly challenges that appear. These challenges task players with completing a race, or setting a target online. During my time with Mantis Burn Racing there was only one mode available and it was an 8 minute slog in the aforementioned tortoise-mobiles, which was not enjoyable in the slightest. It does, however, show a lot of promise in engaging players in a way beyond hoping they find each other online and seeing your name near the top end of the leaderboard does give a certain glow.
There’s obviously been a lot of chat about how Mantis Burn Racing feels, but what about the visuals? Well, thankfully they are pretty damn crisp at the current moment. Although the camera angle could prove nauseating and there was a consistent frame drop in one or two maps the experience as a whole was extremely smooth and complimented by a nice soundtrack that was never too invasive and passive enough to capture Mantis Burn Racing’s pace as a whole.
It’s common place for those in the midst of a comeback to say “don’t call it a comeback” and it’s exactly what I’ll say for Mantis Burn Racing, but not for the same reason. Even though my time with Mantis Burn Racing was enjoyable, it felt like I could only digest it in bite-size chunks. It never truly grabbed my attention, even with the promise of being able to play it with a few friends. There is definitely something there, but the lack of interaction between players really hurts offline/online multiplayer when compared to other similar games from older generations. I didn’t want to bump players, a wee nudge here and there. I wanted to send a blue shell their way and ruin their chances at pole position. I wanted to push them in to a pit on the middle of the race and watch as the sweat poured down their face and I emerged the victor. That didn’t happen, instead I skirted by them and boosted so far in the lead that I never had to look back.