Formula Retro Racing World Tour
February was an important month for game demos as many of the games I discovered during that Steam Next Fest had long since been released. Formula Retro Racing - World Tour is no exception. When I first looked at the game, I commended its dedication to the 1990s arcade racers which inspired this title. The surprising number of car options, customizations, and different driving styles made each course a unique experience to tackle. For a demo, it contained a surprising amount of content and I was excited to get the chance to cover this game after its release. Special thanks to the publishers and the developer for making this possible!
As most of my first impressions on Formula Retro Racing - World Tour remain unchanged from when I tried the demo build in February, I’ll focus on the title as a complete package. Based on my expectations from the previous paragraph, I was excited about the full product as World Tour is the “complete edition” of the original Formula Retro Racing released in 2020. Initially a love letter fan project to the 90s arcade racer, the title was released with promising potential.
Formula Retro Racing - World Tour is what I would consider the “complete edition” to the original, much like how Ridge Racer 2 became a complete version of the original PSP Ridge Racers. There are a sizable number of tracks with a healthy combination of city, road, and oval courses. Most of the cities and courses are based on iconic courses including Monsa, Daytona, Cote D’Azur, the Indy 500, and many more. I’m always excited to see a developer’s representation of New York and the New York course in this game is really pretty! It reminds me of a weird mix between Chelsea Piers and Central Park, but the course itself gives me Yoshi Circuit Mario Kart Double Dash vibes. It’s really unique.
To unlock every course in the game at the time of this writing, the player will need to have accumulated over 700 total Arcade points. There are two main modes, the Arcade and Grand Prix, with the latter being a traditional tournament experience and the former being the game’s “main mode.” Upon selecting a course and one of the three difficulty levels, the player selects a car class and a car from said, class. There are eight total cars to choose from, with four cars from each class behaving similarly to each other, but with two different playstyles.
The best way I can compare this is similar to how Ridge Racer Type 4 handled Grip and Drift-type cars. In Formula Retro Racing - World Tour this dynamic is exaggerated to the point where certain cars are meant for certain courses and other cars are a nightmare to drive. The drift circuits, whether it's the mountains of Brazil or Japan, are far easier to navigate with the Drift cars as they are easier to control and are able to go off-road. A downside is that they are far slower than the Grip car counterparts.
Likewise, the Grip cars are the fastest cars in the game, reaching up to a maximum speed of 299 km/h unboosted and upwards of 330 km/h while under slipstream. For the more technical tracks under Expert difficulty, Grip cars, proper lines, and slipstream will win you races and this was what surprised me the most about World Tour. The game can become foreboding with its challenge as the timer is relentless in Expert mode.
Reaching each checkpoint with milliseconds to spare was always a breath-holding moment as the game doesn’t immediately end once the clock hits “0.” It does that 1990s arcade racing trope where the game gives you half of a second’s grace period to move your car along the checkpoint or finish line in order to gracefully give the player twenty seconds extra on the clock. The AI difficulty is also a challenge but it’s the type of “arcade” challenge that is inconsistent. In one race the AI may dominate and I would never see a podium finish being stuck in fourth the entire last stretch of the race. In another race, the AI may cause a 10-car pile-up that immediately places me in the top 5 in the first five seconds. These variables are controlled the more the player gets used to World Tour’s mechanics but it’s amusing when the game’s RNG blesses the player all the same.
The online competitive scene, based on what I’ve seen from the leaderboards, is currently thriving with some YouTube content creator names I see that are familiar faces. Aside from comparing times, there’s also an Eliminator and a Free Practice mode for players to add a bit more variety to their experience. There’s a lot of single-player content to explore with track and car combinations to experiment with. World Tour’s physics are some of the best I’ve seen from a “retro-inspired” racer as part of my criticisms in the past is that it felt too similar to the games of the past.
World Tour eliminates this by feeling like a retro racer yet the foundation is that of a modern racer. Do not pick this up expecting to play like Ridge Racer or even Daytona USA and expect a 1:1 ratio of the same gameplay experience. The grip/circuit cars require proper lines, braking points, and actual knowledge of the track to ensure the player loses as minimal speed as possible.
While I don’t have a lot of criticisms, I will mention that the music audio is a touch too loud by default to the point that it drowns out the engine sounds. This is a personal preference that was easily fixed by lowering the volume of the music audio in settings, but I would also like to see track boundaries as well. As a Grip car, it’s far too easy to go “off-road” when I assumed it was part of the track. This is especially true for city courses, where one wheel off the ground absolutely throttles the accelerator, thus losing time. A curb design would be perfect without ruining the city aesthetic for some of the courses.
Formula Retro Racing - World Tour shows a lot of promise much like its predecessor but with over twice the amount of content. Players like myself who feel as if the racing genre has been stagnant since the release of Need For Speed Unbound will feel a breath of fresh air almost immediately. Hopefully, this is a continued sign of great things to come for the genre instead of a “one-off stroke of genius.” Definitely give this one a drive.
Formula Retro Racing - World Tour is currently available on Early Access via Steam.