Inertial Drift: Twilight Rivals Edition
If you're an avid reader of 1 UP Infinite, you've seen the name Inertial Drift mentioned before and even seen gameplay footage of it being run on the Steam Deck. I mentioned back then that this was a game I always wanted to cover, yet a busy Summer loomed on the horizon thus putting that promise on hold. Almost as if knowing I wanted to talk about this game for the longest time, Level 91 announced Twilight Rivals, the game's first DLC since the game's launch almost exactly two years ago. What I didn't know was that the release date wasn't exactly concrete.
Players were promised the story DLC to be released on October 20, 2022, on all platforms. However, Inertial Drift saw a release on the PS5 which was an upgraded version of the PS4 version. It also came bundled with the Twilight Rivals DLC, making the PS5 version the first time players can gain access to the content. While I'm a tad bit bummed that I have to wait for the 20th as I own the PC version, I was able to check out the aforementioned PS5 version as well as the DLC itself.
Now that's cleared up, this will be a review of the game in its entirety as I've always had a lot to say about this title since I played it upon release. Much like Session and Animal Crossing New Horizons, this was one of the few games that kept me sane during the lockdown and it's still a game I come back to regularly. There are many things going for Inertial Drift that the DLC builds upon as well as addressing some subjective criticisms. Despite my 5-star rating, I'm rating it based on how underrated and misunderstood the game is in comparison to the fun factor and how it resonates with me.
Let's begin with the gameplay as it is the main draw of the game itself, the "Drift Stick." Players who try to turn their car the conventional way using the left analog stick will quickly realize the handling of the car is "stiff." The magic happens with the right analog stick, where suddenly the car will begin to powerslide in an exaggerated manner. In order to do well in Inertial Drift, players need to combine steering the car and drifting the car in tandem in order to win races and clear time trials.
There are three starting cars in story mode, the Dart, the Gecko, and the Dragon, each driven by a different racer, Edward, Ada, and Ibba respectively. A hidden fourth character, Viv, is unlocked by completing any of the default racer's story modes, and for good reason. Of the four, her car, the Chrono, is the "gateway car" of the series. Everything you've learned about control is put to the absolute test and failure means struggling to maintain a top speed. So, how do you maintain speed?
Players will need to find a balance between their drift angle and their approach. Just because Inertial Drift isn't your conventional racer doesn't mean that it doesn't follow the rules of racing. Hitting the apex of corners and figuring out when to drift and when to drive in a straight line means the difference between victory and defeat. The story mode does a great job in subtly teaching the player how to handle the various courses within their dialogue, some even racing on different courses altogether.
Of the three starting drivers, I recommend going with Ada and the Gecko first. While it's not as easy to drive as the Dart, it is more forgiving than the Dragon while also teaching the player the mechanics of the game. What I love about Inertial Drift is that no two cars behave in the same manner. Not even the newly added "upgraded" versions of some of its vehicles. The Gecko drifts smoothly but it tends to oversteer, meaning throttle control is also necessary to clear bendy corners. Players will hit the wall several times, but over time there'll be a balance that one will discover over time.
The Dragon is the most unique car of the starting trio as players will soon figure out that the car is heavy, refusing to drift as easy as the Gecko. While you can drift while at full throttle with the Gecko, the Dragon requires you to let go of the gas, get into an angle, and maintain it. Changing angles, such as approaching a chicane or an S-Bend requires the execution of adjusting the sticks to the throttle and brakes of the car. While each car behaves differently, every car has a similar philosophy to the core three default cars which make getting to the special cases "easier."
As you go through story mode, you'll occasionally race against rivals who serve as the "boss" of each level. Defeating them in a race will unlock a chance to obtain their vehicle to use in other modes in Challenge mode. It's not enough to simply win the race in Story mode. Challenge mode will give players the chance to drive their rival's car with a goal, whether it's "winning a race," "completing a time trial," or other requirements. Clearing the challenge will then unlock the car itself. There are certain vehicles that bring a certain je ne sais quoi and the biggest example is the Raptor.
I mentioned earlier that there are some vehicles that take the game mechanics of Inertial Drift and take it to the extreme. The Raptor is one of them, boasting the highest acceleration and top speed stats in the game with the lowest handling in the game. Its difficulty rating is also the highest in the game. A few seconds with the car and it's clear why this makes sense, as even tapping the drift stick will cause the car to twist sharply at a 90-degree angle. At one point, it was the best car to obtain time attack records with, and seeing a skilled player handle this beast is simultaneously the most hilarious yet fearful thing in the game.
Perhaps the best thing about the game in a sea of praises I give it is the music for the game itself. As one can hear in the video, the genre of music is what I'd call a House Jazz blend, taking inspirational cues from Ridge Racer Type 4. One of the songs in the game adapts a similar bassline from one of the songs in R4 as well. The default music song list is composed by Kaidi Tatham and Kab Driver, who I was introduced to from this game. If you're a fan of the music in Inertial Drift, check out some of their other works.
Now it's time for the Twilight Rivals content, which I'd like to mention that I recommend completing all four stories as well as obtaining as many cars in Challenge mode as possible. That's because you're not going to be racing as the Rivals, but you are challenged by them and everyone will have to group together to take on the outsiders. I didn't mention much of the main game's story, but essentially you go to various places, take on the locals, and befriend them in a racing adventure. This time around, you are the one being challenged by a quartet of Twilight Isles' best drivers.
These vehicles all range from an electronic AI-controlled vehicle, a fast exotic, a powerful muscle car, and something out of Cyberpunk 2077 and Mad Max combined. Each challenger represents a specific class as each car is designated to classes ranging from C, B, and so on. As you're going to be driving a plethora of cars from a specific class, if you're unfamiliar with what you're driving, you'll quickly lose as I found out when I challenged the muscle car and was forced to use the Raptor.
So I decided to take on the egotistical driver who drove the AI-controlled car, whose attitude is as pompous as you'd expect. The DLC's story takes place sometime after the main game as characters who appear in specific characters' stories will reappear as friendly allies instead. The player has no choice in their vehicle as each race features a different driver being challenged all over the existing maps. The final race is a race on their home turf within the Twilight Isles.
There are eight new courses added, four of which are reverse versions, and the scenery is very unique. It seems like there's a hodgepodge of aesthetics, including highways, cities, mountains, and tunnels all in one. The early morning skies give off an emerald hue, further adding to the graphical beauty that each course provides. While it's impossible to stop and smell the roses, if one takes their time to soak in the atmosphere, it's very euphoric.
One common critique was the music genre choice in the default playlist, which is something I disagree with as I loved the original soundtrack so much that I purchased the deluxe version to listen to it in my spare time. The developers listened to the players, offering a Eurobeat soundtrack for the new courses as well as an option to switch between the default music and the Eurobeat soundtrack.
I'm not as active in the Discord server as I was when the game was first released, but even back then the developers were close with the players, listening to critiques, praises, and other areas of improvement. While Inertial Drift Twilight Rivals Edition is the first major DLC patch, there were small patches that added additional content for free during the past two years. The skill ceiling for the game is high and if you're trying to attack the leaderboards, even more so. However, this still remains one of my favorite racing games of all time and it's something all should try at the very least.
Inertial Drift is available on the PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PC. The Twilight Rivals Edition bundle is now available on the PlayStation 5, with the DLC available for other platforms on October 20, 2022.