Two Wheels, No Problem
Welcome everyone to the first day of the Steam Racing Fest which, as the name suggests, is a week-long celebration of all things racing. From AAA to Indie and everything in between, those who have been following know how much I love racing games. There's something exciting about pushing your vehicle to its limits against other drivers, both humans, and AI. It is one of the earliest yet celebrated forms of gaming even before video games were a thing. Some of my favorite game series of all time happen to be racing games. I'm particularly fond of games that push the envelope of what should be possible on a circuit. The crazier the better, I'd say. Phaseshift definitely piques that interest for me
Which was why when I first heard about Phaseshift through social media and following the "indie games" tag I was excited to see this cool futuristic motorcycle racing game shared by Bubblehead Studios. Liking what I saw, I reached out to them and they were generous enough to leave me with a key and to give my personal thoughts on the game. So, huge shout-outs to Josh for the opportunity! They're really cool and I was told I had full reign to cover Phaseshift. On one condition; I had to wait until the weekend when they released the latest patch. I'm not one to hold a game back from the best it can be, so I waited with bated breath for the newest patch. Finally, I'm able to sink my teeth into this racer.
Not Your Average Space Race
What caught my interest from the beginning was its similarities to a classic futuristic motorcycle racer, the Extreme G series. Originally released on the Nintendo 64 and having games on the PlayStation 2, the Extreme G series featured motorcycles on anti-gravity circuits with various weapons at the player's disposal. What set the series apart from other similar franchises like Wipeout is its sense of "realism." Wipeout featured full anti-gravity crafts which behaved a lot different from grounded vehicles. The emphasis with these titles was extreme elevation changes and the weaponry involved. How does Phaseshift fare from the genius of a single developer?
Before the player jumps into championship mode, it's best for the player to have an overview of each craft. There's the light and nimble motorcycle, the heavy yet speedy, and the balanced motorbike. The music for Phaseshift is incredible and fits with the game's aesthetic, mainly offering a Jungle DNB soundtrack. The music in the game reminded me of Rage Racer, which I always thought had a stellar soundtrack.
Sometimes, Battling Is Not The Best Option
Most races begin with the player choosing between three bikes, the Phoenix, Eidolon, and Pangolin. In Mario Kart's terms, the Phoenix would be the Yoshi, Peach, and Toad. The bike is fast and nimble, but a speck of dust can blow it off course. The Eidolon is easily the Mario and Luigi with balanced stats meant for beginners and pros to enjoy. Finally, the Pangolin is the Bowser, the heaviest bike with the highest top speed yet turns like a tank. Of these, I found myself gravitating towards the Phoenix but the choice of bikes depends on your playstyle.
In the first couple of seconds of each race, there's a grace period where the racers fight for first place. After some time has passed, each racer has access to their kit and the gloves come off. Oh boy do the gloves come off. During my first few races, I saw my placement go from top 3 to bottom 3 almost instantaneously as rockets, guns, and mines were all hurled in my direction. It was fun dueling with other racers, but as with most combat racers, the more you fight the wider the gap. If I had any chance at winning, I needed to break away from the pack immediately before everyone gained access to their weapons. Was it cowardly? Yes. Did I care? Not really.
But Battling Is So Much Fun...
Regardless, the AI will put up a damn good fight to ensure your trip to the podium is a torturous one. For perfectionists who always need to be in first, Phaseshift will be a rude awakening at first. I felt the AI was inconsistent on certain tracks. I often found myself breaking away with ease on the mountain track, but in any of the city courses where everyone is huddled together, I was lucky to even break last place. It was a fun challenge and it never felt infuriating as you gain experience at the end of each race. It reminds me of the difficulty of the games it based itself on.
Each loadout consists of Light and Heavy weapons, a defense weapon, and a utility weapon. The first two are self-explanatory, with the light weapons dealing consistent damage with tons of ammo. These are usually machine guns, while heavy weapons like rocket launchers are limited in ammo but cause more destruction. Defensive weapons, like mines, help fend off pursuers and is usually how I got most of my kills. Finally, the most important one, the utility weapon increases survivability. These were shields, which without them I'd be a smoldering crater.
Phaseshift Has A Lot Of Potential To Set The Bar High
The diversity in tracks, as well as appearance, are pretty good for an Early Access racer. There are sprawling neon metropolises with sharp corners, canyons with different terrain, and snowy mountains with vast racing lines and straightaways. Each course has a specific bike that's made for its advantages, but as most of the racing is done in a tournament setting, it's imperative to stick to a bike you know best. The music for the races is also really good, as mentioned earlier, with a healthy mix of modern EDM and classic jungle D&B.
Overall in its current state, following its recent huge patch, Phaseshift is shifting up to be an impressive motorcycle arcade racer. In the realm of anti-grav racing, the motorbike genre is something greatly missing. Games like Grip had done a lot for the Roll Cage nostalgic crowd. There's as good of a chance as any for Phaseshift to be the modern Extreme-G we have all been waiting for. I'd like to come back to this some months later for a full-fleshed review and I can't wait to follow this project more!
Phaseshift is currently on Early Access via Steam.