Victory Heat Rally Shakedown Demo Gold
"You're One Genius Of A Driver! You Gotta Teach Me!"
Let me get this out of the way first: This is the most fun I've had with a game in 2022 thus far. When the Steam Racing Fest was first announced, Victory Heat Rally was a title I've looked at with a keen eye. Something about the colorful, vibrant graphics and seeing cars go 170 mph (sorry Imperial folks) made me want to get in on the action myself.
What sealed the deal was everyone else's reactions and seeing those I'm a fan of help contribute to the title themselves. It's no secret that racing games are one of my top three genres. To see VHR hit every single checkmark on what I feel the ultimate "Arcade Racer" would be like in my head is uncanny. As I gush I'll break down what impressed me about the demo, but it's perhaps this one (of many as we'll see later) Ridge Racer reference that caught me at the end of the tutorial.
All Great Games In The Making Have A Beginning
Victory Heat Rally at first glance is a callback to early 90s 2.5d racers, the first in my mind being World Rally Fever. Initially released in 1996, World Rally Fever offered a unique spin on combining sprites with an immersive "2.5d" environment. The diverse cast of characters combined with an over-exaggerate fantasy spin of real-world locations made the title a fan favorite.
Victory Heat Rally uses this as a blueprint and proceeds to take the best of every childhood arcade racer into one explosive package. Let's start with the graphics, specifically the car models. The cars resemble those from the Choro Q series, known in the west as Penny Racers. Both games feature cars that are super-deformed and loosely based on real-life counterparts. This fits the cartoon aesthetic, previously mentioned in World Rally Fever, alongside other vibrant games like Outrun.
"I Wanna Fly Sky High"
The courses are a blend of polygonal and sprite graphics, co-existing in a marvelous blend with several unique backdrops. Some courses take place on the beaches of "Baytona," while others run through canyons. There's even a course within an amusement park where you drive on a roller coaster track. Other sprites including tire smoke and nitrous flares are also present, adding to the sense of speed. Speaking of "sense of speed"...
What makes or breaks a good Arcade racer is its gameplay. If it's too difficult to learn then it will run the risk of turning people off. If it's too easy, then it won't keep its players hooked. Victory Heat Rally takes the "easy to learn hard to master" formula and makes it fit with a refreshing twist. Controlling the car is as simple as initiating a drift while approaching a corner, holding the drift until sparks fly, and releasing it for a turbo boost. This is something seen in almost every kart racer, but it takes cues from other arcade titles including Ridge Racer in the freedom of control.
"My Grandma Drives Faster Than That, Get With The Program!"
The game doesn't necessarily hold your hand when it comes to drifting as it requires precision to make everything come together. Too wide of a drift angle will slow your car while too narrow will cause it to understeer, hitting the inner wall. On some courses, there are tricky corners that will require the player to chain drifts together. So long as you're reaching a high enough speed, you'll be able to maintain your boost in and out of corners. It turns into a mechanic similar to Crash Team Racing, where the more skillful the drive is as boosting and drifting, the longer the speed is maintained.
Victory Heat Rally's sense of speed is incredible as it relies on camera shifts to make the drifting more profound. These settings can actually be tweaked in the options menu, making the camera more dynamic as you enter a drift. Or you can be insane and pick the setting that will turn the camera to a 90-degree angle and cause motion sickness. Imagine if this game had VR with this setting? Best to keep a bucket nearby.
Victory Heat Rally Has Slamming Beats To Match The Slamming Brakes
The music for the game fits with the time period that the game is going for, featuring poppy synth tunes from a vast majority of EDM genres. There are some songs that sound like Ridge Racer, including a track that sounds like "Rareheroes," and there are some songs that would fit well in a Sonic the Hedgehog game. That's because the composition is done by none other than RoBKTA, a composer who has had more of his fair share of experience with Sonic and Ridge Racer tracks. He's also a fellow racing fan and a cool guy to follow on social media based on personal experience.
That's what makes Victory Heat Rally an amazing experience, even from a demo. The game was created by racing fans, for racing fans.
Everything from Daytona USA, Scud Race, Crash Team Racing, and everything in between is either referenced or lovingly recreated. At some point, there's a race on Baytona with an overly familiar track layout. After a few seconds, I immediately recognized, and exclaimed, that it was Shooting Hoops from R4: Ridge Racer Type 4. Seeing references to iconic courses from iconic arcade games made me want to play more of the game to see if there were any other references I happened to miss.
This Was An Experience I Personally Needed
Overall, I had to pull myself from this game in order to stop playing and write this first impression. I loved how everything within the game screamed "Fun." Without diving too much into personal stuff, the past week hasn't been the kindest to me. However, the 30+ minutes I spent trying Victory Heat Rally sent me back to a nostalgic time when I found myself lost in bliss. The Victory Heat Rally demo is currently available for others to try. Don't let the file size fool you, it is jam-packed with content and I for one cannot wait for the full release to come out.
Victory Heat Rally will release on Steam and Nintendo Switch sometime in 2022.