What Nintendo doesn’t create, indie developers will. We don’t have a recent F-Zero game but we do have a ton of other similar titles like Redout and Fast RMX, and even Sony is getting in on the action with a WipEout collection. It’s a brave new world, led by plucky indie entrepreneurs that experienced the classics as kids and are now grown enough to fund their dream follow-ups. Just look at the inspiriting story of how Stardew Valley was created in search of a new Harvest Moon. But as we know from many Kickstarter blunders, not everyone exceeds or even meets this level of quality. After spending some time with Formula Fusion, I can safely say that it’s worth a miss in this now crowded sci-fi racing space.
Helmed by an electronica soundtrack by artist Leon Switch (who has a few albums and film credits under his belt), you can tell that Formula Fusion is going for the futuristic angle right out of the gate. Although categorized as dubstep there’s a bit of trance to Switch’s work, and the theme fits a high octane racer like a key through a lock. It’s the best part of the game.
The more you dig into Formula Fusion, the more you’ll come up with ideas that fell short. The “30 tracks” actually turn into eight when you account for day and night cycles, as well as some slight variants that you’ll unlock as you play through the campaign (though everything is unlocked in 10-player multiplayer). All six modes essentially boil down to the same thing (race) with different timers, as do the five choices for your racecraft.
The actual act of racing is, for the most part, down pat. You have three viewpoints to cycle through, a rear view camera, and a responsive braking system (that’s perhaps over-engineered, more on that in a moment), so getting where you need to go or envisioning how you’re going to tackle a particular track is almost never a problem. I also enjoy the fact that tracks have power-ups (of the missile and shield variety) and boost available but they don’t feel overdone — like each object is placed deliberately. Far too often I’ll play a racing game and see items or boost pads strewn haphazardly about (or worse, sparingly placed where any given mechanic feels more like a gimmick), so kudos to the team for not going overboard and striking a balance.
But once that checkered flag is up, Formula Fusion‘s veneer starts to fall apart. its biggest sin is that it doesn’t really feel optimized on PC. I had some delayed boot issues as well as unresponsive load screens, though the races themselves went off without a hitch. The control menu is a mess though, and due to convoluted “left/right airbrakes” and “up/down pitches,” a lot of room is taken up on the controller, so the game defaults to using “A” as accelerate. You can re-bind the controls, but I had issues getting things to map correctly, and often times the game would go haywire and start assigning buttons on its own. Given how many variations of basic functions there are the game doesn’t play nicely with a keyboard, but some of you may have to settle for it if you’re fighting to get your given remote to work.
It’s possible that some of the bugs are tied to the visuals, which utilize the Unreal Engine with mostly positive results. Each map, though there are few, pops in their own way, I just wish there were more of them to play at launch.
Developer R8 Games seems committed to providing free updates, and one can only assume that those patches will come with bugfixes and other performance enhancing wizardry. But right now Formula Fusion doesn’t quite feel finished, and even if it did, it would need some more massaging to help its personality shine through.