It’s hard to believe there’s a market out there for single-player futuristic racing games, but GameArts’ Quantum Rush Champions is here to fuel your lonely need for speed on the Xbox One. Heavily inspired by the WipeOut series, there’s boatloads of upgrades to unlock, a plethora of race modes, and even the 1995 release’s lack of multi-player; local or otherwise. Its absence is definitely a questionable move by the developer, but it’s one that I could overlook if the game wasn’t so painfully difficult.
What it lacks in multi-player though, it makes up for in sheer content. There’s three different manufacturers to race for–one focusing on defense, one on pure speed, and another that offers a more balanced feel–and each offers their own campaign to play through with 7 tiers of challenges. There’s plenty of text-based storytelling about corrupt corporations funding these insane races, as well as extremely difficult boss battles, so it definitely feels like a full-fledged campaign rather than a generic series of races.
“…GameArts did a good job detailing the campaign and making each race interesting.”
Playing through each tier and earning medals unlocks new parts to upgrade your racer with, improving everything from armor, speed, and weapon damage. These upgrades are totally necessary to stay competitive, and I found myself spending a majority of my time replaying older races just to earn higher medals and get better gear for my ship. I don’t really mind grinding in games, but this was borderline absurd. Even with upgrades on my vehicle, there were plenty of moments (especially during boss fights) where my opponents would rocket off in the distance, never to be seen again.
The arduous difficulty is definitely the game’s albatross, and it’s something I never really found to be enjoyable. I like games that provide a fair challenge, but this felt more like an exercise in frustration as I failed to dismantle enough opponents, locate enough hidden packages, or drive long enough without hitting anything over and over again. The overall idea of a single-player combat racing game is baffling as it is, but GameArts did a good job detailing the campaign and making each race interesting. It was just really hard to get in to when the objectives were so difficult that even the AI racers wouldn’t qualify for a medal.
Another issue I have with the game is how unintuivite the control scheme is, since you accelerate using A, while switching through a menu of power-ups with the Y button. Maybe my thumbs are stubby, but I had a rough time letting off the gas just to pick the right power-up for the job. Said power-ups are another issue altogether, since their icons are relatively similar and there’s nothing in-game telling you what you just picked up.
Expect to spend a lot of time firing off whatever is in your inventory just to see what it does, but good luck remembering which circular icon is a mine, a shield, or an EMP. A robo-voiced narrator telling me I just picked up rockets would be a most welcome addition, especially for a game that’s entirely focused on provding a fun single-player experience. If you’re going to leave out the main draw of an arcade racer, it’s probably best to polish the rest of the game as much as possible.
We received a few comments during our live stream about the game looking visually dated, but I think it nails the futuristic racing aspect pretty well. There’s obvious frame rate drops and some really odd collision detection in some of the tracks, but I enjoyed the visuals as a whole. Track design is also a strong point here, as each one has their own unique flavor, like deserts, airports, and cybernetic spaceships.
“…I just couldn’t enjoy it due to the seemingly unfair and punishing difficulty curve.”
Each track is accompanied by an adrenaline pumping electro soundtrack, if you’re in to that sort of thing. It’s become old hat at this point, as the terms “future” and “racing” always seem to default to electronica, but it was fitting and enjoyable to me. I felt like I was in the movie Hackers, playing WipeOut on that giant screen while Angelina Jolie’s Acid Burn looked on in disgust as I beat her high score. But Zero Cool I am not, and the only thing that I was beating was my head against the wall.
Overall, while I feel that Quantum Rush Champions does a lot to detract from its lack of multi-player, I just couldn’t enjoy it due to the seemingly unfair and punishing difficulty curve. When the campaign isn’t enjoyable, the only saving grace would’ve been the ability to play with my friends; but without that option, there really wasn’t much reason for me to stick around very long. This is one futuristic racer that’s unfortunately stuck in the past.
Recommended for fans of: WipEout, Quantum Redshift, Flashout, and other futuristic combat racers.
Bradley Keene is the Executive Editor here at What’s Your Tag?, generally handling reviews, public relations, and our social media communications on Facebook and Twitter. He’s no stranger to sinking an absurd amount of time in to an MMO, but also has a deep seeded love for quirky indie games, pro wrestling, horror films, and his hometown of Baltimore, MD. Get in touch with him by e-mail at the address above, or follow him on Twitter.