I’m more used to simulation-style racing games these days but thanks to Sony, there’s still a big space in my heart for Wipeout. Playing Pacer on PS4 feels like coming home.
There have been more than a few anti-grav pretenders to Wipeout’s throne, though I guess you could argue that F-Zero really came first before Wipeout was even the inkling of an idea in some Psygnosis office back in the mid nineties. Never-the-less, Wipeout stamped its mark so hard on gaming culture that it’s still the futuristic racer to measure all others by. Pacer, then, has big shoes to fill.
Thankfully, it seems to have the same sized feet because Pacer is a solid racer that really can hold its own next to the Playstation classic,. It comes as no surprise, then, that some of the R8 development team originally worked on Wipeout 3 back in the day. From the menu screen onwards, the game is a joy and never feels like a poor imitation. There are plenty of modes to get stuck into from the standard Career, time trial and online races to a new Flowmentum mode that rewards constant speed between checkpoints. Quickplay is my favourite mode to come back to, though, as you have an instant entry point to the craft and tracks and can just get on and enjoy the race without too much faffing around.
One surprising and very welcome element is being able to customise your ship. It includes livery and a weapons loadout choice that gives you the edge in gameplay if you’re particularly keen on one type of weapon. It’s another area that Pacer can outshine its rivals. Your craft will take a while to learn how to master, too. The controls are tight but the learning curve can be a bit steep at first for those coming from a more tyres-on-the-track traditional racer. Not hitting the sides while trying to maintain speed on a twisting track is not for the faint hearted but it never feels unfair.
With solid gameplay, a good collection of modes and some customisation features on offer, Pacer is an easy recommendation if you’re looking for something different in your racing games or just want to rekindle those glorious Wipeout days.