Calling a game a clone of another game is sometimes seen as an insult. So if something is a GTA clone, it’s inferior, and most of the time, that’s the correct assessment. Pacer is a clone, but, it’s different. Rather than being grown at an accelerated rate for the evil empire, Pacer has gestated over a long period to provide us with the best possible clone of WipeOut. Yes, it’s a WipeOut clone, but it’s a damn good one at that and I don’t mind saying early on in the review, that you should check it out.
Pacer began life as another game back in 2015, and I can’t really tell you any more about its history than that. Because it doesn’t matter. What we have in front of us is what’s important, and it’s good. Really bloody good.
Pacer takes the concept of WipeOut and puts its own name on it, as well as a few twists to either set it apart from the series it’s a clone of, or to avoid Sony’s lawyers. Either way, I don’t care. It’s a good game and as Sony isn’t making any WipeOut games, I’m happy that somebody is. What’s more is that the development studio behind Pacer actually counts a few former WipeOut developers among its numbers. I like to imagine that a bit of code got swiped before Sony kicked Studio Liverpool on to the streets and into the Job Centre.
Racing is fun and fast, but it’s also difficult. I’m not against a good challenge and even after blowing myself up fifteen times in as many minutes as I got to grips with the controls, I was happy to be playing.
There’s a lot to do in Pacer. You can tackle the game’s campaign mode where different corporate sponsors battle it out with their best machines, or you can go for the individual events that take your fancy. I spent most of my time in the campaign, playing through the different races and events and earning some sweet cash in the process. There’s an online multiplayer mode if that’s your thing, but I had a hard enough time beating the computer, nevermind actual humans with their own thoughts and tactics. Nuh-uh. Not for me, but nice to have all the same.
The controls are my biggest gripe; they’re not bad, they’re just a bit different to what I’m used to in racing games. When I’m not playing games for review duties, I’m most likely playing a racing game. Whether that’s GRID, Forza Horizon, or even Mario Kart with the kid, one thing stays the same: I pull R2 to accelerate and L2 to brake. Pacer breaks that tradition by making the L2 and R2 buttons your airbrakes while accelerating is mapped to the cross button, and boost is at the square button. This goes against all of my natural racing instincts, and while I am getting there – slowly – I’m forever smashing into the sides of the game’s varied and gorgeous tracks. Maybe I’m just an idiot.
Applying the airbrakes at the right time is crucial if you actually want to win. I’m happy just taking part…
Just like in Wipeout, the airbrakes will help you fly around the tight chicanes and avoid mines dropped on the track by competing racers. I suppose I should be familiar with it then, but c’mon, who’s actually been playing Wipeout these days? Muscle memory can fade…
The different events take place on a good variety of maps in some interesting locations, including a snowy location, complete with low flying cargo planes and some nice set decoration to make the game’s world feel like it’s more than just its assortment of death-defying race tracks. I love the little background things in games. Things that we wouldn’t ordinarily pay any attention, but would definitely miss if they weren’t there. Pacer has this quality and it really adds a bit more depth to the visual presentation that you wouldn’t ordinarily get with any kind of racer.
Not everything is brilliant though. The gameplay is great and I’ve spent hours chasing the pack and my bronze medals across the different but familiar events. To be fair, it’s just one event that lets the rest down, and it’s Survival. In this mode, you need to complete a set amount of laps in a time-trial style race. There’s nobody else on the track, but there are a bunch of mines that you need to avoid. I didn’t manage to avoid them very well, and I think it’ll be a struggle for even the more competent players. Adjusting your position while travelling at ridiculous speeds isn’t easy, and I really didn’t enjoy these events.
You can make things a little easier for yourself, though, by exploring the garage for each vehicle. Here you’re able to tweak your machine to your preference, or perhaps to your needs if you find yourself struggling on a certain track. You can also customise your weapons and arrange different loadouts; weapon pickups are tied to your loadout instead of a one-size-fits-all approach. So, if you think you can compete better by being on the offensive, you can equip the right weapons. On the other hand, if you find that you’re losing because you’re getting killed too often, you can adjust your loadout for a defensive playstyle. It’s a great touch and I do appreciate that it’s an evolution on Wipeout’s formula.
One major issue I had with the game was literally a game-breaker. I wasn’t going to mention this because for me the issue is resolved, but I think it’s only fair and if this happens to you, you’ll know what to do to fix it.
When I first downloaded the review copy of the game, I couldn’t get passed the initial ‘press any button to continue’ screen. I rebooted the game a few times and restarted my PS4 Pro, and I was eventually able to get to the language select screen. And then nothing. The game still ran but it wouldn’t recognise any of my inputs. I emailed the PR contact and was told to delete the game and download it again. I did, and all was well. I’ve since played around a dozen hours over many sessions and I’ve not had the problem happen again. But, it did happen and if it happens to you, you’ll know to delete and download again.
And that’s the only real technical issue I came across. Everything else was superb. The game ran beautifully and if it dropped any frames, I didn’t notice. The audio was a bit flat but the soundtrack felt just right, with the familiar blend of EDM and techno bombing through every race beside me. The graphics are great, too, at least on PS4 Pro, with the game looking great in motion on a 4K TV. The tracks feel like part of a bigger world thanks to the background details, and the tracks themselves are well realised.
Wipeout is on hiatus, and while there are a few other clones out there, Pacer is the best specimen by far. It helps that it actually shares some of the daddys of the original.
Pacer PS4 Review
Overall - Must Play - 9/10
Pacer is an excellent Wipeout substitute with the familiar gameplay that we’ve been missing since the latter’s hiatus. Blistering fast racing, heavy airbrake drifting, and even combat – Pacer has it all, and then some.
- Familiar gameplay that’s easy to get stuck in to
- Brilliant graphics and gorgeous, well-detailed tracks that are part of a bigger world
- Plenty of content including a campaign, online multiplayer, and quick races
- Depth to combat with different loadouts and vehicle configurations
- Some events are a touch too difficult, but that could just be my lack of skill…
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using PS4 Pro.