by Quinn Levandoski
reviewed on PC
I Wanna Go Fast
Racing games, perhaps more so than any other genre this side of fighting titles, depend on a rock solid foundation of simple mechanics from which nuance births skill. In this department Antigraviator doesn’t much differ from other classics in the ultra-high-speed genre, though it does toss in a few new twists. Control-wise, you’re not going to be doing much more than accelerating, steering, power-sliding and barrel rolling- a multi-purpose maneuver used for sharp turns, dodging, and hitting other vehicles. Boosting is important too, which can come via stationary boost pads, or pickups that let you boost anytime you’d like.
Boosting becomes interesting given the fact that there’s no speed cap in Antigraviator. That’s right- if you pilot well enough, you can reach some absolutely bonker velocities. It makes for some adrenaline-pumping races, and I appreciate it rewarding technical skill. The only downer with boosting is that I really don’t like how it visualizes- there’s a bit too much blur for me , and the vehicles seem to “pop” forward a bit, but it still works well and keeps things moving at breakneck speed.
Movement’s obviously the name of the game in Antigraviator, and, as much as I tried to get used to it, I just couldn’t get myself to feel comfortable with how everything moves. I’m no stranger to all sorts of high-speed racing games, so it’s not like this is my first rodeo, but it just doesn’t feel right. Turning, the thing you’ll be doing more than anything else, has a “snappy” feel to it, which makes vehicle and camera movements jumpy instead of smooth, which I don’t think was a smart design choice. It becomes very hard to make small turns to correct course as you’re driving as each touch of the metaphorical wheel jumps your car further to the left or right than it should with soft movements of the steering stick. It might not be so bad if this jolt wasn’t accompanied by camera movement, but it is, which makes everything that much more unpleasant to deal with. In a game like this I expect turning to be pretty much perfect, and the fact that it’s not is my main gripe with the game.
In bobsled racing, the teams don’t actually see and react to the twists and turns of the track. Things are moving to fast and visibility is just too low. Instead, they spent hours and hours memorizing the timing of when to lean where. In this sense, Antigraviator seems to want you to race like a bobsledder. I understand the nature of high-speed race games, but between the speed, janky camera when turning even slightly, and highly overdone motion blur it becomes borderline impossible to discern what is going on and race. I suppose it’s a matter of taste, but that kind of racing just isn’t fun for me. There’s a way to do high speed in a way that maintains a sense of adrenaline without sacrificing clarity, and I don’t think Antigraviator does a great job of staying on the right side of that line.
It’s a Trap!
Making this worse is the trap mechanic, with which racers can earn the ability to trigger various environmental hazards to trouble other racers. I like the idea in theory. The specific traps, which are each unique to a specific course, do a nice job of irritating other players. The idea falters though in a few different ways. First, the traps can only be triggered in specific map areas, and they can also only be triggered from certain track areas. Given how breakneck races are, it’s not ideal to have to look for and hit specific icons to trigger your trap. It also makes it largely impossible to use traps strategically, since there’s really no option for playing with timing or specific targeting. They’re also damn impossible to avoid if they go off when you happen to be in the area. Combining these means that traps just feel devoid of any skill. You just get them, then trigger them, and they go where they go devoid of any alteration by you. As they currently stand, the game would be best with traps removed entirely.
There’s no denying, though, that Antigraviator looks gorgeous. I may not like some of the choices in artistic direction (see: excessive motion blur), but the cars and tracks are bright, colorful, and sharp. It’s true that the designs might be a bit too derivative of other high-speed racers, but good designs are good designs, and I suppose there’s something to be said for sticking with what’s worked elsewhere. The music is alright too- nothing worth writing home about, but it sets the mood and never got on my nerves.
Antigraviator has a few too many issues for me to wholeheartedly recommend, but at the end of the day it’s still a functional racer that benefits from existing in a genre that isn’t terribly populated with great options at the moment. Who knows, maybe the controls will click with you more than the did with me. Maybe the traps are just the kind of mayhem you’re into. If not, you’re in for frustration, but cast those issues aside and you’re still left with a lot of speed, style, and pretty colors.
Uncapped speed is cool, beautiful visuals, nice customization.
Movement isn’t as smooth as I’d like, the trap mechanic is unsatisfying at best.