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UpShift StrikeRacer MMO Review
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Getting Into Gear
The one untapped area of the free-to-play MMO market would easily have to be the racing genre. For whatever reason there are only a handful of online racing games out there that fit into the MMO category, and there are even fewer of them that don't fit inside the cartoony, kart-style genre. Luckily, there have been emerging racing games as of late to try and fill out this rather sparse and barren genre and one of those games happens to be gPotato’s attempt at entering the combat racing fray, called Upshift StrikeRacer.
Right now any racing fan who has played MMO games would easily tell you that the current king of the MMORG genre is Aeria Games’ visually amazing and content-heavy title, Project Torque. But with Upshift StrikeRacer now entering the arena, how does it fare in comparison and is it a game that can race on its own axis? Keep reading to find out.
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The highlight of Upshift is definitely its design concept. The developers went full steam ahead with cash shops toppled on top of a fast-paced, free-to-play action racer. The idea of having players work with limited ammo in weapons they constantly have to refill with power-ups, all the while racing at full speed while facing off against hazardous sharp turns, road obstacles and opponents, makes for a sweaty-palmed experience, no doubt.
Add in the option to customize vehicles and Upshift looks more like a dream racer come true for combat racing fans as opposed to just another game trying to cash in on the MMO market. Now, it’s not all daffodils and lollipops in the world of Upshift StrikeRacer; the game’s customization concept suffers from a lot of preset mods that will sees lots of car clones on the track.
Nevertheless, the weapon diversity, large track selection and fast-paced, arcade speeds was a great idea for an MMO. The only downside is that unlike Project Torque, many of the parts, upgrades and tracks are already available at the start of the game, leaving very little to unlock or earn. This can put off a lot of players who prefer acquiring things as they level up.
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One of the biggest problems with games that have amazing concepts is that the gameplay always falls short…it’s quite the opposite with Upshift StrikeForce. The breakneck speeds, high octane tracks and explosive gameplay balanced out very well. The developers did a superb job of giving gamers a free-to-play experience that looks and plays like it should be on an HD game console.
There are two modes of play, standard single race and team race. Of course, in the single’s race it’s all eight racers vying to take first place, making for non-stop action throughout every straightaway and turn. In team race the game has a more co-op feel to it, as teammates try to work together to keep the lead and opponents off each other’s back. Both modes work well and no matter what level racer joins in, the intensity is always kept high.
The weapons are easy enough for new players to learn but will require the touch of an advanced player in order to master them. Each car can only be equipped with up to three weapons, including a front machine gun, a rocket device and a rear weapon. The weapon cache could have used a few more guns and rocket devices but I get the feeling they’ll be arriving in future updates.
My only complaint with the gameplay is that lag can completely turn a race upside down with cars teleporting and flying around. It’s obvious that the game was first designed as a single-player experience and the multiplayer was worked into the game’s amazingly fast race design, similar to World of JingWu Online. So long as players have a good connection there isn’t too much to worry about when racing against opponents.
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The car mechanics behave the way any arcade racer might play out, and that’s definitely not a bad thing. Drifting only requires the simple press of the handbrake, while performing a 180 simply requires holding down the handbrake slightly longer than it does to drift. In other words, the controls for the game are easy enough for a five year old to pick up and play and actually manage to win.
In addition to the controls being simplified for newcomers, the response timing – whether opponents are lagging or not – is pitch perfect for the in-game races. The actual learning curve will probably take about half-an-hour and within that time gamers will be able to race on just about any track as if they’re riding perfect circles in their backyard on a brand new bike.
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Talking about the controls, gameplay and concepts are all fine and dandy but none of that means much if the tracks are crappy, right? Of course. Well, it can safely be said that the tracks in this game score an A+ when it comes to the fun factors. While none of the track designs offer any sort of themes, visuals or structures that we haven’t already seen in games like Need for Speed or Test Drive, the premise of each track is designed for one purpose: combat racing.
The track designers ensured that there are plenty of straightaway segments to get a good feel for the speed of the cars, as well as the turbo boosting. Each class of tracks also has its own series of turns and racing skill requirements that may even pose a challenge to veteran racing fans.
Multiple routes are also fleshed out in some of the tracks in the normal and hard track category, giving players who master each track a little something extra to utilize when facing off against opponents.
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Graphics And Sound
Visually, gamers definitely won’t be disappointed with Upshift but there’s no real "Wow" factors, either. This game certainly doesn’t carry the visual finesse or lighting found in the likes of Project Torque, but the visual style in Upshift has look that is similar but not quite as bold as Borderlands. Hence, gamers who don’t go in expecting a Forza Motorsport clone will probably be fairly impressed with what the game has to offer, graphically.
The texture mapping and lighting have an almost cel-shaded effect and with the upgrades applied to the cars, many racing enthusiasts will probably find the vehicles very appealing. The weapon and racing visual effects are also worth noting, mainly because they help immerse gamers in the intense, fast-paced action that takes place on the track.
When it comes to the audio and music, I can’t say that anything stands out when it comes to the effects or the music but they’re all in place to provide an all around acceptable aesthetic experience. If any sound effect sort of stands out as being very convincing for the on-screen action it would probably have to be the machine gun fire, which usually results in a car exploding shortly thereafter.
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Arcade racing fans looking for a good combat racer can’t really go wrong with Upshift StrikeRacer. The game still feels like its overall in its infancy, and may lack a lot of incentives some gamers may be looking for when it comes to a fleshed out experience, but the easy-on-the-eyes visuals, extremely fast-paced and action-packed racing is addictive enough to keep most gamers occupied with this gPotato title for hours on end.
So long as gamers don’t go in expecting a Project Torque-esque game with the same quality customization features, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the gameplay quality of UpShift StrikeRacer.