The kart-racer is an iconic style of game. From the timeless classics of MarioKart 64 and Crash Team Racing to the more modern offerings of Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, they have a fun factor that goes above and beyond what’s expected. Obliteracers brings this fun to today’s premier platforms with several unique tweaks to a well-known formula and, for better or worse, it’s a sight to behold.
Obliteracers is an action-packed karting combat game from Varkian Empire and does a number of things extremely well. Firstly, the track design is really slick and is littered with traps, chasmic jumps and sneaky shortcuts to widen the gap between you and your opponents. There’s also a wonderful colour palette here, too, transporting players to makeshift courses nestled among tropical islands and speedways high above the clouds in a futuristic city.
The ultimate goal of these races has changed, opting for a points-based system, as the in-game camera generally focuses on the player in first place. This adds an immediate sense of stress and Varkian Empire have substituted the traditional lap-based setup of racing games for a selection of game modes that are pretty unique to kart racers. There’s Leader, which only awards points to the racer leading the pack; Survival, where points are given to the player who survives a round the longest; Endurance, which is a free-for-all race towards to a set number of points; and Knockout, similar to Endurance, where every driver is only given one life per round instead . In Obliteracers, it pays to be in front of the pack and if the gap between you and your opponents is too large they are eliminated – awarding you points. This proved useful in every game mode and I tried to exploit it as much as possible.
Obliteracers also has single player Career Mode, although the term “career” is a bit misleading for what you’ll find. It’s essentially a stream of tutorials introducing players to the selection of game modes, followed by a few scenarios revolving around those game types. The proficiency rating in these situations is awarded with bombs instead of stars – with 68 in total to collect. There are lots of levels with a considerable amount of challenge but it comes with no character or vehicle customisation to justify the ‘Career Mode’ label.
It comes as a real surprise to know that Obliteracers offers 16-player support and it’s clear Varkian Empire has over-indulged when it comes to the amount of activity occurring on-screen. Several scenarios in the career mode are fully-fledged Endurance and Leader races with an absurd amount of activity going on at once. Explosions and yellow points notifications pop up everywhere for the entirety of the race and it’s just too much to handle. Having 16 players together on such narrow tracks results in a cluttered screen, where I often couldn’t find my chosen character – leading to a quick death. In games like Endurance, spawn protection lasts a few seconds and you have precious moments to grab some points before you’re on the receiving end of some pink Ouchie Rockets. But something had to be done here, such as a bold coloured outline of your kart to easily identify it amidst the mayhem, or even lowering the cap racers in all modes; 10 racers seemed to fit the style of Obliteracers a lot better.
But in spite of this, there’s a fantastic spread of offensive and defensive weaponry in Obliteracers. Where a silver turret or pink Ouchie Rocket artillery unit might apply some pressure, it’s the green Shark Missile that is the most potent with guaranteed hit on a player in front. The only way to absorb the hit without taking significant damage is by applying a shield that slows down your kart for a short period of time. There’s also the option to absorb pick-ups when your shield is active to recover any damage to your vehicle. Or, alternatively, there’s the dark blue Space Lube, resulting in slippery surfaces and is quite useful around tight corners overlooking canyons and other bottomless drops. I quickly become a fan of the purple-coloured Shockwave – similar to a force push – that can send groups of racers flying out of shot.
Unlike MarioKart and other games of this ilk, you cannot fire items backwards and forwards in Obliteracers. But Varkian Empire have managed to turn this negative into a positive, opening the door for some more strategy and epic takedowns to occur. With a bit of skill, players need only execute a 180-turn and fire their ordinance in reverse – which, when done right, is pretty cool.
There’s also an expansive selection of modifiers to play around with that adds replayability to Obliteracers. Options include doubling the damage of all pick-ups, using the shield only once per life and making a track extremely slippery – making for highly entertaining drifting attempts. But this replayability fails to transfer over to the game’s online component, where I could choose between a maximum of two servers at once – not bad considering there were often no open public games at all.
Obliteracers retains its own identity as a couch multiplayer game. Despite the unique game modes at play, I was looking forward to seeing something familiar like the typical lap-based racing format or a small selection of party maps reminiscent of MarioKart’s four-player Battle system. Perhaps I am living in the past in this instance, but Obliteracers runs out of gas after its career mode has been cleared and ignites little online interest.
*Disclaimer: Obliteracers also contains local multiplayer, but the reviewer was unable to test out this mode.
On the Right Track
Obliteracers turns out to be a fun little game but its content doesn't match its quality level design.