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Victory Heat Rally feels like a missing link in arcade racers

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I’d be surprised if Victory Heat Rally didn’t catch your eye. It’s an intoxicatingly colorful and energetic-looking title. Based on the aesthetic from Sega Super Scaler racers like Power Drift and Rad Mobile, it’s a far cry from the mostly drab modern racing market. I’ve been following it for what feels like forever, but it’s taken me some time to get around to the demo.

Thankfully, Victory Heat Rally is more than just appearances. Without hyperbole, this is one of the most compelling racing titles I’ve played in a long time. It’s fast, vibrant, and deftly captures the attention-grabbing magic of old arcade titles. Just by following its development, I knew that Victory Heat Rally was going to be a worthwhile title, but I couldn’t imagine it would be this good.

Victory Heat Rally Wet Drift
Screenshot by Destructoid

Super Scaler power

The most recent demo, Shakedown Demo Gold, is actually a considerable slice of gameplay. While it took me a half-hour to see what I wanted to see, it was more than I expected it to give up. Of the 12 planned racers, three of them are featured in the demo, but only one is unlocked from the start. I lost count of how many tracks there are, but at least more than four of the planned 36.

There’s a career mode that takes you through a series of challenges ranging from avoiding traffic cones to straight-up racing. This culminates in a more standard grand prix event.

After finishing that, you can noodle around with arcade mode or time trial. There’s also multi-player present in the final version. As I said, it won’t keep you going indefinitely, but it’s more than just a quick sampling.

Victory Heat Rally Stiff
Screenshot by Destructoid

Stay off my lawn

While Victory Heat Rally bases itself on the visuals of Super Scalers, I’m reasonably certain the tracks are fully 3D. Early videos showed it using sprite scaling for the tracks, but this seems to have been dropped somewhere down the line. The track design does still harken back to Power Drift with its looping design and tall bridges. Likewise, the cars are all still 2D, as is the set dressing at the side of the road. The aesthetic is still there, even if the technique isn’t.

Another carry-over is an absolutely mad camera system. It tilts and rolls in with the car in a way that isn’t seen very often today. Probably because it likely induces motion sickness in anyone vulnerable. I don’t have a problem with it, possibly since I’ve had a lifetime of watching movement with a stationary body. However, anyone who does have trouble with the effect can turn it off in the options.

For people like me who prefer young people to stay off their lawn, there’s a pixel scale option in the video menu. While this may be for performance purposes, I liked playing with it off. It essentially makes the sprite rotation less smooth and distant objects feel more pixelated. Sort of like a low-resolution 2D game. What I’m saying is it heightens Victory Heat Rally’s retro look. If you love the arcade aesthetic, make sure to switch that off in the options.

No Sprite Scaler
Screenshot by Destructoid

Happy wheels

But this wouldn’t matter if the driving wasn’t up to standard, and thankfully, it’s great. The drift button is separate from the brake, which is as the Gods of Inertia always intended. The Brake is, after all, a vestigial feature; no one actually uses it.

Drifting isn’t just a good way to get around curves. Victory Heat Rally also takes a page from recent Mario Kart games and builds up boost while your wheels are shaved down by the pavement. It’s a very similar system in which the longer you hold the drift, the larger your boost will be coming out of it.

While the demo only features three cars, you can tune each one to your liking. I didn’t get that creative, but again, it only took me a half-hour to get through the campaign. Still, you should be able tune the cars to your liking. I just want to see the colorful graphics.

Victory Heat Rally Brick Road
Screenshot by Destructoid

The Lost Arcade

Victory Heat Rally feels like this branch of racing games that just never grew. We got 3D graphics, and then everyone seemed to agree that we’re just going to make simulators now, and truly unique and outlandish racing games are the outlier. Motorstorm and Burnout are basically as ridiculous as cars get recently, and both of those properties are just dead. We’ve still got Mario Kart, so that’s something.

I want Victory Heat Rally to be a massively influential title that spurs on a wave of cartoony arcade racers. It probably won’t be, but talking enthusiastically about something is all I can really do to try and make that a reality. I just love it so much, and I can’t wait until the full version comes out.

I don’t know how long that will be. The Shakedown Demo Gold is a few months old, but there isn’t much indication on when the finished version is coming. Things have slowed down because the core developer has become a parent, and they’re trying to practice healthy working habits. I can respect that, but I’m really looking forward to playing more.


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Author
Zoey Handley
Staff Writer - Zoey is a gaming gadabout. She got her start blogging with the community in 2018 and hit the front page soon after. Normally found exploring indie experiments and retro libraries, she does her best to remain chronically uncool.