~note: This review does not include multiplayer because HRR was not open to the general public when the review was written. We will post our impressions on multiplayer shortly.
When one thinks of a Kart-Combat Racer most likely the first one to come to mind is Mario Kart. That’s fine, but not all follow the ultra family friendly design of Mario (don’t get me wrong I love Mario Kart) and branch away to a much more action packed experience. Hard Rock Racing follows the latter example pushing the ‘extreme’ boundaries in a racer and comes closer to Rumble Racing (underrated PS2 game).
Sometime’s racing dirty happens to be more fun than what your Gran Turismo clean racers can offer. How many times are you in last place and all you want to do is to sabotage the other racers, well that’s when Kart-Combat racers come in. Now it’s time to get ahead of the pack by bombarding homing missiles at the racers that dare race in front of you…Kabloosh! That’ll teach’em…But what type of arsenal is at your exposal? Glad you asked. Mines and homing missiles, that’s it, not that much weapons variation but the good news is that these two weapons are implemented well. The intensity and complexity of shooting a homing missile becomes clear when you understand how and when to fire it. First off let’s do homing missiles 101: If you shoot an enemy in close proximity you will blow yourself up along with the target. Don’t waste a missile when your opponent is turning around a building, lastly DO NOT fire the missile going up hill, it will just explode in your face…Nice going Einstein. As you can already see there’s a certain strategy involved with the combat action becoming more intense and more extreme. What’s more amazing is how the AI uses the weapons.
I’m still blown away by the AI, it’s some of the best AI to hit the Mac App Store. The AI uses the weapons often and more shockingly…smartly. Ex: they will fire missiles often and blow you up and place the mines in logical locations and the AI doesn’t stop there. Many racers AI suffer from Rubber-Band Syndrome that always changes the AI to either being slightly ahead of you or nipping at your heels. This flawed game mechanic doesn’t rear its ugly head with HRR. No matter where you are in the race, the AI continues racing its own race and it’s not going to slow down in order to give you a better chance to catch up. This is by far some of the most satisfying racing AI I have ever come across.
HRR races take place in one city. Before you think that’s a bad thing, let me reassure you that this is done very well. By having a set location, there was enough time in development to make the city detailed and fun to explore. The courses are designed with roadblocks that vary in play style–they have some very interesting and fantastic course layouts. And the icing on the cake is the “I know where I am” feeling while speeding down the streets.
The races are made up of a few different modes: Circuit Race, Sprint, Race, and Free Drive. Each mode brings a different gameplay experience to the table. The circuit race is your standard lap race and becomes crazy with mines scattered on the streets and homing missiles being fired in every which direction. While in Sprint Mode, while still having the combat, it becomes a mad dash to the end with less cluttered weapons. And Free Drive is open roads with no racing, or any other cars for that matter. This is a great feature that allows you to explore the city (again that’s quite detailed) and hone your driving skills. More importantly though is after unlocking Free Drive (yes you do need to unlock it) it takes some time to set up the handling of your buggy. There are a couple options that you can tweak but surprisingly it’s the smalls tweaks that really matter and change the feel of your car–which is fantastic since the game only consists of one buggy model.
Like the city and courses the overall presentation ie. soundtracks and graphics is for the most part outstanding. While I’m not one to listen to Rock music, the production value is remarkable and is much better than some games that use the rock loops in garage band (on a side note listen to how the music changes when you drive under water–very cool). As I stated above, graphically the city is pretty detailed, but I need to add–a bit on the shiny side. Pretty much everything has a metallic shine to it, even the grass. Anyways, for a game at this price the graphics are much better than your standard Mac App Store Game.
Out of the gate this game that has so much depth to it, we are amazed at how few problems we found. The game takes a little longer to load than we would like, but nothing substantial. We have seen occasional, rare bugs, the most common being near objects ie:buildings, walls and having the camera display nothing but the scenery backdrop instead of your car and the occasional unwanted pop up. Other than that the game runs very smoothly and it’s easy to jump in and out of races.
The Bottom Line:
HRR is a phenomenal Kart racer and anyone who considers themselves a fan of this genre owes it to themselves to give it a try. We can’t wait to try the multiplayer- this just might be the multiplayer game of the summer!