A Humble Start
Do you remember back in the 90’s two games called Extreme G and Wipeout? Futuristic racing games that involved high speeds. Both were cult classics.
Well, two kids growing up on these games went to college and decided to become video game developers. Their graduating project was a game called Nitronic Rush, a futuristic racing game like the two above, with a huge innovation: parkour style of platforming as you speed across broken race tracks.
The way this works is by giving players control over both turning, acceleration, and thrusters on all sides of the car that can rotate the vehicle. Not to mention the ability to jump, and fly. This allows the player to jump from track to track while flipping his car around to match whatever surface he needs, plus tricks which can be performed for points and reducing the cooldown on the thrusters. Death is not a big deal, as you simply respawn at the last checkpoint. Here is the game in action:
The game you see above in the video can still be downloaded for free. However, Nitronic Rush is not the point of this article. Instead, the point is the next game this team, Refract Studios, made which was based on Nitronic Rush is Distance. Due to the success of their college project, the Nitronic Rush team used Kickstarter to skip waiting for a developer to grow some balls. After a successful fundraiser, Distance was born.
Distance fixes all of the bugs and problems of their college project and more; Nitronic Rush had some of the weirdest physics you could imagine as the car seems to float through the air, not to mention flying allowing players to bypass most of the challenges (except in the areas where flying is disabled). No more – flying is now much slower than driving, so if you want the fastest times the player must use driving as much as possible. Additionally, flying is much harder to control. As for the physics, the car no longer bounces around and cannot be spun indefinitely with the side thrusters. They took their base product and polished the hell out of it, and it is glorious.
A Star Is Born
The sense of thrill the player gets as he rushes through an obstacle course of death is sublime. The game admittedly has a bit of a learning curve, but nothing too drastic or unenjoyable, and before long you’ll be doing wall flips while never letting off the boosters.
As you can see, the game is very pretty and stylish, and you don’t need a very high end machine to enjoy it either. Even at the highest settings I never experienced any slowdown, except on some poorly made community maps (more on that in a second). Racing through apocalyptic wastelands has never been done so well or beautifully.
As you can see, the pictures speak for themselves. The levels are varied, complex, gorgeous, and creative. But I still haven’t told you the best part: this is all community made! The actual game of Distance has very little to it – just an incomplete campaign, as the developers still say the game is in beta – but it does have a level editor. And apparently, the level editor works very well. As I am writing this, there are at least 180 unofficial maps included in the community map pack (which anyone who buys the game can download for free), and I have only made it through a third of them in 8 hours. And I’m not even talking about being good at the game—most of my attempts were just to figure out how to survive the racetrack.
Once you do become competent, you can race others in real time, although there’s no collusion between cars yet. So the multiplayer is still incomplete. However, the game is, at its core, a time-trial racing game through dangerous environments, and this core gameplay is simply amazing. I haven’t played a racing game this good since the 90’s. In theory, mastering this game could take hundreds of hours.
So, what you get for the $20 is a cool game with good core gameplay, plus a level editor. Because people are using this level editor to such a great effect, this game is huge with probably at least 50-60 hours of casual gameplay plus many more to come now that the beta has been opened to the public.
You may think it is weird to rate a game based on it’s community driven content, but I disagree. Part of the reason Half-Life, Starcraft, and Warcraft III made such an impact on the gaming world was not because of the original game itself, but because of all the additional content and mods created through its level editors. As such, the developers of Distance should be proud of having made a kickass level editor that others can use. The racing is now endless—all the player needs to do is go to the community tab of Distance, browse through the collections and click subscribe for any of the “All Map Packs,” restart the game and all the maps are downloaded. Not all of the maps are good, but the vast majority I’ve played so far are excellent.
As based on our rating system:
Gameplay – A thrilling racing game. Parkour style tricks and maneuvering that rewards a players skill. Challenging yet not impossible. The innovation of including all these elements is praiseworthy. Multiplayer is incomplete, however, because there is no collusion between cars, so you’re just racing next to ghosts of other players. 35 out of 45.
Controls – Right now, the game is best played with a gamepad, because there is no mouse support. This game could be a lot more user friendly for those who like to play with a mouse and keyboard, and I think if the mouse was used to rotate the car instead of the keyboard then this game would be a lot easier to control. Since it lacks proper PC support, and since most of the content is being created by PC users, the control score takes a hit. 15 out of 25.
Graphics – A beautiful game. Runs great. Looks great. Backgrounds and levels are interesting and varied due to it being mostly community created. Doesn’t try to be realistic yet still looks smooth and cool. Some of the textures can be a bit bland or blocky, however. Also the car itself can be pretty blocky. 11 out of 15.
Sound – Do you like Daft Punk? If you do you’ll love this game’s music. The soundtracks are good, but only less than an hour worth of music. Still, I think the music in this game is cooler than 95% of the games I’ve played. 10 out of 10.
Story – Something about racing your car to the end of a big computer to stop an evil virus or something? Don’t even know, the campaign isn’t complete. 0 out of 5.
Total Score – 71%. A ridiculously awesome take on the racing genre inspired by classics of the past. For $20 with the oodles of community created content this is a steal. You can also download Nitronic Rush for free if you want to test out the gameplay before playing Distance, which is the real deal. If the developers add mouse support and a real multiplayer mode, then the final score of this game will be over 90%. As a true game snob, I can count the amount of 90%+ games released per year on one hand.
Over the last week, the writers at RXN have decided to also appraise a game’s masculinity as well, to help combat the poison of SJW influence in the gaming world (not to mention that being a man is awesome). So at the end of every review will also be a short summary of how masculine a game is.
How does Distance hold up? I think the answer is pretty obvious. There are few things more manly than fast, powerful machines. Even little boys who are barely able to talk, will look at a vehicle and say, “CAR?!?”
Total Masculine Value – Eight out of eight pumping cylinders.