It’s not exactly the best time for fans of futuristic racing. With no new F-Zero on the horizon and the WipEout series seemingly dead, too, fans have to turn to the independent scene in the hope that something almost as good will do the trick.
The Switch has a couple of decent options already. Launch title Fast RMX remains the best of the bunch, offering phenomenal racing that still looks incredible all these years later, while Rise: Race the Future takes a while to get used to but is eventually a fun time. We’d love to add Future Aero Racing S Ultra to this list, but it falls a bit short.
Future Aero Racing S Ultra (or FAR S Ultra if you prefer) is your typical future-inspired racer with floating cars that look suspiciously like those in the WipEout series. At its core it’s straightforward enough: pick a car, pick a cup (there are five in total, which three races each) and try to finish top of the leaderboard when all the dust has settled.
There are some interesting mechanics in here that show there was at least some effort made to keep things novel. While you have your typical speed boosts on the track, going over one will also build up an extra boost gauge. When this is full you can activate a special boost that’s not only extremely fast but also gives you a shield that stops you taking damage if you hit a barrier.
Since your ship’s energy can be a little on the low side, this means the boost works in two ways. If you’re an expert, you’ll obviously want to use it on straights where you can get the most benefit from its extra speed. If you’re not so great, though, you can save it for sharp turns so you can plough your way round them, slamming into the walls unharmed.
As you level up you’ll unlock progressively faster vehicles, but as they improve the number of boosts required to fill up their meter grows too, meaning there’s a genuine level of strategy there: in some circumstances it may actually be better to choose a slower car because you’ll get your extra boost more often.
It’s all quite clever, then, but the problem is that the execution doesn’t quite live up to it. The AI opponents are annoyingly unforgiving, even on the lowest of the five difficulty settings available, and if you miss one or two boosts there’s a good chance someone will plough through your back and take a huge chunk of energy off you, probably making you explode and lose a chunk of time as you respawn.
Some of the tracks can also be irritating. One in particular appears to be set during a tornado, which apparently means filling the screen with static that makes it nearly impossible to see where you’re going. Having the odd course like this is bad enough, but when the Cups are only three races long you don’t really get to have a ‘bad’ race because you don’t have the time to build your points back up.
And then there’s the music. Oh, the music. Some of it is perfectly fine, but one or two tracks are poor and one of them in particular is — with no hint of exaggeration — the worst piece of music we’ve heard in a game for maybe decades. If you could put a microphone up to despair, this is what it would sound like. We had to stop taking screenshots for this review so we could tweet a clip of it (which led to it ‘blowing up’, as the kids say). Luckily, you can turn the music off.
Nothing about FAR S Ultra is particularly offensive (except the music, which is a crime against the concept of ears). It has some clever ideas but the execution is a little lacklustre, and the relatively low number of tracks combined with the annoying AI and the unforgiving nature of its difficulty means it certainly won’t be to everyone’s tastes. If you don’t have Fast RMX then get that first, but we’ve played worse racing games for $7.