Racing Review

Pacer – Review | Breaking the Sound Barrier

In the vast pantheon of video game genres, the humble racer has stood proudly amongst gun-toting behemoths and leviathanic plumbers. Over the years the genre has split into many sub-genres, one of which is the rarely discussed, yet fondly remembered anti-gravity racer. Pioneered by the likes of F-Zero and honed to a mirror sheen by games like Wipeout, its saga is almost as long as the dearth of content between entries. Thankfully, we now have Pacer to help fill the gulf.

Pacer 3

Zooping Around At the Speed of Sound

Blitzing onto the scene at over 1000mph, Pacer starts holding ‘A’ at two and gets off to a fantastic start. Crispy visuals with a silky smooth performance are two things that, as a fan of the genre since my immaculate conception, are requirements, not recommendations. Pacer nails an unflinching 60fps like a venerable carpenter brandishing a hammer made of distilled ultra-modernism. 

Whether it be the tracks or the mystery-fuel-filled hovercraft you are piloting, Pacer looks the part. Going for a slightly more grungy future as opposed to the more slick and shiny aesthetic of its prime progenitor, Wipeout, it manages to pull off a style that is both appealing and, for the most part, less seen. Pacer does, eventually, manage to convey a fairly hefty sense of speed to boot. These games are all about breaking the sound barrier, and once I started piloting the more elite craft, my eyes began to melt. 

The last bit of seemingly irrelevant fluff that is worth discussing before gameplay is the music – which is bangs more than my ship going around a slight bend. Every track tickled my fancy in a way that got me in the mood to wreck whatever AI (more on that later) fool that got in my way. Racing games, especially anti-gravity racing games, need a backing track that gets the ventricles bopping, and Pacer gave me some mighty fine palpitations.

Pacer - 1

Post-Game Checks: Complete

So Pacer ticks all the preliminary boxes so far. It’s pretty, smooth, and sounds as good a prepubescent choir boy at a recital. But how does it play? Pretty damn well if I’m being honest. Controlling your craft is incredibly simple, making navigating the winding courses a breeze once I got the hang of it. Now, it does lack some of the nuances of a game like Wipeout as you cannot adjust the pitch of your vehicle, but for me, that gave it a slick arcade vibe that I loved. 

Another potential niggle for some will be the overall lack of verticality of the tracks on offer. Competitors like FAST RMX or even retro titles like F-Zero X have you yeeting across large expanses and generally utilizing its anti-gravity to its fullest. Pacer doesn’t really do this. Tracks vary of course, but for the most part, it stays flat and taking to the skies is not really an option. 

Whilst racing is the primary focus of Pacer, playing fair is not a requirement anyone is expected to adhere to. Of course, I am talking about weapons. Each track has a bevy of armament pick-ups strewn across the futuristic road and picking one of them up allows you to unleash hell on whatever poor sod stands in your way. Pacer puts a very nice twist on the formula, however, by removing randomness entirely.

So Long RNJesus

Instead of rolling a dice and praying for a ‘Bullet Bill’ to save the day, you customize what weapons you want your ship to be outfitted with prior to the race. In a sense, the weapon pickups are ammunition for those weapons. Needless to say, outfitting your ship is a huge part of the games loop, and experimenting with different loadouts is encouraged. Launching missiles and unloading hot lead is only the beginning after all. This variety comes with a price, unfortunately. Namely in sound design. Weapons sound rather limp making the art of war unsatisfying in a way that undermines the rest of the game’s production values. When I fire a rocket I want the impact to shake the foundations of the earth, not resemble a fairly weak fart.

Taking damage isn’t the end of the world, but it can be quite detrimental to your prospects of victory. Also littering the track are shield boosters, which do exactly what you’d expect. My only gripe with these systems is that I found actually picking them up to be a bit of a hassle. I am fully willing to admit I might just suck, but the hitboxes on those glowing doodahs are very unforgiving.

The established mechanics are pretty darn solid then, and thankfully there is a pretty solid game to use them in. Pacer is not lacking in content or modes, and I found myself being reinvigorated whenever any particular task started to get tiring. Modes focusing on racing, time trials combat, and even a pseudo battle royale (amongst others) await any budding racer wanting to wet their whistle. There’s even a fairly lengthy campaign mode of sorts that’ll throw all of this at you in a wonderfully varied way.

Pacer - 2

All Alone

The game has a fully functional multiplayer suite – in theory. I was unable to play locally due to lockdown restrictions and unfortunately, the game is dead online. After many attempts over several days to find someone, I simply could not connect. This is a real shame as the core game is good. Very good in fact. A lot of these modes, especially the battle royale mode, could have been great – alas it was not to be.


Overall Pacer is a good game. It stumbles from time to time with flaccid weapons and a lack of an active online community, but in just about every other category, it does a corker of a job. When compared to other games in the genre, it holds up favorably and if you are a fan of said genre, then, honestly, this is one worth checking out. Heck, this is a pretty damn solid starting point too.


Platforms: XBox, PS4, PC
Purchase Link: Humble (PC/Steam)

If you would like to see more racing games, you may be interested in our review of Kandagawa Jet Girls.

Many thanks go to R8 Games Ltd for an XBox review code for this title.

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