Hotshot Racing is at first glance an unassuming indie racer, and a visual throwback to 90's arcade classics. But the suite of gameplay options, pitch perfect handling, and rock solid performance has catapulted this into essential territory.
Although the devil is quite often in the details, there's very much something to be said for stripping away needless exposition or narrative context, and diving straight into the action (a lesson The Crew and Need for Speed desperately needs to learn).
Hotshot Racing places responsive controls and frame rate stability above all other considerations, to great effect. It's a breath of fresh air for an arcade racer, to eliminate any semblance of pretence and thrust you headfirst into often thrilling, skill based competition.
Drifting feels absolutely wonderful, sitting somewhere between Ridge Racer and Burnout 2, and evokes all the best parts of that nostalgia without being behold to the past.
Don't be deceived by the simplified graphical palette either; there's plenty of neat animated moments on every track that makes each race feel bespoke. The level of polish is seriously impressive, and one of the standout things that really grabbed our attention. Even playing split screen, performance is retained.
Each character has access to unique cars that fit into a particular class of vehicle, with the option to customise and tweak their looks depending on your preferences. The sheer wealth of options across the entire experience, from local offline play, to private matches with A.I, and a party system which can take you into online public matches with a friend, is frankly best in class.
Not to drag on Need for Speed too much, but Heat and Payback both stipulate that you slog through the opening chapters of their respective campaigns before the privilege of multiplayer is unlocked. Meanwhile, even in Beta form, Hotshot Racing gets it right from the off.
It knows exactly what you're looking for from this type of release, and ticks those boxes with a confidence seldom seen in this specific genre.
Even traditional game modes like Grand Prix, Time Trial, and Cops and Robbers feel thoughtfully implemented, but it's the Drive or Explode mode that really sticks out. Again, not particularly original as a concept, but the twist here is it's more about hitting an escalating top speed than your position in the race.
Typically, the driver in last would be eliminated after a set period of time, whittling the race down to the longest surviving competitors. But here, you can bringing up the rear, nailing your drifts and maxing out your speedometer, and still be in with a chance.
Hotshot Racing represents a kind of indie game that might pass you by, dismissed for it's seemingly "basic" graphics and relatively unremarkable premise. But this is a text book case of "don't judge a book by its cover", and to be clear, those "basic" graphics we've alluded to are wonderful in motion.
If anything, a no frills, back to basics racer is the perfect Summer release, and given its multi platform ambitions, it looks set to be a hit.
Hotshot Racing launches Summer 2020, for PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Nintendo Switch.