I’ll admit it: I’m spoiled. When it comes to games, if I’m not given the option to change certain basic things, it can ruin the experience. Such is the case with FAST Racing Neo, a futuristic racing game for WiiU. Though it has solid controls, good courses, and a real sense of speed, it’s somewhat undermined by a lack of sound, view, and control options.
Made by Germany’s Shin’en Multimedia — who previously did FAST Racing League as well as the unrelated shooters Nano Assault and Nano Assault Neo — FAST Racing Neo is an arcade-style racer in which you steer a hovership over twisty, and often dangerous tracks. Or, to put it another way, it’s basically a cross between F-Zero and Wipeout.
Well, with one rather interesting distinction. While Wipeout and other futuristic racing games have small pieces of their tracks that propel your vehicle forward even faster than normal, the ones in FAST Racing Neo are color coded, and only work if, at the time you’re on top of them, you’ve changed the “Phase” color of your vehicle to match the color of the boosting section. In fact, this system works even better than the regular boost arrows in other games. If your phase is blue when you go over a blue section, you get a far bigger boost than when you’ve hit a similar spot in Wipeout, et al. There’s even sections where its not a boost that’s color coded, but a jump, which will really send you flying when you match. Best of all, there’s no seriously penalty if you screw up; you ship doesn’t explode if you’re blue when you hit a patch of orange.
While this color switching system keeps you on your toes, it’s not the only way. Many of the tracks in FAST Racing Neo have some interesting hazards, including, but not limited to, small tornados, large fan blades, even low-hanging icicles. You can even, when you hit a color coded jump, go flying off the track into the nearby woods.
FAST Racing Neo also distinguishes itself from other futuristic racing games, and in fact many regular racing games as well, by leaving colorful pellets on the track for you to pick up like you’re Pac-man. These are used to fill-up your boost meter for when you want a speed bump but can’t wait until some colored spot comes along.
While you go really fast in FAST Racing Neo, the game also makes you feel like you’re going really fast as well. Which is an especially neat trick given that it only has third-person options when it comes to the view; there are no in-the-cockpit views, which is usually the one you usually have to use in a racing game to really feel like you’re going fast.
Sadly, though, this is where the problems begin for FAST Racing Neo. Besides not having a cockpit view, which is essential for a racing game, the three views it does have are all behind-the-car shots that aren’t that varied, with the furthest one away — which is the one I prefer — being, well, not that far away.
Things get worse when you get to the music in FAST Racing Neo, which you can neither turn down nor off. Now, while this is a problem if you don’t like the music (which I didn’t) or if you don’t like to have music on while you’re racing (which I don’t), it’s also a problem because the music is so loud compared to the sound effects that you can hardly hear the engines or the whoosh as you blow past your competition.
There’s also a lack of options when it comes to the buttons of FAST Racing Neo. Unlike almost every other racing game these days (save for Mario Kart 8), this doesn’t use the right trigger to accelerate and the left trigger to decelerate. Heck, it doesn’t even use the lowest of the face buttons, “B,” to accelerate and the left one, “Y,” to decelerate. No, instead it has you use the right face button, “A,” to speed up and the lowest, “B,” to slow down.
Admittedly, it won’t take you long to get used to FAST Racing Neo‘s uncommon and thus counter-intuitive button configuration. It took me basically until the end of the first race. But it’s still annoying in part because there’s no reason for the change. While the trigger buttons are used to slide your vehicle to the left or right, that could’ve just as easily been done with the left and right bumper buttons, leaving the triggers to go fast or slow down, “B” for boosting, and the “Y” or “A” for the color coding. At the very last, players should’ve had the option.
FAST Racing Neo also lets you steer by turning the entire WiiU gamepad, but as so often the case, using the thumbsticks is way more accurate and intuitive.
What ultimately makes FAST Racing Neo such a disappointment, though, is that if you could turn down the music, change the viewpoint one that’s useful, and reconfigure the buttons to your liking, this would’ve way more fun. Maybe not Wipeout or F-Zero at-their-peaks fun, but fun nonetheless. The tracks are twisty and challenging, as well as varied and numerous, and there are a good number of vehicles as well. It has a great sense of speed, as well as solid steering controls, and the color-coordinated boosts and jumps put an interesting spin on things. It even (ironically) has a good number of options when it comes to how you play, including a solid single-player career mode, two or four player split-screen event, and eight-player online races.
Admittedly, the problems with FAST Racing Neo don’t render this unplayable. Or even terrible. Though not being able to turn off the music comes really close. But it’s still a disappointment. Sure, it’s just small stuff, but it’s the small stuff that makes this more frustrating than fun.