Hotshot Racing Review | Low Poly, High Speed

When I first booted up Hotshot Racing on my PlayStation 4, I was reclined in my bed, head tilted back and legs outstretched, ready to do a few laps before I called it a night. By the end of the first race, that ended in a photo finish, I was sat upright with my legs crisscrossed and I stayed that way until I finished all 4 Grand Prix in the game, roughly an hour and a half later. I don't usually get hooked on arcade racers, the last one was Asphalt 9: Legends back in April, and although I've been tempted by a few racers since then, nothing actually grabbed me. That is until Hotshot Racing.

Hotshot Racing, from Sumo Digital and Lucky Mountain Games, is an arcade racer featuring 16 maps, not including mirrored, 3 difficulties, 3 modes, plus the main Grand Prix and 8 playable characters, each with 4 cars. Although the game doesn't have a storyline, each playable character, Keiko, Xing, Mike, Alexa, Aston, Toshiro, Marcus, and Viktor, has their own backstory and they add a bit of personality to the game with occasional dialogues triggered during the laps. And winning the Grand Prix with a character plays a small cutscene about the impact of the victory on the racer's life. Let's be honest, a narrative throughline isn't why most people are playing arcade racers, but I appreciated the notion nonetheless. With that said, let's talk about the meat and potatoes of Hotshot Racing.

The two most important factors for an arcade racer's success is gameplay and controls, and I am happy to say that Hotshot Racing nails both. There is a great sense of speed in the game and with the wind streaks appearing around the edges of the screen as you boost down a straightway, narrowly dodging a small outcropping that was trying to slow you down, is exhilarating. Unlike some arcade racers where cars seem to glide across the tracks, the 32 cars on the Hotshot Racing roster have weight with how they handle. They all also have slightly different stats, based on the criteria of Speed, Acceleration, and Drift, and finding the one car that speaks to you and pouring your race-winnings into customizing it to make it your own is a nice gameplay loop, even if the customizations, for the most part, aren't that noticeable. The controls are intuitive and even if you aren't an avid racing fan they are easy to grasp. As I said earlier, I don't often play many racing games, but by the second Grand Prix, I was already pulling drifts with the best of them. Speaking of drifts, no matter how many races I had done, approaching a corner, tapping the brake, spinning the car into a drift, and nudging the analog stick to keep the car from spinning out never got old. Looking at the developer's pedigree, with Sumo Digital having worked on Outrun 2 and last year's Team Sonic Racing, and seeing how Hotshot Racing plays, it's clear that they have a deep understanding of the sub-genre and what makes it so enjoyable.

Apart from the four Grand Prix, which consist of 4 tracks each, there are three other game modes: Arcade, Cops and Robbers, and Drive or Explode. The modes are all simple enough, Arcade is just doing laps, Cops and Robbers has you hunting down racers as a cop or driving away from cops without crashing as a robber, and Drive or Explode gives you a minimum speed limit, that increases each checkpoint, that you cannot drive under or else you will explode. But simplicity isn't a bad thing because the modes are fun and, thanks to the addition of split-screen co-op, a great way to mix up the gameplay once you finish the Grand Prix with all the characters. There is also a Time Trial which lets you race on each track against the ghost of a developer or another racer from the leaderboard. Not a significant enough mode to put hours into, but a nice bonus.

The only negative I have in terms of gameplay is that there seems to be a fair bit of rubberbanding in the game. No matter how perfect my start was and how many boosts I used, the opponents were never far behind me, with one almost always on my tail. I get making the AI a bit tougher to make it more of a challenge, but if on Expert difficulty the AI can leave me in the dust (I mean seriously I DNF'd multiple times on Expert) it seems only fair that I can do the same to AI in Normal difficulty. Now I will give the game the benefit of the doubt because there is a mechanic called slipstreaming in the game where driving behind another car will give you a temporary boost, so perhaps that is the cause of this phenomenon. But if it is rubberbanding, I would not mind seeing it disappear in a future update.

It's pretty apparent from the screenshots that Hotshot Racing has a low-poly-esque art style and it works in the game's favor on multiple levels. First off, the game isn't that visually demanding, meaning the developers can make it play smoothly on every machine it runs on from the Nintendo Switch Lite to the Xbox One X. On my PlayStation 4, the game had no hiccups or stutters during races, seemingly running at a solid 60fps. Although I will mention that the game had a weird bug in the menus where my d-pad inputs worked but none of the other buttons registered. I did go to my PlayStation home screen to make sure my controller hadn't died on me but everything worked fine outside of the game. This bug was fixed after a restart. Additionally, the visuals are reminiscent of 1992's Virtua Racing, a game that Hotshot Racing takes a lot of inspiration from and, at times, is paying respect to. The game's 16 tracks aren't complex but they sure are lively, with crowds cheering, dolphins somersaulting, and dinosaurs roaring with each lap. Of course, that isn't to say that the game can't use more tracks. But I'll get into that in a bit.

I don't have much to say about music other than the fact that it's fitting. With every lap the tempo of the beat increases, making it feel like the pace is increasing even though the gameplay remains the same. Much like the rest of the game, it's simple and effective. However, the reason why I bring up sound is that I want to give a special mention to the commentary voice-over. Hearing the commentator announce things like "one, two, three, go" and "the last lap" made me feel an unusually high sense of nostalgia for a sub-genre that I only played occasionally at a friend's house. I was sure that other players, whose love for arcade racers runs deeper than mine, would feel nostalgic, but it caught me off guard to find myself smiling at these announcements. On the note of sound, I did find the game's default sound settings a bit chaotic, with commentary voice over, music, and sound effects fighting constantly for my attention, but this can be easily changed in settings so it isn't a big problem.

Hotshot Racing is best when played with other people. Knowing that someone else's ego will inflate or deflate much like your own at the end of a race is a fun part of any competitive game. And the promise of losing track of time with friends, in a battle of who gets the final win, is arguably where Hotshot Racing's bang-for-your-buck value skyrockets. However, if you play alone, like me, not as much time can be squeezed out of the game. Don't get me wrong, I still did put quite a few hours into the game just jamming to my Spotify playlist and pretending to be Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock in Speed. And while online racing always an option, the tricky part is actually getting into a race. After trying numerous times across multiple days, the closest I got to a full multiplayer race was staring at the lobby with two other players, because a minimum of 4 players is required to start an online race. I did do a few races with a random player I came across in one of those lobbies who made a game himself to invite me, shoutout to Hey Huh, and I had fun while it lasted. It's just a bit unfortunate that finding an online match is akin to catching an Arapaima on a fly. (Yes, that's a River Monsters reference.) You can absolutely do solo races over and over again to earn more cash to pimp out your ride, but the 16 tracks, as lively as they are, can get old and personally speaking unless I have some friends come over, I don't have an urge to boot up the game for myself without new tracks giving me a reason to.

In conclusion, if you can pick up Hotshot Racing with a few friends or have an extra controller laying around for some good old fashioned couch co-op, it is a perfect game to scratch that arcade racer itch. With solid controls, vibrant and lively tracks, and a great sense of speed, Hotshot Racing manages to bring the classic arcade racer feel to modern consoles. However, if you're playing solo, the game doesn't offer nearly as much replayability past the Grand Prix and a few single races, and online matchmaking leaves a lot to be desired. Hotshot Racing is out now PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. A review code on the PlayStation 4 was provided by the publisher.

Post a Comment


  1. Let me know if you have any questions about the game and I'll try to answer them. Thanks for reading!