Available on PC, PS4, Xbox, and Switch
This one was a blast to review. Inertial Drift, the newest release from Level 91 Entertainment, introduces a twin-stick control for drift racing that is innovative, challenging, and rewarding once mastered. While the left stick controls steering, the right stick gives you control of the rear of the vehicle, allowing you to initiate high speed drifts through a beautifully-designed collection of tracks set in a retro 90’s future. The tracks are narrow, the turns are tight, and the sensation of speed is evident from the first start line. The collection of retro, Borderlands-esque vehicles all handle differently, providing a lot of replay-ability as you work to master each vehicle.
The tutorial is a great introduction to the steering mechanics, and you quickly realize that the left stick only provides fine tune steering. To complete each race, you will need to rely heavily on drifting for almost every turn. Early in the game you are informed that all cars have been equipped with a Phase Shift Impact Prevention System, which will prevent you from colliding with other vehicles. This being a racing game, I thought that was strange. However, this impact prevention technology is a necessity. The courses are narrow and challenging, and eliminating the potential for crashes allows you to focus on your line. While other racing games provide an optimal race line with brake indicators, there is no such thing in Inertial Drift. It is up to you to find the best line for each vehicle.
The story mode introduces you to a cast of four characters/vehicles to choose from, and you follow your driver as he/she prepares for the upcoming Grand Prix. The gameplay is streamlined: you start at a location and complete a series of 3 races to unlock the next track, rinse and repeat. There are seven different race types:
· Practice lets you familiarize yourself with the track. This is always available before jumping into events.
· Race is your standard 1 vs. 1 race against an opponent.
· Time Attack puts you alone on the course against the clock.
· Ghost Battle will put you 1 vs. 1 against a ghost vehicle driving that character’s optimal line in a 3-lap race.
· Dual puts you head to head against a single opponent, the distance between you and your opponent fills the distance bar. Get far enough ahead, and you win.
· Endurance requires you to hit checkpoints before time runs out to add more time on the clock. Stay in the race for a certain amount of time to win.
· Style removes the necessity to finish first, and awards points based on your drifting abilities.
As you progress, challenges will become available where you can unlock additional vehicles. Once you complete the story mode,Grand Prix - a series of five race events to prove your mastery - is unlocked, as well as a harder difficulty mode called Xtra Crispy.
Unfortunately, story mode left me wanting more. There just isn’t much there. Completion took about 3-4 hours and didn’t include all of the game’s available racetracks. Several are only available in the other game modes. While each character has a slightly different narrative, there isn’t much character depth. Here is an example. During my first playthrough I chose Edward as my driver, a character who isn’t really interested in racing, but just loves to drive. As I progressed through the story mode, I was waiting for a rival to appear. You know… someone that would talk a little trash and light a fire in Edward that would motivate him to win. But, to my surprise, every character was extremely supportive, motivating, and genuinely wanted each other to succeed. It was an almost annoyingly positive experience.
Aside from Story Mode and Grand Prix, the game offers a few other game modes.
· Challenge tasks you with completing objectives to unlock additional characters and vehicles.
· Arcade where you can create custom races and post your lap time to an online leaderboard.
· Splitscreen for local multiplayer.
· Online where you can play against others online.
There are a few aspects of the game that could be improved which became evident the more I played. During races, your opponent will often pop up on the screen and have little comments for you when you successfully navigate portions of the track. However, given the speed of the vehicle and the necessity to focus on upcoming turns, it was difficult at times to see what they were saying. Additionally, there is no mini map, so I found myself having to practice each track several times before I felt comfortable enough to start the next race. Not necessarily a bad thing, but I think I would have liked the ability to toggle a mini map on or off. Lastly, I was unable to ever find an opponent for an online match, which was a major letdown.
Final Grade: B+
This is a great arcade racing game that is worth adding to your collection. If you have played other popular racing games such as FORZA or Driveclub, you know that a huge focus is put on realism, requiring an almost singular devotion to that game to master the racing mechanics. To me, those games contain too much content. With huge open worlds and a cluttered map full of side quests and challenges, it is hard to know where to start. With Inertial Drift, all that bloat is removed, and you can truly focus on racing.
I’d recommend Inertial Drift to anyone who loves to pursue perfection. If you are driven in the pursuit of that perfect line and the lowest lap time, this is a game you will want to pick up. Hopefully there will be an Inertial Drift 2 that builds on the great foundation established here and expands on the disappointingly short story mode.