Reviews

Quantum Rush: Champions

Quantum Rush: Champions

Xbox One Edition

Developed & Published by GameArt Studio

 With a title like that, a Rush – Quantum Leap crossover was squandered

With a title like that, a Rush – Quantum Leap crossover was squandered

 

The futuristic racing genre has a storied history within which the F-Zero and Wipeout series have exemplified blisteringly fast, gravity defying and immensely difficult yet addictive action that hooked many. Hooked, past tense, being the operative term. Combined, F-Zero GX and Wipeout 2048, the latest global releases of each franchise, accounted to only 990,000 sales[1]. In an industry where, mistakenly or not, triple A sales of 3.4 million can be regarded as a disappointment[2], the birth of another high fidelity technical masterpiece from either franchise on the back of their previous performances is increasingly unlikely. For fans looking for a new entry into the genre, Quantum Rush: Champions for the Xbox One is a valiant first effort. At times it approaches its spiritual predecessors, but a combination of performance issues and awkward game modes ensures that those heights are not reached.

Those looking for impossibly fast speeds will be disappointed. Lower tier craft give the impression of an old Nissan Micra struggling up a hill more so than the 900kmph + hovercraft that the speedometer insists are under user control. Combined with the fact that some early stages are so wide they make Mario Kart Wii levels seem akin to narrow country lanes, experienced racers will feel jaded. Fortunately, as progress is made through the game’s career mode faster vehicles and better tracks are unlocked. Although peak speeds only feel  like an F-Zero craft taking it easy, narrower stages combined with death drops and some challenging corners engender a sense of achievement when particularly tricky levels are bested. Handling feels weighty with relatively slow turning circles which can be augmented by appropriate use of the right and left air brakes in order to precisely cut through the tighter stages without the twitchiness of other futuristic racers. On the whole later levels reside in the challenging but not frustrating side of town, although certain death drops can cause the game to misbehave, respawning the player in a jarring, almost immediate, manner in some cases whilst being content to watch the player sink slowly into oblivion before resetting them in others. Happily, this does not occur often enough to take away from the enjoyment of the twistier and narrower stages, but the inconsistent feedback is troubling when it does arise.  

The courses themselves feature a nice selection of environments to drive through, ranging from underground lava ridden mining facilities and densely populated cities to space stations and tropical islands. While the tracks surfaces are not particularly pretty, a few of the surrounding backgrounds are nice to look at, especially urban stages which feature a myriad of air traffic. More movement in the background of other levels would have been welcome though; underwater sections waste the opportunity to have Monster Hunter style leviathans or schools of fish swimming around underwater pipes which makes these sections feel lifeless. Less forgivable is the lack of interactivity between the vehicles and their environments – despite gliding over waters and deserts there are no trails of dust or water kicked up by the futuristically rugged craft available; a missed opportunity to add some visual flair. One does have to wonder if such an omission was caused by the gut wrenching framerate issues that consistently crop up during the early stages of a race when competitors are tightly bunched together. Although it usually clears up once the field spreads out, a couple of city based stages chug as much as a Captain Falcon’s pissed uncle Sergeant Sloshed during work dos, rendering them borderline unplayable.

 If anyone could advise what this orange tube thing is for I’d appreciate it

If anyone could advise what this orange tube thing is for I’d appreciate it

 

Numerous weapons are available to help combat other competitors throughout Quantum Rush. Mines, which target either a shield or armour, home-in missiles, EMPs, and shields account for just some of the power-ups, all unhelpfully indicated by icons that won’t be recognised initially. Given that the options menu lacks a section to describe what each power up does, there remain certain items that I still do not know the effects of. Each weapon shot increases the temperature of a vessel, as does using boost power, which like F-Zero, also drains your shields. Lose your shield, and your armour becomes exposed. Firing weapons, activating boosters, or driving over larva increases temperatures, so tactically employing weapons is important in order to ameliorate the chances of a fiery doom. That’s the theory at least. In reality the risk-reward opportunity cost is skewed towards risk since numerous respawns are available each race, and occur almost immediately after a death. Resultantly, though getting involved in skirmishes with others is fun, they end up feeling more a diversion than a meaningful addition.

In order to unlock new stages career mode must be advanced through, and herein players are forced to play some modes which are not up to scratch. Each tier is gated by a boss, who can only be battled once enough medals are earned. Traditional races and elimination races – which destroy the last placed runner after X amount of time - work well. There’s a genuine sense that everyone is jockeying for the lead, albeit the AI does tend to crash a little too often. Sadly winning these challenges represents only about a quarter of the medals needed to earn a boss fight. Functional yet boring 3 lap time trials and single lap checkpoint time trials must also be beaten and, worse still, death and courier races. Collecting X amount of packages within a time limit is the essence of Courier mode, wherein the AI won’t make any noticeable effort to collect the packages that are supposedly being fought over, making things trivial and boring. Alternatively death races frustrate given that aiming power-ups is tricky, but nowhere near as tough as aiming primary weapons. Any gradient changes either cause lasers to fly skyward or harmlessly into the ground. Only on perfectly flat surfaces is using them even an option, and even then, your craft will have to be perfectly aligned with an opponent to score a hit. What’s worse is that certain boss challenges require their destruction, and some can regenerate their health, making them tests of player stamina rather than high-octane fun.

 Aqua Blue: The natural colour of a cracking slide

Aqua Blue: The natural colour of a cracking slide

On the plus side, arcade mode allows for some impressive customisation. There are obvious options such as the number of laps (which can be upped to 99!), the amount of opponents and difficulty. More impressively, intervals between eliminations, penalties for missing checkpoints, base health percentages and damage modifiers can also be changed to the heart’s content. If career mode did not have to be advanced through in order to unlock the interesting tracks, arcade would be a great place to spend the majority of the game. Sadly, precisely because the game forces career mode to be played I found myself burnt out before I could really step into arcade and enjoy playing the game to its strengths. In time, I’ll likely come back to Quantum Rush and have a good time in arcade mode with what I have managed to unlock. I just wish GameArt Studios had ironed out the performance issues before release, and someone there had focused the game on its strengths. Who knows, perhaps a sequel will come which sorts out these gripes, adds multiplayer, and ups the speed. Until then though, what Quantum Rush Provides is a decent racer that can be enjoyed in short bursts when the player has the option to play the game on their terms.

 6\10 – Above Average

 

All images sourced from the developer’s Steam page.

 

[1] F-Zero GX (GC) Sales - http://www.vgchartz.com/game/695/f-zero-gx/

 Wipeout 2048 (Vita) Sales - http://www.vgchartz.com/game/51793/wipeout-2048/

[2]  Square Enix disappointed by Tomb Raider Sales

http://www.kotaku.com.au/2013/05/square-enix-disappointed-by-sales-of-tomb-raider-wants-to-maximise-profits-during-development/