Developed by indie studio Varkian Empire, Obliteracers is a very tricky game to place on the ever broadening racing games spectrum as it's not quite like anything I've ever played before. It's probably best to think of Obliteracers as a mix between the likes of RC Pro Am and Micro Machines with the emphasis on party-focused action complete with weapons all wrapped in a cartoon-esque aesthetic.
Don't go expecting any traditional racing action whereby you tally up the laps though. Obliteracers, as the name suggests, is all about taking out your opponents by any means necessary. You can earn victory by bumping foes off the track, racing them off the screen (Micro Machines style) and of course by utilising an array of delightfully deadly weapons.
Content with little contents
It's fair to say that Obliteracers is not exactly brimming with content and offers Career and Versus modes only. The latter will enable you to participate in online and local multiplayer races which we'll get to later.
The career mode is of course the main single player portion of the game but consists of a paltry 24 events. The events are unlocked in sequence by acquiring the requisite amount of bombs with one to three on offer should you finish in the top three positions - standard racing game fare, then.
The first few offerings in the career mode introduces you to each of the game’s events. Continuing with the minimalistic theme, Obliteracers has just four event types to keep you occupied. In Survival you'll need to be the last person alive to secure a point. Knockout will see you earning a point for every person you take out, whereas Endurance is much the same apart from the addition of so-called “instant” re-spawns. Finally the Leader event grants you points from others when leading the rest of the pack.
Vehicles are very responsive and negotiating turns feels smooth and satisfying. Most of the events play out in rapid fire rounds and should you slide off the track or get blown up you can skip the round to get back into the action quickly. Bizarrely, if you choose not to skip the remaining action you are given control of a handy homing missile which you can target onto your closest rivals which is a rather novel feature.
Each game type requires a slightly different approach for success which keeps the action interesting for the most part. However, some events simply drag on for far too long and get monotonous. In contrast, the 16 player events are too chaotic and can often see you fall behind and out of the action all too easily, particularly if you have the misfortune to start the round at the back of the pack. Racing alongside 10 plus competitors also presents the problem of actually obtaining a weapon which can be a tricky business.
Obliteracers features several weapons which are colour coded so you can collect your favourites more easily. Much like BlazeRush, collected weapons are physically mounted to your vehicle which leaves you in little doubt to which weapon you actually collected.
Each of the weapons feels different from one another and you need to approach each in a unique manner. For example the BBQ weapon shoots flames from the sides of your vehicle so you'll need to get alongside your opponent to scorch them appropriately. Other weapons such as the ouchie rockets and the shock wave will require you to be in close proximity to your foe as they have limited range and you have to make physical contact with an opponent to blast them when using the arc zapper weapon.
You are given a shield ability which can be deployed at any time to protect yourself. There is a catch, however; once the shield is active you lose the ability to accelerate or brake so you need to pick and choose where and when to use your shield, which adds a nice element of strategy to proceedings. Furthermore you can actually absorb acquired weapons to repair your vehicle, at the expense of the weapon naturally.
Multiplied by multiplayer
The local split-screen and online multiplayer action found within the Versus mode are by far where the most fun in Obliteracers is found. Hosting an multiplayer race provides a plethora of modifiers which drastically alters the action to make the experience more fun (in most cases). Instant re-spawning weapons, low gravity, reversed steering and double damage are just a handful of modifiers that can be applied to an event which can make the action “lough out loud” fun.
Sadly, the console version of Obliteracers only allows for four human players to race at once compared to a staggering 16 in the PC version. Once connected to an online multiplayer lobby, (which can admittedly be difficult due to the low numbers) the action runs surprisingly smoothly and you are waiting mere seconds before each event so there’s no staring at the lobby or loading screens.
Once more Obliteracers disappoints with the numbers game - there are a pitiful four tracks. Although these do feature variants with some night time and wet weather races available, you cannot escape the fact that four tracks is simply too low a number to keep you entertained for any great length of time.
Whilst the tropical island and city tracks have good life to them with ramps, bridges, intersecting traffic and elevated areas, the ship and desert environments feel bland and unfinished by comparison. This is especially a crime given the poor numbers to begin with.
Vehicles and characters are definitely a strong point of Obliteracers as they ooze personality with their highly detailed and colourful appearance. It’s a shame, then, that there are no sound bites and when playing the single player experience you are stuck with the one character which is unforgiving.
The same-screen racer features a rather jolly audio track which matches the action and aesthetic well. Weapons sound purposeful and ring out with a gratifying crunch and boom. Sadly, as found with similar titles, your vehicles can barely be heard over the action which is a particular shame given how much love Varkian Empire has poured into them.
Varkian Empire should be commended for bringing their own brand of weapon-based arcade racing action to the table. However, Obliteracers feels somewhat unfinished with a short career mode which feels more like a series of events slapped together with no sense of progression. Couple this with the fact that it provides very little replay value outside of obtaining the maximum number of bombs, the career mode ultimately feels shallow and is probably best viewed as a side portion to the online action where this game really shines.
If you are looking for some couch co-op or online fun, Obliteracers may just be what you are looking for. However, if you are a keen single-player racer it becomes hard to recommend due to a lack of tracks and events in the career mode. Obliteracers is therefore a racer which is best played with friends.