Antigraviator is one of those games that wears its heart upon its racing sleeve, and that very definitely belongs to Wipeout series of games made popular on various PlayStation iterations – a game that happens to be that rare racing game I am madly fond of. And while Antigraviator may not bring much new to the genre, it’s as close and loving enough remake that it’s easy to sink some time into.
Would I play it a lot, though? It’s great in short bursts of intense racing that are guaranteed to – let me check my wrist – yes, definitely getting the old pace racing. But the game lacks some of the depth that allowed “just one more race” in Wipeout to turn into all night, Red Bull-fueled gaming sessions.
The biggest issue is the way Antigraviator’s powerups work. In many similar racers, powerups are varied and often require excellent timing to use well – unless we’re talking Wipeout’s Quake, in which case fire away and watch the chaos happen! Antigraviotor’s powerups are called ‘traps’, and are often much more environmental in effect, placing something on the track that you or other players have to avoid. Using one shields you for a moment, so you can charge on through your own rockslide, but they’re kind of lame – they’ll generally just slow you down and a skilled pilot can easily dodge most of them. Plus, you only get them for a limited time – if you’re unlucky to pick one up and there’s no one around to use it on, you lose it.
This system force you to consider traps not so much as strategic assets, but randomly acquired bursts of chaos that you pretty much use as soon as you get one, and that takes a layer of challenge out of the game.
Thankfully, the meat of the game – the racing – is just fine. Controls are wonderfully precise, and you can even play pretty well on keyboard. A controller is better, but you’re not going to feel penalised if you lack one. The game also doesn’t have a hard limit on how fast you can go, and not only are there the usual accelerator pads paced throughout each track, you can also pick up extra boosts to use as you see fit. By combining a precise racing line and stacking on speed boost pickups, you can achieve some truly ludicrous velocities that can put you way out in front of the pack.
But this introduces its own challenge – the faster you go, the less time you have to reaction track conditions, Antigraviator doesn’t always telegraph upcoming turns, while some sections of track curve out and down, meaning you can barely see anything ahead. This is a game that will reward track memorisation, especially if you’re playing online with others.
As well as online play in three different modes, there’s a rather vanilla singleplayer campaign where you need to place first in each of four races before you progress to the next league. There are fifteen tracks all up spread around various different worlds, though the admittedly attractive backgrounds are pretty hard to pay attention to when you’re blasting along an outwardly curving piece of track at over 500mph. Each track can be raced in reverse, so there are 30 tracks in total, which is not bad, and there’s enough variation to keep racers on their toes.
Antigraviator is certainly not bad, but it doesn’t get fair above the bar of a passionate homage to become a great game in its own right. And for the relatively cheap asking price on Steam, that’s no bad thing. It’s fun, but far from essential.