When a game displays “made by a developer” and “developed over the course of three years” on its title screen, you may feel like you’re being begged to lower your expectations. Be nice, this was made with toilet paper rolls and sticky plastic.
Certainly, The Race Factory is not Forza. It’s a top-down arcade racing game in the vein of Super Off Road or Micro machinesbut with placeholder artwork that was never replaced prior to release.
But even if we understand the reason, that doesn’t stop the ungodly ugliness from getting in the way of our enjoyment, while leaving us feeling like it could have easily been improved upon. Take the menus: you navigate them with a moldy old Windows mouse cursor, when it would have taken an afternoon to make them navigable with a gamepad. Your initial list of cars is all white, with the color unlocked after a race or two, and a race is preceded by a postage stamp-sized preview of the race track, even on larger TVs. The Race Factory may only be one developer, but there’s almost a drive to make it look like a box of cardboard scraps put out for recycling.
If The Race Factory had understood its own limitations and kept things bold and simple, it would have made a big difference. Instead, it overloads the menus with options, strewn across the screen illogically, and your slow, dodgy mouse cursor sweeping over them makes you feel like you’re in the Delorean and reversed to sometime in 1996. .
The flip side of this feedback is that The Race Factory has an awful lot of levers to pull and dials to turn. It clearly seeks to emphasize the “Factory” of the title, and it is very close to being a kind of “Race ‘Em Up Construction Kit”. From the main menu, you can choose to “create and share” tracks from a shallow pool of rooms, but with plenty of ways to expand, flip, and rotate them. The terrain can be changed to a number of different options, and you can choose to do a longer run or a circuit. It’s a toolkit that’s as heavy as it is adaptable, and it’s possible to create and save solid tracks for local multiplayer. There’s no way to share them online, but it was still going to be a big step up for a game like this.
Custom event options are equally adaptable. Choose to play these single races rather than championships, and you’ll have a lot more rope to create the race you want. Seven mutators can apply things like slipstreaming, rubber band and tire wear, while you can make all sorts of tweaks to AI difficulties, time of day, weather, weapons and game modes. It’s a fiddler’s delight and beats most other racing games for the amount you can change. As long as you don’t mind spending time on optimization – some saved presets would have been welcome here – then you can actually get the racing experience you and your friends are looking for.
Far from all the menus is the racing itself, and it’s about as precise and demanding as it gets. Much like other top-down arcade racers, there’s an emphasis on drifting, as you anticipate turns long before they happen. This drift is more over the top than most, so when you build up high average speed, huge punishment for failure – dropping the track has you traveling at a snail’s pace – and very little rubber band at championship levels , that may mean The Race Factory is a tough old relative. You hang on to the trail as much as you can, hoping nothing will push you over the gravel and into a hopeless position.
and the things will be distract you from your course. The Race Factory has weapons, and they are widely used. If you’re anywhere near the center of the platoon, you’re going to be intimidated, riddled with mines in the front, seismic pulses from the middle of the platoon, and green shell missiles in the rear. Worse still, the enemies literally miss nothing: their AI is such that we have never seen a missile miss a target. And they cheat. Mines slid through enemies, crashing into us.
When the punishment for being hit is so overbearing, it can get overwhelming. A weapon reverses your controls, and before you know it, you’re in the mud with a big gap to close. A single pulse wave can wipe out four or five drivers, leaving them no chance of winning the race. Weapon power rarely benefits you: enemies won’t reach your mines and they’ll pin you down on every attempt. You begin to lament the injustice of it all.
This all becomes less problematic in multiplayer, of course. The Race Factory lets you bring four local players into the fun and, as mentioned, you can tweak the settings to your liking, creating a course that suits you all. There are still nits to choose from, as getting off course is just as frustrating (and lonely) as it is in singleplayer, but if you can get closer to an even playing field by having friends who are as good as you , or tinker with options until they’re right for you, then chaos affects everyone equally. The Race Factory can be a sporadically fun and hopelessly ugly experience.
And so to the final caveat. Unusually for a £4.19 game, The Race Factory has no achievements. It shouldn’t matter, it really shouldn’t, but it might have helped soften the difficulty a bit. If the carrot of achievement was waiting for you, it would be worth persevering.
The Race Factory is ugly, there’s no doubt about it. He doesn’t even try to make up for his poor appearance by being friendly; the racing here is punishing and precise, one mistake costs you the race. But, behind the grumpy demeanor is a deep racing game with plenty of options, a track builder, and multiplayer thrills. For a lone developer, this is an impressive achievement.
Ultimately, it’s possible to find pleasure in the unsightly The Race Factory, but my God, you have to work for it.
You can buy The Race Factory at Xbox Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S
When a game displays “made by a developer” and “developed over the course of three years” on its title screen, you may feel like you’re being begged to lower your expectations. Be nice, this was made with toilet paper rolls and sticky plastic. Admittedly, The Race Factory is not Forza. It’s a top-down arcade racing game in the vein of Super Off Road or Micro Machines, but with placeholder artwork that was never fully replaced before release. But while we understand the reason, that doesn’t stop the ungodly ugliness from getting in the way of our enjoyment, as well as leaving us with…
The Race Factory Review
The Race Factory Review
- A deep lane construction kit
- Lots of racing options to play with
- Multiplayer can be fun and cruel mayhem
- An uglier game would be hard to find
- Punish the race, with mistakes that cost you races
- Truly awful interfaces
- Many thanks for the free copy of the game to – O.Stogden
- Formats – Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One
- Reviewed version – Xbox One on Xbox Series X
- Release date – December 24, 2021
- Introductory price from – £4.19