BallisticNG

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BallisticNG

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In the future racing has evolved with technology. Where once there were engines and wheels, now there are thrusters and air brakes. Welcome to the AGRC.

BallisticNG is the debut game from the two-man indie team Neognosis. It features gameplay that has you racing at breakneck speeds of over 700 kilometers per hour along with high powered weaponry that aims to eliminate your competition. The game is a homage to the old Wipeout series for the original Playstation. Specifically, it is a blend of “Wipeout 2097/XL” and “Wipeout 3” by Sony Studio Liverpool. The games were very popular during the studio’s run, being used primarily to show off what Sony’s various game systems were capable of doing. Unfortunately, the market for racing games decreased Sony abruptly closed the studio down. This left many fans of the Wipeout series disappointed that there would be no stupidly fast, anti-gravity racing games in the future. Many fan-made games since then have tried to replicate the gameplay that defined the series but for most it just wasn’t the same.

BallisticNG was created by the indie game outfit Neognosis headed by Adam Chivers and Damon Pearce. They originally started BallisticNG as a passion project on the WipeoutZone fan forums but since it has grown into a fully realized game for sale on Steam.

First and foremost is the gameplay, which is difficult. You control an anti-gravity jet that races against other jets on magnetic winding tracks and not hitting the walls of the track is just as important as placing first. In a fashion similar to Mario Kart, sharp turns are navigated by drifting. However, instead of using one button for drifting, both of the triggers on the controller are pressed in accordance with the direction you want to turn. Where the game gets unforgiving is when  you have run through each track a couple of times to get a good idea of where the turning points are on the course. This is important because the turns are tight and without proper response time you’ll crash into a wall. On top of that your ship has a finite amount of health which if expended, will explode your ship. This leaves you eliminated from the race.
This may seem steep, but the truth is that the controls are simple, but hard to master. It was very rewarding to start placing first after getting the hang of the fundamentals. Moreover, there is no other feeling quite like flying around the track and nailing every turn which achieves a zen state where you are one with the ship.

The graphics in my opinion are okay. As something that is supposed to mimic a game from the 90s it does so very well. This may be found to be endearing to people who played the original Wipeout(s) from that era. In the settings there are little tweaks to make the game seem more like it was displayed on an original Playstation for those who want a pure nostalgia rush.

In terms of content there is a lot in some aspects and a severe lack thereof in others. An example of this is that there is virtually no story to be found besides that you are racing for a company in the AGRC (Anti-Gravity Race Commission) and that’s it. Unless you find that the strongest narratives are tucked away in fan-wiki pages, you won’t be satisfied. There is a main campaign with chapters, but it only consists of different challenges on a rotating set of tracks per chapter. As you progress through the chapters the difficulty curve is steep. For the first three chapters it is easy, then it becomes relatively challenging, then you’re racing the same track over and over again because even though you pushed your all into it, you were still one second below the time that awards you a bronze medal.

If story doesn’t matter then you’re in luck! There are a wealth of ships and tracks to choose from. What is also fantastic is that you can visit the Steam Workshop and download many other ships and tracks for free. Every ship has different properties that make them specialized. For example the Tenrai has superior speed and handling, but has inferior firepower and health, whereas the Omnicom is the opposite. This ensures that there is a ship for every type of play style. The tracks are initially easy to understand in the beginning but get more difficult as you progress through the chapters. You may find the need to switch ships for different tracks due to how many turns they have.

In summary, BallisticNG is not for everybody. Even perfectionists may get worn out by the game’s extreme spike in difficulty halfway through the campaign. But for what is there, an homage to a bygone era of excellent racing games, I feel that there is a lot to be enjoyed here even for people who weren’t around back then. If you are interested in absurdly fast racing games or want to experience pure nostalgia BallisticNG is the best game out now for it.

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