Author Topic: CarX Highway Racing (Switch) Review  (Read 1239 times)

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Offline VMPhil

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CarX Highway Racing (Switch) Review
« on: March 24, 2024, 06:29:18 PM »

Poor Mobile Port Leaves A lot To Be Desired

The conversion from mobile to console is a precarious one. When going from a freemium platform to a straight paid experience there are fundamental changes in the game structure that have to be added or subtracted, but there should also be some added incentive to opt purely for the premium play experience. The conundrum that publishers often face is whether they spend extra time investing in the several-years-old IP to refresh it for a new outlet or do they simply port the product sans in-game purchases and let it be. What does a 2024 release on the Nintendo Switch?

The opening is nearly exactly the same on console as it is on mobile (IOS). You, the player, are a driver with a notorious reputation and you are called in by a friend to help her escape pursuers that she is investigating. The opening art has you looking like Memphis Raines getting into his Eleanor Mustang GT500KR (but the game doesn't actually license the names so all car nomenclature is made up) and takes off for the chase. The chase ends when you reach the set goal post and you come in first. That doesn’t feel like much of a chase now does it? After the secondary chase, you have “Lost” your tail and now you are assisting in an investigation into a street racing team that is stealing cars (sounds like a movie plot with multiple sequels). For some reason, you no longer have the Mustang and must buy a new lower end vehicle to start with and off you go to infiltrate the crime family and expose them.

All racing “stages” are point to point regardless of the race type (eg. timed, chase, duel etc.) in a linear highway path. This game is not open world and there are no diverging paths. Your main obstacles will be traffic in both your and on-coming lanes along with the performance of your vehicle relative to the opponents. The enemy AI will attempt to ram you and knock you off the road if you are too close and traffic AI is fairly static, they don’t seem to attempt lane changes. If you attempt a race multiple times (in case of a loss) you will find that the traffic pattern and enemy AI is almost always doing the same thing depending on your actions. In one particular race, I noted that the same enemy SUV tipped over at the same point in the race 9 times out of 10. In this way, this console port still feels very much derived from a mobile game and rings rather hollow given the potential for police pursuits as cops do appear in specific races but rarely provide extra challenge.  On a linear game map, you must complete the races in a section to complete a chapter.

As you move from one chapter to the next, the car levels become higher and more difficult to face off with in a previous level car. What makes absolutely no sense at all is that if you were to race a class 1 car fully modded out in a challenge with class 2 cars, the race is near impossible. If you buy a class 2 car, with no modifications, (meaning its stats are well below the previously owned modified class 1 vehicle) suddenly the race is win-able. Then there is the way the game classifies the vehicles. Despite their real world resemblance, the performance and ranking of the cars is perplexing. The DMC Delorian clone is somehow a class 3 car along with the Evolution 9 and Holden Maloo lookalikes but the BMW M3 wanna be and ‘not’ MK 7 VW Golf GTI are class 1 vehicles. The Elenore Mustang copycat is a class 2 car for some reason here when it should be a 3.

The vehicle progression system is easy and predictable. As you win money for races, it is necessary to feed the vehicle upgrades to keep it competitive within its own class. Suspension and chassis upgrades do seem to affect handling and cornering around long bends of highway. The brake button feels superfluous as I haven't found myself really using it. Braking just causes the AI to slingshot past you and I don’t really see AI using it either. Most of the highway obstacles must simply be dodged and lifting off the gas around long bends seems to suffice.   The controls feel very light and a tad imprecise with the Switch joy cons. The “tap the screen” scheme for left and right with the gas as always being “on” felt more natural on the mobile version.

The presentation also leaves something to be desired. The story is told through stills with dialogue that seems to have been translated from another language as some of the grammar is odd and the typos are very noticeable. Car X Highway was a straight port from the mobile game and it shows. The character avatars all look like movie star knockoffs. Finn looks like Baby Driver, Olivia looks like Michelle Rodriguez, David looks like JCVD, Winston is a dead ringer for D'onofrio's Kingpin and Sander looks like Vin Diesel with a mustache. Not that any of that is bad but it is clear where the game’s inspiration comes from.

In game, the graphics themselves are fine, perfect in-fact for the lower powered Nintendo Switch. The vehicle textures look good, the background dynamics are solid with little popup and the buildings on the side as you pass them look just fine. The sound design is certainly one of the strong points here. The funky guitar riffs and looping techno tracks on the stage menu are toe tappingly good. The fervor of the drum and bass soundtrack during the races keeps you inspired. The roar of the engines and the sound of nitrous are a little generic but acceptable given that it was originally a mobile game, they do the job well. When working together, the racing sounds and visuals are great! Now if only the races themselves had a little more depth and the road more nuance in structure.

The customizations of the vehicles are plentiful. Performance upgrades abound combined with body kits and paint gives you a lot of visualization to play with. The additional game modes such as free roam or challenge modes give you an escape from the campaign story mode which is a nice change. Day and night racing times also add some variety to the backdrop. There is even a police mode which gives the game an almost “Hot pursuit” feel. To this end, every vehicle has a police car skin to turn the races in a hunt down.

Car X Highway racing feels like a missed opportunity to give us an enhanced experience of the mobile game and a bigger miss on giving us an American “Wangan Midnight”. While the music and graphics hold up, the plot and game play are just too thin for a console release. Other mobile ports like Gear.Club unlimited feel better polished and the races feel more satisfying. Even some of CarX technologies other releases such as CarX street give more driving depth. With so many other racing games on offer within the Nintendo Switch Library, it is difficult to stand out. CarX highway attempts to give us something a little different than the market standard in racing games and for 10 bucks, it's not a bad buy but I would be looking at a few better polished titles first.