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I’ve played a few Wipeout games in my day but never for long periods of time. When I do feel like playing racing games I usually gravitate towards Mario Kart and when it comes to anti-gravity racers, I’m an F-Zero kind of guy. I often hear people comparing Wipeout to F-Zero and I do like Wipeout’s combat element. The series also has more games than F-Zero. But I’m not here to talk about Wipeout or F-Zero. I’m here to talk about BallisticNG, a racing game developed by Neognosis, released on Steam in December, 2018. From what I understand, it was free at one point. After seeing clips of the game in action, reading that it supported mods, and seeing that it’s basically a Wipeout game for PC, I didn’t mind spending the eight bucks to own it.
If you’ve played any of the Wipeout games, much of the gameplay will feel familiar. You race around tracks at high speeds in anti-gravity ships and use weapons to combat your opponents. It’s a combat racing game. There is a decent amount of ships to choose from and even more if you have any custom ones. Flying over speed pads grants you a boost and weapon pads grant you weapons. Each ship does have different stats in acceleration, top speed, handling, shielding, and firepower. There is a learning curve when it comes to the handling. You have to learn how to use your ship’s airbrakes properly or you’ll crash into everything. But if you master the handling, you can fly around turns without losing speed and successfully doing so can feel rewarding. Even after hours of playing, I still suck at the game. You can enable a pilot assist option to make things a little easier but I kept it off. The sense of speed is exhilarating and I always wanted to keep playing. It’s hard to stop.
To aid you in the races are various weapons acquired by flying over the weapon pads and ships can be destroyed after taking enough damage. You can blow opponents away with rockets, lay down mines, and shoot them with the cannon. There’s several others, some of which are more like power-ups rather than weapons. When you activate the auto-pilot the game will temporarily control your ship. The shield protects you from damage and turbo grants you a massive speed boost. Near the finish line are pitlanes and driving through them will repair your ship. There’s multiple AI difficulty modes among other options that can be configured in the Custom Race mode that allow you to make things as easy or as hard as you want. The AI can prove to be quite challenging, requiring you to do your best at all times. Slowing down or crashing will result in opponents speeding passed you and they can gain a significant lead.
BallisticNG is a racing game with plenty to do. I would suggest you complete a few practice races first to get used to the handling and sense of speed. And there are multiple speed classes. Most of the time, depending on the track, I can win on Toxic, which is the lowest, but opponents can easily lap me on the highest which is Zen. If you want to get really crazy, you can turn on the Hyper Speed option when setting up a custom race. If you like the idea of progression and unlocking things, then you’re going to want to check out the career mode. You have the option to unlock everything from the menu but it doesn’t affect your career. However, it is nice to have and allows you to mess around in the other modes with all of the content available. The campaign is made up of multiple what I’ll call cups which consist of numerous events where you compete to earn medals. The events are the different race types and you can change the difficulty before competing in an event. Earning medals unlocks more events and cups. As you complete events, you’ll rank up and unlock things like liveries.
BallisticNG includes several different race types or events. Races should be obvious. Complete all of the laps and cross the finish line before your opponents. The objective in a Time Trial is to set a record time within a set number of laps. In the Speed Lap event the goal is to set a record lap time. Survival is one of the more interesting events. You’re always accelerating and the goal is to try and survive as long as you can. You can’t slow down and the speed will increase every few seconds. It gets intense. In the Knockout event, the ship in last place after a lap will be eliminated until only one ship remains. Eliminator is easily the most chaotic event in the game and also one of my favorites. The goal is to be the first to reach a certain amount of points by dealing damage to opponents. In most of the events, the AI is competent but in Eliminator, I found it very easy to win just by hanging back or staying in the pack and picking off opponents. It’s still fun, though.
If you don’t feel like playing through the career, you can always try your luck in multiplayer, precision runs, you can create your own custom tournaments, or play around in the custom race mode. Precision Runs require you to complete a track without crashing. And I clearly suck at it. Crashing results in lower grades. The Custom Race is where I spent a good majority of my time. The best part of this mode the amount of control you’re given to customize races. You can, of course select your ship, track, and event, and set the speed class. You can change the AI difficulty, how many extra laps, enable or disable environmental modifiers, and tweak other various things. Honestly, I think the custom race mode is one of the best parts of the game and it’s where you can access all the custom content. You can set up races however you want and it can provide hours of entertainment.
You’ll race around numerous tracks and each cup in the career mode will have you racing around the same few in each set of events. It kind of makes the cups feel stale after a while, especially if you’re struggling and haven’t unlocked a new cup yet, but it is a nice way of introducing you to the tracks and making you practice on each one and in different events. Easier tracks have wider roads, wider turns, and are more simple in their design. The tougher tracks have more twists and turns, and sharper turns, requiring the proper use of your airbrakes. You’ll fly off ramps, cross gaps, you’ll fly through a lot of tunnels, and you’ll have to be careful to not fly off ledges. Crashing and bumping into walls can result in you losing your position and taking damage so track memorization is required, especially on the faster speed classes.
Visually, BallisticNG is going for the retro aesthetic. There’s even some options to give it more of an authentic retro look which I believe is an attempt to reflect the earlier PlayStation Wipeout titles. Overall, the game doesn’t look bad. It’s got a nice slick look to it and I find it to be pleasing on the eyes. You can even pause the game and enter the photo mode to admire the the visuals, apply different filters, and take pictures. All of the tracks are visually diverse complete with detailed backgrounds, a lot of lights, and there’s different weather effects. The music is full of techno-sounding tunes that sound pretty good. Some songs are more memorable than others and the soundtrack does enhance the futuristic look and feel the game is going for. I did not encounter any bugs during my time with the base content but I did witness the frame rate stutter once or twice. On some of the custom tracks, it appears as if they didn’t load right and were unplayable.
I had an amazing time with BallisticNG. This is easily one of the best racing games I’ve played in a while. I think even if I played the free version, I would have still spent money on the Steam version just to support the developers. It’s truly an incredible work with excellent gameplay that deserves more recognition. And the very fact that it’s moddable makes it even more appealing. If you take a look at the Steam Workshop you’ll find all kinds of ships and tracks, many of which are recreations of those seen in F-Zero and Wipeout games. It’s an excellent racing game that can be enjoyed solo or with others and contains plenty of content to enjoy.
If you’re a fan of the Wipeout series, are waiting for a new entry, or want something like it for PC, BallisticNG is what you’re looking for. If you enjoy high speed racing games, anti-gravity racers, and/or racing games that can be modded, BallisticNG is what you want. I would absolutely recommend it to fans of the racing genre. This is a very passionate love letter to a fantastic racing series, allowing fans to contribute to the project, resulting in one of the best racing games for PC. Definitely check out BallisticNG.