Wed. Nov 30th, 2022

After the infamous double whammy of Split/Second and Blur that seemed to herald the genre’s demise, we’ve been spoiled with high-quality arcade racing in recent years. Hotshot Racing kicked things off, while last year’s Senna Forever expansion gave the excellent Horizon Chase Turbo a new boost, followed by an impressive tribute to the Slipstream super scalers – and yet there’s one that stands out among this all-time crop.

Inertial Drift is an arcade racing game that is both familiar and completely different; Styled after the ever-sleek Ridge Racer Type 4, the developer’s debut Level 91 features a new control model built around a dual-stick system. It’s innovative and kind of ingenious, with a welcome emphasis on the art of fighting a car that wants to live on the side.

“I started working on this prototype based on the Ridge Racer,” Michael O’Kane, director and programmer of Inertial Drift, tells me. “I loved Ridge Racer and felt like the drifting arcade game was gone.”

Inertial Drift was O’Kane’s attempt to return to a style of racing that had been lost in a time that focused on drifting. “Whenever you start making a game, you start thinking about the differences in genres,” he says. “I feel like there’s a big difference between playing pure drifting the old style and switching to overclocking to encourage drifting – it completely changed everything and so the tracks got wider and wider to make it possible and there was less caring about drifts. accurate.”

Twilight Rivals introduces new cars, new rivals and several new tracks, as well as new Eurobeat support.

In O’Kane’s perfect arcade racing game drift is the reward is why it’s so important to have the depth and nuance that Inertial Drift generously provides. Much of this is due to his unique method of controlling two joysticks; here the left stick steers and the right stick controls the drift angle, and success lies in finding a balance between those inputs, throttle and brake. The result is a bouncy dance that I never tire of, despite returning to Inertial Drift over and over again, and that’s what set it apart from its peers.

It’s the willingness to build on classics like the Ridge Racer rather than just emulate them that makes Inertial Drift special, and it helps that it’s based on them in such an exciting way. “The Ridge Racer was basically on rails,” says O’Kane. “The only real interaction you have is how early you start drifting. I looked at it from the point of view that if you take some of the main goals of what they were trying to achieve – which would allow you to do a cool thing very easily – but with the advantage of having dual joysticks and a lot more time to spend on physics work.

“The idea was originally to just lower that accessibility barrier, not take control away from you – games usually get in between you and the controls and do things for you, I don’t do any of that for you, I just do it for you.” present.” easy to control exactly what the car does.

The PS5 version includes a 120fps mode perfect for arcade racing.

“I always thought Skate was an incredible jump from Tony Hawk – they sat down and thought, what if we just forget about how skateboarding games are supposed to work? always thought it was pretty unbelievable. And so I had a similar approach – if you ever forget how a car actually works and instead think what is the most fun way to control a car with a controller where you have two joysticks? ”

The ultimate proof of the success of the Inertial Drift control scheme is that in all the time since O’Kane conceived it in 2013, he’s still tired of it. “I just don’t feel comfortable that I can go and play that first track and be distracted by just doing circles. And I’ve been lapping this track every week for the last eight years. There’s still something about it, and it’s a bit meditative.”

It makes sense that O’Kane would have an appetite to release more Inertial Drift, which came out last week in the form of Twilight Rivals, a DLC pack that coincides with the release of the PS5 racer that introduces new tracks, new rivals and new cars, pushing the dual-lever model in new and interesting directions.

“I put a little more emphasis on some clutch cars in terms of handling because I haven’t been able to do that much with it before,” says O’Kane. “And then, you know, I’m also testing some things, like, for example, stock. This was something we added relatively late in development and so I didn’t really get to it. There are a bunch of fun things to do. there, how to run through the mud to make your car slide. I had a small opportunity on one of the new circuits to test some of these things – and maybe in the future I will delve into this.

The term “arcade racing” meant something different during the heyday of the genre in the 90s. “Initially, arcade didn’t mean easy,” says O’Kane. “At the time, all arcade games had a steering wheel and required a lot of precision. Then it became synonymous with more grip and play, and I wanted to go back to that old style of drifting, that old style of arcade, so I put a lot of depth into the game so people could really get into it.”

It looks like a sequel to Inertial Drift is already in O’Kane’s head, and maybe there might be a little more resources to drop it this time around – the original was actually a two-man collaboration, with O’Kane. for much of the work, he took friends and family with him to help get him home (his sister even provided character art for the game).

“I have more ideas,” he says. “And that’s something we’ll probably start looking at when we’re done here. I think the control worked pretty well in Inertial Drift and I probably wouldn’t mess around with it too much – but there’s a lot more stuff you could do with the event meta structure and things like that where, I think we can get a lot more use out of them. But yes, can we do something else? It would be an opportunity to go and improve some things for example where maybe in some places I lacked.”

I love the idea of ​​a bigger, bolder successor to Inertial Drift in the future, just as I love the idea of ​​O’Kane bringing out some of the genre’s greatest properties. Of all the arcade racing games of recent years, only one has been worthy of the real greats – so I wonder what O’Kane would do if he got his hands on the seemingly dormant Ridge Racer franchise?

“I thought about it a lot!” he admits. “I know exactly what I would do if they really gave me a license because I think about it at night. It would be quite interesting and I just hope I don’t piss everyone off.”