Formula Retro Racing World Tour Special Edition Review: A blast from the past

Formula Retro Racing World Tour Review: A blast from the past

Formula Retro Racing World Tour Review: A blast from the past

Formula Retro Racing World Tour is the follow-up to 2020’s Formula Retro Racing, developed by indie studio Repixel8. It’s one of many indie racers that combines a retro art style with modern gameplay.

With just one single-seater and a small selection of tracks, the original game was enjoyable in short bursts, but the fun didn’t last long.

World Tour expands on the first game with ten cars spread across two classes and plenty of new tracks set in world locations from Rome to London, making for a more complete and satisfying package. It makes the original look like a tech demo.

Racing in the ‘90s

With its flat-shaded polygons, bright blue skies, and an over-enthusiastic race announcer, World Tour’s presentation is inspired by Sega’s Virtua Racing, one of the earliest 3D racers that blew arcade players away in the '90s.

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World Tour's low-poly visuals pop in 4K and the action runs at an arcade-perfect 60fps with no slowdown on PS5. As the name implies, the sequel expands the track roster to locations around the world.

Each location is distinct and lovingly designed. You’ll race past landmarks from the London Eye to the Eiffel Tower and Golden Gate Bridge, each instantly recognisable despite the low-poly art style. There’s a wide variety of tracks from an oval circuit with banked turns to sweeping roads across the Snowdonia countryside and technical city circuits.

At its core, World Tour is a straightforward arcade racer with sharp handling and timed checkpoints keeping you on your toes, slipstreaming opponents for a speed boost adds an element of realism and depth.

Joining the single-seater race cars from the original is a new muscle car class. These vehicles range from pickups to touring cars, each featuring unique handling characteristics to master. Whereas the race cars feel tight and fluid to control, muscle cars drift through every corner, introducing a new driving style to the series.

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Drifting is automatic: the car will slide in whichever direction you turn so you don’t even need to countersteer to control it. Whether you want to or not, you'll drive sideways around every corner. This feels awkward initially, but maintaining a slide for an entire race is a lot of fun once you get the hang of it.

A new cockpit camera also provides a thrilling sense of speed. We don’t recommend using it with the drift cars though as it can be nauseating.

Some cars are so overpowered that lightly tapping a rival car at high speed will take them out and smash their car into pieces as they burst into flames. Meanwhile, your car barely loses speed and only suffers light damage.

It’s a great showcase of the vehicle damage model (cars can break apart in crashes unlike in F1 23) but feels jarring. While the cars look and feel unique, they all sound like a VHS player stuck on fast-forward. Speaking of sound, the funk soundtrack suits the retro vibe, but the short music tracks loop too often and soon get repetitive.

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There are four game modes to choose from: World Tour, Grand Prix, Elimination, and Free Practice. World Tour is the main campaign, where winning races earns you stars to unlock the next track.

Every event is playable in three difficulties. Expert difficulty rewards you with the most stars, but the difficulty increases considerably with faster and overly aggressive AI opponents. You may need to repeat a few races to earn enough stars to unlock the next track, but dedicated players will blast through the campaign in a few hours.

Eliminator is the clear standout mode. In most games, the car in last place gets eliminated after each lap. Formula Retro Racing World Tour’s eliminator mode shakes things up, tasking you with staying in the top ten as the AI opponents get faster after each lap. It’s a fun new twist on a well-established mode that’s fun, challenging, and addictive.

A few extra game modes would have added more variety, however. Oddly, there are drift tracks but you can only race on them because there's no dedicated drift mode.

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In a welcome addition, online leaderboards let you compare lap times with other players on each track. While World Tour supports split-screen racing for up to four players, there’s no online multiplayer. Given the limited resources, it's understandable, but this coupled with the short single-player campaign leaves little to keep you coming back.

World Tour even supports VR headsets on PC. Doubling down on the retro theme, the VR mode transports you to an arcade playing World Tour behind a virtual racing cabinet. Sadly, there’s no PSVR 2 support for PS5 players. It’s a shame because PSVR2 players are starved of racing games other than GT7 right now.

Let’s get physical

When it launched back in March, World Tour was only available on digital platforms. Now, collectors and retro racing fans can pick up a physical version dubbed Formula Retro Racing World Tour Special Edition for PS5, PS4, and Nintendo Switch, courtesy of Numskull Games.

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This isn’t just the standard game slapped onto a disc either. New exclusive bonus content makes this the definitive version of the game. Think of it as a deluxe director's cut.

World Tour Special Edition brings six exclusive tracks set in Cairo, Monte Carlo, Reykjavik, Pompeii, Shibuya and Sydney, expanding the track count to a generous 24. The six tracks are unlocked at the end of the campaign, so you can't access them instantly.

Monte Carlo returns from the original Formula Retro Racing, replicating the real-life circuit’s tight turns and world-famous tunnel. Shibuya is another highlight thanks to a chaotic crossover resulting in narrow near misses and messy pileups.

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Alongside the new locations, all 24 tracks can be raced in reverse in the Special Edition, breathing new life into the existing tracks. It’s a shame, though, that owners of the original digital game can’t access the extra tracks as DLC at the time of writing.

A glaring omission in the first game, newly added vehicle stats for acceleration, top speed, and handling help you choose the right vehicle for your driving style.

With a £34.99 RRP, the extra content and improvements in the Special Edition come with a price premium compared to the standard game. If you don’t already own the original, this is the definitive version to get. Only hardcore fans and physical media collectors will justify double dipping.

Numskull has a history of supporting indie racing studios, previously publishing physical editions of Horizon Chase Turbo and Gearshifters. With rising digital game sales threatening the future of physical media, it’s great to see more indie racers being preserved with physical editions. Let’s hope World Tour isn’t the last because plenty of hidden racing gems deserve a physical release like Slipstream and Circuit Superstars.

Although it lacks online multiplayer and there aren’t enough game modes to keep you on the track for a long time, Formula Retro Racing World Tour is a fun throwback to classic ‘90s arcade racers with vibrant visuals, sharp handling, and simple yet exciting racing. With more tracks and cars, new drift handling, and even VR support, World Tour improves on the original in every way. 

Formula Retro Racing World Tour
Formula Retro Racing World Tour recaptures the spirit and simplicity of ‘90s arcade racers for the modern age, but a lack of online multiplayer and game mode variety restricts its replay value. Some standout new tracks and improvements make the new Special Edition the definitive version of a solid retro racer.
7 out of 10
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