Gravity Chase Review: F-Zero tribute needs more fuel in the tank

There was a time when anti-gravity racing games like WipeOut, F-Zero, and Extreme-G saturated the market. Sadly, these futuristic franchises are now a distant memory.

With no new WipEout or F-Zero games on the horizon, indie developers are keeping this abandoned racing sub-genre alive with tribute titles such as Redout, Pacer, and Fast RMX.

Gravity Chase is the latest attempt at reviving futuristic racers by the one-man band at Repixel 8, the UK indie studio behind Velocity G (the developer’s first anti-gravity racer) and the Virtua Racing-inspired Formula Retro Racing.

Review code was provided by publisherand conducted on Xbox One X

Tunnel vision

Racing in Gravity Chase takes place inside and outside winding tunnels. The twist here is that you can fully rotate around the track to maintain speed. At first, the 360-degree racing is disorientating, making it easy to lose control and spin out. However, it doesn't take long to get to grips with thanks to the intuitive controls. Hurtling past opponents at breakneck speed upside down to hit the optimum racing line is a lot of fun.

Other tracks have you racing on halfpipes with banked corners and walls that slow you down if you hit them. These are easily the toughest tracks, requiring skill to navigate at full speed while avoiding the walls.

Gravity Chase screenshot 360 degree racing 1
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Gravity Chase's 360-degree racing is disorientating at first, but you soon get the hang of it

Scattered around the track are Boost pads that temporarily increase your speed along with pickups for filling your boost meter and repairing your ship. There are also red pads that slow you down to avoid. Take too much damage, and your ship explodes, adding an element of risk vs reward when boosting.

Anti-gravity racers often have a steep learning curve. F-Zero GX was notoriously difficult, but Gravity Chase welcomes players of all skills levels. Thanks to the arcade-style controls, steering the ships feels responsive. Each track can also be tackled in one of three difficulties.

Higher difficulties add faster AI opponents and increase the gravity effect, affecting vehicle handling. Finishing first in these events requires skill and precision to hit every boost pad and dodge every red pad. That said, anti-gravity racing veterans may crave a steeper challenge.

Themed environments from tropical islands to towering cityscapes, and a volcano erupting lava illuminating the track add some visual variety. However, these environments repeat across the 16 tracks, leading to repetition. It also doesn’t help that rankings restrict access to tracks later in the game. As a result, you need to grind and repeat earlier events over and over until you reach the required rank to unlock the next track.   

Comparisons to F-Zero are unavoidable, but the tubular tracks are more reminiscent of Radial-G and Tube Slider, a forgotten futuristic racer released only in America on the GameCube overshadowed by F-Zero GX. Despite this, the 360-degree racing feels fresh without being gimmicky.

Stripped back

Gravity Chase was developed on a small budget by one person, and it shows. Booting up the main menu presents just one option: Race. There’s no options menu to configure the controls and no career mode with championships and special events to unlock.

Instead, you simply select one of 16 tracks, choose your ship, and start a single race in one of three modes: Arcade, Combat, and Eliminator. It’s a barebones package, to say the least. To be fair, the price reflects this: Gravity Chase costs a reasonable £9.99. With 16 tracks, three game modes, and ten customisable ships, there’s enough content to justify the asking price, but the fun doesn’t last long.

Arcade mode is simple clean racing without weapons. Combat mode, on the other hand, allows you to attack and defend with weapons and shields. Unfortunately, combat isn’t as satisfying as it should be.

Your only weapon is a laser gun that automatically locks onto opponents. Repeatedly firing the missile at rivals slows them down before taking them out. Combat mode had potential, but the automatic aiming, weak sound effects, and lack of weapon variety make it unengaging.  

Gravity Chase screenshot lava
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The environments get repetitive quickly

Eliminator races ramp up the intensity. When the timer runs out every 30 seconds, the racer in last place is blown up. While there’s no traditional career mode, Gravity Chase gives you freedom to stick with your preferred race type throughout the single-player mode.   

In contrast to Velocity G's stylised cel-shaded graphics, Gravity Chase adopts a grittier visual style. Graphically, Gravity Chase is passable. Ships are well-modelled and intricately detailed, but some of the uninspired environments wouldn’t look out of place in an Xbox 360 title.

Fast travel

Fortunately, a fluid frame rate makes up for the dated graphics, creating an exhilarating sense of speed - especially when boost is activated. It’s just a shame you can't tell how fast you’re going because the UI lacks a speedometer.

This is one of many peculiar omissions. For example, there is no option to restart a race. Frustratingly, losing a race means you return to the main menu, choose a ship and track, and wait for the race to load if you want to try again.

Money earned in races can be used to customise your craft. Split across three classes, each ship has a distinctive design, with options to upgrade acceleration, top speed, handling, weight, and strength.

Cosmetic customisation is limited to basic colour options. In contrast to the tracks, every ship is unlocked at the start. Restricting faster ships to higher ranks would improve the sense of progression and reward.

No futuristic racer would be complete without a fist-pumping soundtrack, and Gravity Chase is no exception. A mix of electronic and rock music tracks accompany the action, creating an exciting atmosphere. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the game audio design - the ships sound like underpowered hair dryers.

Flying solo

If you were hoping to race online, prepare to be disappointed because Gravity Chase doesn’t have online multiplayer. Again, limited resources are probably to blame here, but it harms replay value.

Gravity Chase screenshot split screen
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Unlike many modern racing games, Gravity Chase supports split-screen multiplayer for up to four players

Split-screen multiplayer makes up for this however, enabling up to four players to battle it out. For some, this will bring back glorious memories of heated four-player multiplayer matches in F-Zero GX. It’s a welcome addition as too many modern racing games don’t have old-school split-screen multiplayer. 

Overall, Gravity Chase is a fun, accessible, and fast-paced futuristic racer that fills the void of F-Zero, let down by dated graphics, repetitive environments, and a lack of online multiplayer. This F-Zero tribute needs more fuel in the tank.

Despite this, Gravity Chase is great fun to play in short bursts, delivering basic futuristic racing thrills for an affordable price. Gravity Chase has its shortcomings, but this is a commendable effort considering it was developed by just one man.

RacingGames Rating: 6/10

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