New Star GP Review: A surprisingly deep and rewarding retro racer

New Star GP review

New Star GP review

New Star Games is renowned for its retro-style sports games like New Star Soccer and Retro Bowl on mobiles. With New Star GP, the indie studio is making its first foray not just into the world of racing, but also the multi-platform games market.

After focusing on mobile games, bringing a game to multiple platforms simultaneously is no easy feat for a small team like New Star Games.

As a result, New Star GP is the studio’s biggest and most ambitious game yet. After a well-received warm-up lap in Early Access, New Star GP is ready to race off the starting line on PC, PlayStation, and Xbox.

Retro racing

On the surface, New Star GP looks like a simple arcade racer on the surface. Aside from some aliasing issues on scenery objects, the visuals are clean and colourful, with a low-poly art style, bold colours, and exaggerated speed lines when slipstreaming opponents.

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It’s worth noting there’s no native PS5 version available yet, but the PS4 game is playable on PS5 via backwards compatibility and looks sharp in 4K resolution, running at a consistently smooth 60 fps frame rate.

One downside of being limited to last-gen consoles is that races are restricted to ten cars on track – a current-gen version exploiting the PS5’s extra power would likely have larger grids of cars to race with.

While its retro style resembles classic 1990s arcade racers like Virtua Racing, New Star GP has a surprising amount of depth.

Arcade vs authenticity

First, there’s the handling. This isn’t a typical arcade racer where you’re constantly racing at full throttle and powersliding around corners without losing speed.

New Star GP is an arcade-style racer at its core, but you’ll need to master racing lines and braking points to get the fastest times. Once you get over the initial dissonance between the arcade visuals and authentic race craft, the driving is fun, satisfying and absorbing.

New Star GP
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Unusually in an arcade-style racer, you need to look after your tyres and monitor your fuel. Varying grip levels on each track and variable weather conditions impact your decisions. Take too much damage in collisions, and your tyres will blow out. This adds a race strategy element you would normally expect to find in realistic sim racing games.

Before you hit the track, you can choose how much fuel your car carries, which tyres to fit (hards, softs, or wets), and your pit stop strategy.

Races require either a one or two-stop strategy, so you’ll need to make at least one pit stop to equip fresh tyres, refuel, or repair damage. Like the 1980s Epyx Pitstop games, you have to control your pit crew manually.

New Star GP pit stop
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Playing like an interactive minigame, you can choose how much fuel to add by holding down the shoulder button while fitting new tyres at the same time. Timing is key, but forgetting to add enough fuel can ruin your race. Conversely, too much fuel makes your car heavier and slower, and fitting the wrong tyres can scupper your chances of finishing on the podium. It's a careful balance.

Mixing arcade and sim racing mechanics shouldn’t work on paper, but it helps New Star GP stand out from other retro-style racers like Hotshot Racing and Formula Retro Racing World Tour. New Star Games has done a superb job balancing every element, ensuring you never feel overwhelmed.

Tyre wear, for example, can’t be turned off, but your race crew helps you choose the most suitable pit stop strategy for each circuit in easy-to-understand explanations. Alternatively, you can experiment and create your own pit stop strategy.

Driving through the decades

New Star GP’s unique career mode sees you manage a motorsport team and race through a series of Grand Prix championships spanning five decades, working your way up from the 1980s to the present day in the 2020s. As you progress, the car designs and track layouts change depending on the decade, adding to the sense of progression. Even though it isn’t officially licensed, New Star GP is a celebration of the history of F1.

F1 fanatics will recognise the car designs inspired by iconic F1 cars like Ayrton Senna’s McLaren MP4/8. While cars feel different and get considerably faster as you advance, it’s a shame they don’t sound unique — every car sounds like it’s powered by a screaming V10, regardless of the era.

New Star GP customisation
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Adding to the sense of progression, every car can be fully customised with money earned in races, allowing you to upgrade parts such as the engine, brakes, and suspension to stay competitive.

Likewise, the 34 circuits will be instantly familiar to F1 fans, with fictional tracks inspired by current and classic locations from Silverstone (known as Northampton) to the tight twists and turns of the Cote d'Azur in Monaco.

The short layouts mean that each of the ten Grand Prix’s in each season can be completed in around five or six minutes depending on your skill, or you can feasibly tackle a full season in one sitting. This makes New Star GP enjoyable to play in short bursts when you have five minutes to spare or extended sessions.

With each season introducing new circuits to the calendar and new rivals to race against plus checkpoint races, elimination events, time trials, and one-on-one rival races sprinkled between Grand Prix's, there’s an impressive variety of events to keep you engaged throughout the extensive career mode, with over 170 events to complete.

New Star GP review
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Light team management elements from hiring staff to choosing sponsors also bolster the career mode. Team members have emotions, and keeping them happy unlocks staff perks, providing bonuses like faster pit stops.

Your answers in media interviews affect team morale, and failing to keep staff happy can result in them quitting the team. There’s scope for these ideas to be fleshed out further in a motorsport management spin-off similar to New Star Manager.

Racing rivalries

Unlike most arcade racers, there’s no rubber-band AI. Mercifully, this means you won’t be beaten by overpowered opponents who get a sudden speed burst on the last lap (we’re looking at you, Mario Kart). This results in some highly competitive and exciting races - you’ll feel the stakes of every decision you make on and off the track. Every victory feels earned.

In a nice touch, the AI will increase their pace accordingly if you dominate every race like Max Verstappen, though we would have liked an option to qualify as you always start at the back of the grid. Later events become more challenging, but the AI difficulty never feels unfair.

New Star Games' sports titles have a lighthearted sense of humour, and this is also the case in New Star GP. You’ll be racing against parodies F1 drivers from the moustached Nigel Mawson to Ayrton Serafino, who have unique racing styles and personalities. You’ll see them battle each other, make mistakes, and drive more aggressively around you if you badmouth them in interviews or hit them, leading to rivalries.

New Star GP review
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Unfortunately, if you’re hoping to battle it out with friends online, you’re out of luck, because New Star GP doesn’t have online multiplayer. This is understandable since New Star Games is a small team, but it’s a shame you can’t compare times with other players on leaderboards. Hopefully, online functionality can be added in a post-launch update if the game is a hit, but New Star Games hasn’t confirmed any plans.

Old-school split-screen partially makes up for this, allowing up to four players to race each other in traditional multiplayer. Whether racing alone or with friends, championships are fully customisable - you can even attempt a 99-lap endurance race if you desire.

Considering this is the studio’s first multi-platform racing game, New Star GP is an outstanding debut that offers significantly more depth than most retro-style racers. Although the lack of online multiplayer at launch is disappointing, the lengthy career mode will keep you hooked for hours, and the layers of depth will surprise you.

Thrilling arcade racing, vibrant low-poly visuals, and engaging team management mechanics combine tomake New Star GP one of the best and most compelling retro-style arcade racers. Who says arcade racing is dead?

New Star GP
A brilliant blend of fun arcade racing, stylish retro visuals, and simulation mechanics, New Star GP is a surprisingly deep, addictive and rewarding retro racer. This is a modern take on retro racing done right.
9 out of 10

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