Written by Jake (aka Geofortean)
I like to imagine that there’s a room where game developers go to have ideas. And one day, someone went “hey, let’s cross Wipeout with Mario Kart and see what happens.” Well, the answer to that question is Fatal Inertia.
The game straps you into the cockpit of an anti-gravity vehicle (of which there are four types – more later), and throws you into a series of tournaments against increasingly skilled AI opponents.
There are four types of vehicle available to the budding racer, although not all are accessible from the start. Finishing the early tournaments gives you access to new vehicles so that by the time you’ve graduated the Exhibition events you’ll have the base craft for each class.
As is typical in these sorts of games, there are pluses and minuses to each class – do you go for speed over strength and handling, handling and strength but relatively no speed, or the happy medium that brings it all together? Once you’re racing in the professional group, you have the chance to win upgrades depending on your performance, so you can tweak your craft just how you like it.
Trackwise, there are 51 courses spread across the standard gaming environments – icy, volcanic, woody, rocky and wet. The problem here is that the environments seem to have been constructed so that each track on each world is a bit, well, the same-looking. And same-racing. The environment makes no difference (that I have found, anyway) to the way the vehicles handle. What’s the point of having a track covered in ice if you’re not in increased danger of skidding out?
This is going to sound like I having a whinge now, but the way the tournaments are played could have been better as well. A tournament consists of, usually, four races across different environments and different race disciplines (combat, knock out, velocity and magnet mayhem) which is great but they’re all essentially the same – try and get to first place, whilst collecting weapon pick-ups and dodging whatever the AI might throw at you. My other gripe with the way this part of the game works is that you have to play the whole tournament in one sitting. Ok, so fair enough, it’s only four races but it would still have been nice to have a break between each one and a chance to tweak your craft if you’ve chosen a set-up that is particularly rubbish!
The pick-ups are a bit iffy as well, varying from a massive magnet cluster that will slow your opponents down, to a giant rubber-band-thing (I’m sure it has a proper name) that can fasten an opponent (or you, if you’re unlucky) to the ground or another racer. Each weapon has two modes of fire, depending whether you fire it forwards or backwards – so a rocket can be used to knock a racer from in front of you, or as a booster to speed past that same racer. Your use of each weapon, and it’s effects, go on to give you Combat Points – if you hit an enemy you get points, if you miss completely you get nothing. Have the most combat points at the end of the tournament and you win… well, some emblems to stick on your racer. Big whoop!
Graphics wise, I have it running in HD and I have to say my socks are still firmly on my feet. The sense of speed you would expect to get from the game is practically non-existent, as far as I’m concerned.
And don’t even get me started on the difficulty curve – exhibition matches are a piece of cake, then it’s nearly impossible to win anything else without some upgrading, which you can’t do because to get the parts you need to win the races which is nearly impossible because you need to upgrade to win. Can you spot the flaw in this scenario?
The multiplayer game looks to be much the same as the single player. I say looks to be, because I haven’t found anyone online with it yet so it’s a little hard to make any definitive statements on the quality of this side of it!
So, having abused the game since more or less the start of this, what do I really think? I’m trying my best to like it, I really am. I’m still playing it as I write this, if that helps. It’s a good idea, it’s just been let down by last-gen samey graphics and a difficulty curve that’s more of a difficulty right-angle. Rental only, I’d say.