Obliteracers is a cute, party-focused kart racing game with a medley of different playful weapons to pick-up and a selection of unorthodox looking characters to choose from. Sound familiar? Well, that's because it's a genre that has been well-and-truly mastered elsewhere, although it's also one that's surprisingly sparse on PlayStation consoles.
In fact, it's a genre that has been so well implemented by Nintendo that everything that follows is naturally unable to avoid comparison, with everything else merely a copy of the much-loved series. However, where others – such as the surprisingly fun Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing on the PlayStation 3 – have kept alterations to the established formula to a minimum, developer Varkian Empire tries to mix things up a little here.
It stems from the fixed camera that follows the leader of the race. All cars currently in the contest are visible from this one camera, and any racer who falls behind is knocked out. This makes Obliteracers an excellent experience for local multiplayer sessions – something which games such as these excel at – since you can all play on the same full-screen picture at once. It also brings a nice twist to online multiplayer – which can be played with up to 15 other players – since you can always see what is happening in the race and adjust your strategy in response.
Local play is really where the game excels since it relies on you competing with your friends to get the most enjoyment out of the game. That is to say that most of the tracks – while aesthetically appealing and often with a neat premise – are a tad boring. This is possibly because the game is less of a racer than it is a kart-based weapons-first destruction game where you take out your opponents, but the tracks mirror this with some really uninspired circuits.
With interesting locations such as a sky-based cloud-mining metropolis, a sweltering desert outpost filled with minefields, and a cargo ship deck at sea in the middle of a storm among others, you'd expect the game to make use of these settings to shift the mechanics a little bit and mix things up. Unfortunately, no such depth is apparent. The wet cargo ship deck doesn't feel all that different to the sandy dunes, and the desert minefield is so sparse that it's hardly a hazard at all. A beautiful visual design is one thing, but incorporating the idiosyncrasies of each track with gameplay is another, and it fails to make use of its potential in this regard.
With four different modes to choose from – three of which are fairly generic, and two of which are almost identical – it also fails to provide enough variation on this front. Survival mode sees you earn points by being the last survivor in a race. Knockout and Endurance modes hand out points for destroying opponents, with Endurance mode simply allowing knocked-out enemies to re-spawn instantly. Leader mode, meanwhile, is an interesting one which makes best use of the game's unique mechanics by making it less of a free-for-all, and more of a leader versus the pack scenario.
In this mode, the leader takes any point that would usually be given to someone who destroys an enemy. This makes the leader a primary target for those behind, but it also makes the race a far more tactical affair. Making use of the games drift and boost mechanics to maintain position and avoiding enemy attacks become a central concern instead of taking out your opponents, and it also makes falling behind the camera an even bigger threat. Remember: there are no laps here, it's all about survival and racking up the points.
Obliteracers shows some originality, then – but this momentary achievement also serves to shine a spotlight on the game's other more generic and uninspired modes. If you're playing with friends, then this is unlikely to bother you much since you already have the competitive fun of being with your mates. But if you're playing at home alone – be it in online multiplayer or in the limited single-player career mode – then it gets old far too quickly.
There are some interesting and well-implemented ideas here that make Obliteracers stand-out, but it gets drowned out amid the rest of the game which more often than not fails to make use of its unique mechanics and relies on generic tropes that have been better implemented elsewhere. There's still some fun to be had in a spare 30 minute session alone, and it excels when played with friends – but on the whole it fails to provide enough depth and variation to keep the average player Obliteracing after the initial taster.