When a game developer halfway around the world in Australia locally goes by the handle Space Dust Studios, but wants to be internationally referred to as the Varkian Empire, the first thing that comes to mind is testosterone fueled delusion overcompensating for inadequacies in other areas that are best left to the imagination. Having an empire alone implies a beastly conquest or slaughterhouse full of titles that content with the best of the genre on any given controller.
This overwhelming show of confidence definitely heightens the level of curiosity and expectation of greatness when boasts of unnamed veterans are mentioned to propel the sole title ever released on their digital press kit, especially when these contributions are to such franchises as Battlefield, Need For Speed, Tomb Raider, Dead Space, Burnout and Silent Hill, but without naming specific job descriptions on said respective titles within their catalogue.
If Obliteracers is any indication of such talent, this empire just wound up with a cesspool of former mid-life crisis garage band turned developers looking for copy and credits courtesy of well posted Craigslist ads.
A five-man crew consisting of Glen Stuart, Grigor Pedrioli, Stephen Honegger, Nathan Thomas, and Michael Davies look more like a rag-tag rehab cover band of AC/DC than veteran developers, and their first entry out of the starting gate questions whether or not fiction is more accurate than fact down under.
Playing a warped intergalactic version of Death Race 2000 with Mario Kart Wii graphics and mechanics seems like a great idea that should have conventionally worked. After all, having the ability to pick up special weapons to blow your opponents off the pavement is the guilty pleasure pedal to the metal dreams are made of. Obliteracers gets the concept to the starting line, but blows the race by failing at the fundamentals of even the most basic, no-frills mechanics of driving.
It could have very well been an honest mistake.
Driving behaviors and norms vary all over the world based on local customs, and let some tell it, gender. Australians drive on the left hand side of the road, while the United States drives on the right for instance. Obliteracers splits the difference and drives off screen in the ditches and trenches without mercy, and kills you into restarts.
Yet that still doesn’t explain how the veteran wonder team of triple A titles completely ignored the central thematic concern of any racing franchise and chalked it up to an overlooked, non-important aesthetic that no one would notice.
News flash Aussies. An overtly restrictive reward system hindering career mode progression is an extremely noticeable epic fail when you have shit handling in a racing game. It’s wonderful that multiplayer support is available, but who gives a rip when poor handling conflicts with even poorer camera angles on visually stunning graphics and high energy music loops.
Embracing the sarcastically winning formula that alienated the entire planet of Mario Kart aficionados throughout that franchise’s history after complaining for twenty years to Nintendo to correct exactly those problems will not garner you their amusement nor a E3 invite.
Don’t get it twisted, Obliteracers does a good job sucker punching you into craving what it has to offer. Its soundtrack is just the right level of corny nostalgia and modern elevator muzak that fits perfectly with the hijinks and carnage it has to offer. Death and destruction with a dash of carnage delivers within a fair moderation without relying on hardcore gore. Controller support and multiplayer access is well beyond average for its peer group.
And that’s great, if you can drive a kart with absolutely no physical inertia.
Even with a laundry list of positives that go beyond the average independent entry into the Steam store, Obliteracers is the absolute worst title of its genre. The horrible character masks that look like extras from Straw Dogs can be ignored. The vehicle designs that look like upgraded inspirations from Base Wars are even fine for blowing to bits. Not being able to race without earning a high amount of bombs for their achievement system is the final nail in a buried coffin deal breaker.
Good job, Varkian Empire. Rome fell and now it’s your turn, my friend. Obliteracers bells and whistles do not make up for lack of steering development and the other little things. For all the aggravation and wasted time trying to earn one bomb on the mandatory practice stage one can just as easily download an emulator of choice and pop in a real racer of high replay value and merit.