Mantis Burn Racing
Although a title and a studio you may not have heard of, indie developer and now publisher VooFoo Studios have been in the game for a long time. Nearly 10 years making titles across various platforms including working directly with Sony on Hustle kings.
Start your Engines
Now taking the brave and now completely possible self-publishing route with its latest fun filled release Mantis Burn Racing. It bears more than a passing influence and memories of the seminal classic Micro Machines that rose to fame during the 16-Bit era. With the top down view, common on those games it sports an isometric view thus actually having more in common both aesthetically and functionally with such old-school games as Atari Jaguar’s PowerDrive rally just with some now gen upgrades and enhancements. Unsurprising for a company whose routes stretch back to Max rally on the Amiga.
All this is powered with the studios own proprietary engine that is not lacking many modern-day features. From a fully implemented Physics engine used heavily in Pure pool but still being utilised here as your car slides, skids or breaks down fences as you race. Other effects also compliment the engine and look here with a soft depth of field applied during race intro’s and foreground objects as you race which include Bokeh shapes. HDR bloom, penumbra shadows, particle based volumetric smoke effects that trail cars and distort amongst other features all present a modern looking yet old school racer. The Native 1920x1080 image is cleaned up with 2x MSAA pass thanks to the engine forward rendering configuration and abilities along with the feature being readily available in modern hardware.
What's under the Hood?
Helping the games response and clean display is the rock solid 60Hz update, something that remains alongside a native 4K image with the PS4Pro mode included with the title and ready to rock next week when the new console launches. Be sure to check back then when I have my full review and in-depth analysis on this and other titles. But in the here and now the game does not require the extra horsepower from the host machine, something not mirrored in the base car you begin your career with. These tend to vary from weight, acceleration and top speed and control with the heavier cars being slower to get going but more stable under power. This is helped immensely by the rock-solid framerates and control that never falters from my tests. Both single player or Multiplayer hold into that rate with no issues at all, only the 2-player split has issues holding onto that level, sometimes dropping into the high 40’s at points possibly resolved with an optional 30fps cap being added to the menu screen. Something already done with the 4-player split screen dropping down to 30fps. Understandable with the extra load the engine and machine are placed under from both CPU and GPU holding solid here just like the SP higher rate and even though initially the shift is obvious you quickly acclimatise to it and enjoy the racing.
It has a career, time and full 8-player Online Multiplayer modes that should satisfy you long into the wee hours. This is all delivered with a responsive and intuitive control system that will see you slipping up the inside, block passing and drifting like Ken Block on steroids in no time. Learning the tricks of the trade during the career mode allows you to mix races, time and ghost car action to earn points and these obviously mean prizes.
Spending these on-car upgrades and new vehicles opens a wealth of further choices as they all handle dependant on the weight, size effecting each of the characteristics further expanded with the vast upgrade options open to you. But the meat of the games draw and stay is locked into its wealth of Multiplayer options these range from 2 to 4 players split screen antics on one console bringing back vivid memories of those Micro Machines moments from school to the much more competitive online 8 car races.
This ramps up the action across the games 2 course designs that merge into a 3rd and cover winding mountain segments, tarmacked harbour, low light caverns testing your control and vehicle choice. Ramped sections, loose dirt, destructible shortcuts and boost options all add to the challenge for your competitiveness and that "one more go" factor to beat your time, win the race, that it captures so well.
Sound is serviceable with engine sounds, tyre screeches but are not as high a level as the pixel presentation on offer. Music is the same that although present in all the right places with its techno based thumps, quickly becomes repetitive something you notice most during the games menu and loading screens but hardly a reason to kick off.
Post race briefing
It could do with more variation on track and course locations with the base 2 on offer from a dusty mountain range and a sunset coastal sea-side being used in various forms and reversed layouts being quickly learned. Even a stunt, control section that has you negotiating cones or obstacles using your drifting skills for rewards would have been a welcome addition, but these may come in the games weekly challenges possibly?. Although only costing around £10 or $15 this is understandable but maybe another 1 or 2 locales would help break up the repetition of these. It will never have the vast content of much bigger games it certainly delivers a solid presentation and enjoyable racing that has a retro charm all its own but with competent art design, lighting choices and engine behind it to give you value for that low price. Even more so with it being one of a growing number of titles that look to leverage early use of the extra PS4Pro power under the hood. Yes, this is not a AAA title and is exactly the kind of games I stated and expected would hit native 4K geometry renders and at such high framerates it is anything but minor leagues.