I’ve always preferred my racing games more on the arcade side of the sim/arcade dichotomy. Racing games aren’t particularly high on my list of favorite genres but there have been some over the years that I’ve spent considerable time with, such as F-Zero, Wipeout XL, and Burnout 3: Takedown.
Distance, a new PC title available via Stream Early Access, feels not unlike the unholy spawn of those games, but with a focus on solo survival racing with a liberal dash of the Tron aesthetic. Oh, and a twisted, insane track designer and even crazier community making free tracks through Steam Workshop and included track editor.
About that Early Access tag: I generally don’t advocate buying Early Access titles, but based on the overwhelmingly positive reviews on Steam for this title, I gave it a shot anyway. I’m glad I did. If the developer stopped working on this game today, I’d still feel I had gotten my money’s worth. Why?
Let’s start with the game’s visuals.
While gameplay ultimately trumps all, with racing games in particular, graphics play a huge role in differentiating titles from each other. Distance is one of the most beautiful and visually striking games I have ever played. Everything in the game looks fantastic and fluid, like Tron:Legacy brought to life, and the integration of the HUD elements into the car model – even in cockpit mode – is fantastic. You can also run the game at maximum visual fidelity on mid-range graphics cards from the past few years and maintain rock-solid 60 Frames per second gaming. That said, the cockpit view is a bit more graphically demanding.
Another key part of a great racing game experience for me – and you might’ve guessed this by the titles I cited above – is a high-quality soundtrack. Distance has that as well, with tremendous sound assets throughout the experience and a very good electronic music soundtrack.
About that gameplay: Distance is definitely on the arcade side of the spectrum, with controls somewhat similar to the Burnout series. Your vehicle lacks much of a sense of weight, and the title is in no way going for the feeling of a realistic physics system here. Initially the go-kart type handling may be a little bit off-putting, but as the game layers on additional mechanics – jumping, flying, zero-gravity, mid-air alignment changes, and dodging all manner of obstacles – you understand why this is necessary.
There’s also a very satisfying boost system wherein you can push your car’s heat to a certain point, after which the core will explode, causing a reset – but regeneration rings appear at set intervals on each course that not only reset your “core” heat level but also can restore car damage, such as maybe the front ⅓ of the car that was just sawed off or the right half which was removed by a rotating laser.
Some levels don’t follow the traditional linear racing path at all, requiring you to fly up to the next portion of the track, navigate through zero-gravity, or even to jump and rotate your vehicle mid-air to maintain tires on the ever-changing track.
While Distance may be an early access title, it already has a short if satisfying solo campaign mode, which gradually reveals information about the backstory of the world you’re driving through. Expanding the gameplay experience are solo challenges, as well as Online and local split-screen racing options.
The main reason why I can already suggest you buy Distance is that it has a very active Workshop community churning out incredible levels every day.
If you’re looking for a new and unique gaming experience and have even a passing interest in racing titles,Distance is worth checking out. As a “survival” racer, you’re not racing against other AI drivers, just your own time, so even though some tracks can be difficult, the experience as a whole is somehow very relaxing and enjoyable.
With new tracks every day, multi-player modes, and the constant self-imposed pressure to get better times on each track, there’s plenty of value here already. Distance gets a strong “Buy it” recommendation from me.
See my video review, below, to watch the game in action.
Buy Distance from Steam: