Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux, PS4
Tested on: PC (Early Access)
Expected release: 2015
Distance – Preview
Distance is not only a survival, racing game currently in development by Refract. It is also the spiritual sequel to Nitronic Rush, a free indie racing game designed by the same developers while in college. Distance is available as an Early Access game on Steam and has left some fairly good impressions on players, including us.
The storyline in Distance is not finished but the bits and parts that are playable introduce the various features of the cars seamlessly, alongside with the various types of deadly obstacles you may come across. While it is called a storyline, there is not much of an actual story going on which is to be expected from a racing game but it a refreshing view on how to do tutorials.
The sound design in Distance is as you would expect from a futuristic-styled racing game: electronic generated music which reminds me of the old techno and trance days. The catchy electronic ambient sound adjusts to the surroundings such as becoming muffled while you’re driving through tunnels which is an excellent feature.
At first glance the visuals simply scream ‘Tron’ and the longer that you play, the more impressed you’ll become with the futuristic graphics. The atmosphere is simply outstanding and while the game does have futuristic sceneries, there are still bits and parts that will keep you grounded to reality. The cars are quite detailed and can be recolored so that you may feel ‘unique’ but there are other features that can be implemented to increase that feeling of individualism. When playing the game, you’ll notice a lack of a HUD or a GUI but everything you need to know is shown at the rear-side of the car which gives the game a cleaner look.
The movement system in Distance is absolutely brilliant and the controller support is even more so. With RT you can accelerate while jumping/flying is done with X and boosting is done with A. Both flying and boosting can cause your system to overheat. Flying through rings will decrease the heat while you can simply cease boosting to stop your system from overheating. Additionally, there are green rings along the track which will reset, or regenerate, your boosting capabilities so you will never have to cease your boosting for too long. For those who do not own a controller, the keyboard does an excellent job as well.
What makes the movement so brilliant is the fact that the steering does not feel clunky at all and is in fact quite responsive – unlike many other racing games. A welcomed feature in a racing game that is packed with intense action, speed and deadly obstacles. The obstacles you may encounter is one of those features that will keep you grounded to reality: barriers, pillars, walls that pop-up when you get close, lasers that will slice your car and even saw blades that will deal some serious damage. As mentioned before, you can jump and fly in Distance. The easiest to explain this type of action is that you can finish the track parkour-styled by jumping, flying and wall-riding.
While the adventure mode provides the backbone of the game, the most interesting modes are found in Arcade-mode which is split up in three types: solo, split-screen and online mode. The online mode is self-explanatory as this is the online multiplayer mode. The solo and split-screen mode have some overlapping game modes while certain modes can only be played in split-screen modes but here is a general overview so you know what to expect.
- Sprint: Survive the track and get to the finish line as fast as you can.
- Speed and style: Combine fast driving with landing tricks to earn the best time.
- Challenge: No resetting, no checkpoints, only raw challenge on short tracks.
- Stunt: Bust out crazy tricks and get the most points to beat out the competition.
- Reverse tag: One player is tagged and their timer increases. Everyone else chases them down. First player whose timer hits 3 mins wins.
- Soccer: Get the ball into the other team’s goal. Whichever team scores the most points wins.
The only down-side of the latter mode is the fact that Soccer can only be played in split-screen mode which is a local multiplayer with up to four players while it would be a great mode to have in the online mode as well.
Even this early in development, Distance already offers a full fledged track editor which does require some ‘trial-and-error’ to figure it out. With an active community, there are already over two-hundred community created tracks available in the Steam workshop, meaning there is quite a bit of content available already. Down-side here is that you need to download these maps before launching the game or you are forced to restart the game.
While Distance is quite early in development, the game feels polished even more so than many full-released games. The movement system is far more enjoyable than many other racers. The visual aspect of the game, combined with the intense action, speed and deadly obstacles makes the game even more enjoyable. Distance is a title that many racing-fans should play and while this may be a bolder statement, the game would be a perfect title for the next generation consoles. Luckily for us, the game is announced to join the PS4 line-up in 2015.