Home > Driving, PC > Nitronic Rush [REVIEW]

Nitronic Rush [REVIEW]

Nitronic Rush: released November 11th, 2011
Developer: Students at DigiPen Institute of Technology
Platforms: Windows

This holiday season has been a brutal one. In the past month I’ve had my attention divided between Arkham City, Skyrim, Tribes: Ascend, Diablo 3, Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3, Dungeon Defenders, and Gears of War 3. Not to mention the titles I have yet to get around to, such as Assassin’s Creed Revelations, No More Room in Hell, Serious Sam 3, DotA 2, and Saint’s Row: The Third. I can’t remember a time where I didn’t have an absolutely maddening number of games in my backlog, but holiday seasons such as this one are just murder. The sheer quantity of top notch titles at my disposal is a little intimidating.

With all that in mind, it’s nothing short of a miracle I ended up even remembering Nitronic Rush, but it’s a damn good thing I did. Let me start off by saying that my absolute favorite racing games of all time are Rush 2049 and F-Zero GX. I could go on for hours about these two games, and I have been lamenting the lack of any real sequels to them for years now. So imagine my surprise when I finally boot up Nitronic Rush and it turns out to be the very definition of a spiritual successor to those games, Rush in particular. In fact, if you ever played and enjoyed either of those games to any extent, stop reading and just go download it now. The link will be at the bottom of this review, Just GO. It’s a free download, and you will not regret it.

This game feels like what the Rush series should have evolved in to after Rush 2049. The car model looks like a Rush car, the crazy track designs are reminiscent of Rush, the cars have wings and boosters like in Rush, and there’s even a Stunt Mode present. Hell, it even has “Rush” in the title, not to mention having the announcer say “Rush” at the beginning of every round. The Nitronic team are very clearly fans of Rush, and they’ve done an amazing job recreating the excitement and sheer joy derived from playing those games.

In addition to being heavily influenced by the Rush series, there also appears to be major influence from Tron. While the gameplay and level design may remind us of Rush and F-Zero, the music and visual style are without a doubt based on the visuals of Tron and the music of Daft Punk. Lights pulsate and flare as you race over them while red and blue neons permeate the tracks as well as the surrounding “buildings.” It’s all very bright and futuristic, though I cannot really express in words just how fantastic it all looks. It truly does look and feel like you’re driving through the world of Tron, albeit a bit more chaotic than I remember. As a fan of Electro House music, the soundtrack was extra wonderful for me. The score is exciting and well composed and kept my head bobbing all throughout the experience. Even if you’re not a fan of the genre, fear not, the music is of a quality that really serves to help absorb you in to the experience. It’s fast-paced and exciting, just like the gameplay.

Speaking of the gameplay, the developers have really done an excellent job fine-tuning the unique driving style of Nitronic Rush. It’s all a little daunting at first, but with a little practice, you’ll be wall-riding and barrel rolling in no time! I won’t lie, when I first got to the Hardcore levels and the game explained some of the crazy things I’d be doing, it was my brain that was doing the barrel rolls. In Nitronic Rush your vehicle has the ability to boost, jump, and deploy wings for flight. One of the primary tricks to learn for Hardcore levels is to hop, spin your car 90 degrees so that your wheels will land flat on the wall, then hit the gas/turbo and start wall riding. That’s right, wall riding, Like in Tony Hawk or Ninja Gaiden. Then after that, you need to start flipping the car completely upside down to land on the ceiling above you, and start driving on that. All this while also keeping a grip on the gravity that seeks to upend your efforts, because let me tell you, until your wheels grip that surface, you’re completely susceptible to the whims of the gravity gods, and they are not a friendly sort. You will fall to your doom, and that is a fact. To say the levels of Nitronic Rush are mind-bending, would be a grave understatement.

Nitronic Rush sports five main gameplay modes. Story, Hardcore, Challenge, Stunt, and “Old Levels,” which are apparently levels that the team decided were unfit for the main story, but decided to include them anyways. Don’t let them pull one over on you though, despite the name, they are still very fun and very well designed, just like most everything else in the game. Story and Old Levels will have you hurtling through tracks avoiding a variety of dangerous obstacles and fatal jumps at every turn, trying to survive until the end. Hardcore mode is the same, but it incorporates significantly harder driving techniques, such as the previously mentioned wall-jumping. Challenge mode presents you with nearly a dozen specially designed levels with one main challenge for you to try and get through, such as jumping giant chasms and landing on a wall on the opposite end to survive, or flying through an asteroid field where all the asteroids were replaced with dangerous exploding mines. It’s all exceptionally well designed.

But then finally, there’s Stunt mode, which is probably the only part of this game that I found to be a bit of a disappointment. Stunt mode in Rush 2049 was a ton of fun. The levels were expertly layed out, angling your car just right to get the maximum amount of spin off a ramp took some real effort, and let’s not forget trying to collect all those damn coins! But alas, Nitronic Rush is really nothing like that. There are only so many stunts you can do, and while pretty, the levels aren’t terribly imaginative. The first stunt level is actually a bit of a pain in the ass due to most of the ground being pitch black. The ramps and such are all lit up and neon’d out, but everywhere else the ground is totally black, and it was a little disorienting.

The shortcomings of Stunt mode aside, the rest of the game is absolute gold. If you pine for the days of the arcade racer, and miss the speedy, chaotic nature of titles such as the oft-mentioned Rush and F-Zero, you have to play this game. Even if you never played those games at all and are simply intrigued by the idea of a high-speed driving survival game, you need to check out Nitronic Rush. It’s completely free, so unless your computer simply can’t run it, you have no excuse not to give this beautiful piece of software a test drive. It’s challenging, it’s gorgeous, it plays gorgeous, and it’s completely unique to every other driving game on the market today. Hell, it’s completely unique to every other game on the market, period.

Don’t make the mistake of passing this one over. I know the slew of free games that have been coming out lately (and the questionable quality that accompanies many of them) might make some of you wary to try out yet another free title, but please, do yourself a favor and do not miss Nitronic Rush. They just don’t make games like this anymore.

Nitronic Rush can be downloaded here:

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