Going fast is a notion so appealing that entire franchises have lived, died, been resurrected and put on life support with nothing but the vague promise that the next game will be speedy. It is an intoxicating rush that floods your system with the insatiable desire to grunt, flex and maybe even drop a few curse words when things get too fervent. FAST RMX by Shin’en even went so far as to tease you with its name – daring you to pick up its silky smooth vehicular frame, slide into its cockpit and hit the accelerator.
If you decide to call the games bluff, then you will find yourself in a world of endless adrenaline, eye watering speed and gaping jaws. This was no bluff – this was a promise. FAST simply knows how to convey blistering, nonstop, futuristic racing action in a way the untrained human brain can barely comprehend. You have two speeds when playing FAST – fast, and way too fast.
The game is split into three leagues, with each league consisting of a number of cups, with each cup containing four tracks. Your goal is to just play the game until you have gotten your hands on gold on every track, on every league. Leagues aren’t just an indicator of AI difficulty either, they are actually significant increases in base speed. When you first start playing in the Subsonic league, and the game feels frighteningly zippy, just remember that the game is holding back and is waiting to show you its final form.
Due to the sheer number of tracks FAST RMX flaunts, it is seriously impressive that each of them manages to be memorable and feel unique. A few themes get reused here and there, but as a whole, the selection is diverse and interesting. Which is great, since they are also hard as nails. Tracks are never easy to navigate, predictable, wavy loops. The game often opts to put hazards on the track, which forces you to pay attention once you get to grips with the game’s speedy nature. Some tracks have multiple routes with bonuses like additional boost energy or boost pads being distributed asymmetrically, forcing tough decisions mid race. Finally, since you are racing in a futuristic space hovercraft, many tracks pack jumping sections giving you a brief respite (aerial speed is slower than ground speed) before thrusting you back into the action.
What makes FAST RMX stand out from practically every other racing game – even those that directly inspired it – is its polarity mechanic. Each craft can swap between blue and orange polarity, which allows you to interact with certain aspects of a track. Boost and launch pads are always given a specific polarity, if you manage to match said polarity, you gain the benefit for that pad. The downside being, if you fail to swap in time, then are punished quite heavily (most of the time) due to your top speed being stamped all over, and that jump you needed to make, being a guaranteed fail. It is an interesting mechanic, and when you are going several trillion miles per hour it can be a tad difficult to recognise what polarity you need to be in. Ultimately though, it does feel a bit gimmicky and the game wouldn’t be any worse with its removal.
Polarity manipulation isn’t the only way to gain speed boosts however. Each track is littered with glowing orbs ready for you to absorb. These orbs fill your boost meter, allowing you to gain immense speed at will. This is where a lot of the game’s strategy comes into play, as you need to not only plan when you use your boost, but also for how long. In addition, some orbs are in awkward locations forcing you to go out of your way to get them – abandoning the ideal racing line. The final use of boost is actually as a weapon. Smashing into an enemy whilst boosting will cause them to spin out, massively reducing their speed and giving you a significant lead. The AI are well aware of this tactic and will not hesitate to attack you, should the opportunity present itself.
The last piece in FAST’s puzzle is the vehicles themselves. Whilst the roster is noticeably small, the differences between them are noticeably significant. Each one has a unique set of stats that determine their top speed, acceleration, boost and handling. The faster the ship, the harder it is to control. Slower ships tend to have a higher acceleration, better handling and more of then than not, a more potent boost. I found that for the vast majority of the game’s challenges (or the ones I was good enough to overcome…), handling and boosting were significantly more impactful than their speed related brothers, which unfortunately led to me sticking to one or two ships for the entirety of the playthrough. This also meant I didn’t have much desire or need to experiment with the ship I later unlocked, which is a shame.
For those of you who want a challenge, then FAST RMX is happy to provide. Sure the game is zippy as all hell, and the tracks are difficult to learn, but the true enemy is the AI. These buggers are a nightmare to behold, even on easier difficulties. They are able to navigate the game’s tracks with ease, will attack you at every opportunity and if you make even one mistake, they will speed past you, leaving you cry in a cloud of future-dust. Every win is a hard fought battle giving FAST a very tense feeling. I never felt like I was relaxing and having fun. Instead it was full focus, at all times. Satisfaction came from overcoming the odds, not from actually playing.
Unfortunately the game is far from fair as FAST suffers from some serious rubber banding. It is incredibly difficult to create any meaningful distance between you and your rivals. It didn’t really matter how good I got, the AI was always on my tail. I could shave ten seconds off my time, and you better believe I had second place inappropriately grinding against my exhaust. This is exacerbated by the insane difficulty spikes that plague the game’s progression. On numerous occasions the game just decided that this cup would be on a whole different level, only for the next cup to be a comparative walk in the park. It all culminated in the game feeling frustrating to play a lot of the time.
This wouldn’t be so bad had the game had functioning online multiplayer. Jumping into a lobby and blitzing these incredible tracks with real players would have been awesome, but in all my attempts to get into a game, I failed to find even one. Thankfully the game has four player split screen which lets you enjoy the game with friends. A nice inclusion for sure, but without an online community, you play options are severely limited.
Arguably FAST’s biggest selling point is its unbelievable graphics. Everything just glistens with high fidelity attention to detail. The tracks are large, covered in interesting lighting, weather effects and backed by some awesome skyboxes, whilst the ships are given a hyper futuristic, glossy look. The developers even managed to nail the sense of speed, with the screen being flooded with various effects to give the impression you really are breaking the sound barrier. On numerous occasions I let out a few curse words when I hit the boost button. THe best part though? This bugger never drops a frame. It is locked at 60, and no matter what I did, regardless of how many players I had in local multiplayer, the game refused to budge. FAST RMX is easily the best looking racing game on the Switch, which is all the more impressive when you consider this is not only an indie game, but a Switch launch title.
FAST RMX is a pain in the arse to say the least. The game is blisteringly quick, pumps you full of adrenaline and full to the brim with quality content. But this isn’t a game for everyone, and heck, this wasn’t always the game for me. The floundering online, rubberbandy AI and sudden spikes in difficulty can often overwhelm the positives, and left me rather frustrated a lot of the time. That being said, if you have been looking for a futuristic racer that will grab you by the balls, throw you to the ground and make you grovel – only for you to rise from the dirt a champion (albeit a slightly shaken one…) then FAST RMX is absolutely the game for you.
Toast Tentative Seal Of Approval
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