Quick Take: Mantis Burn Racing is the real deal. Full-featured, customizable, top-down racing games have never looked this good, or played this well.
I love a good racing game. Whether it is a realistic sim, like a Forza Motorsport game, or cartoony arcade racer like Mario Kart, zooming around a track and trying to be No. 1 is a thrilling, fun experience that resonates with humanity’s need to be the best. In the new game Mantis Burn Racing, from developer VooFoo Studios, out now for the Xbox One, PS4, and PC, racing takes on a different, classic perspective for an amazing, full-featured run through a racing circuit that harkens back to games like RC Pro Am, all the while utilizing new technology and powerful processors to deliver a stellar good time.
Mantis Burn Racing has all features of a big AAA game, in such a tiny package. The cars are tiny on the screen, and the tracks/maps are just as small. It plays much like RC Pro Am for the original NES — so much so that while I was playing Mantis Burn, my wife came into the room and asked if RC Pro Am had been remade. I told her no, this was better.
Mantis Burn Racing allows players to select a wide variety of vehicles, all of which can be upgraded from the tires to the gearboxes, to even the paint jobs. Then these cars can be taken out on the tracks to be raced, either in the solo career mode, four-player split screen co-op, or online against friends and strangers. The career mode is broken down into seven distinct seasons, and each season has different kinds of races to participate in. There are eight different races to participate in during a season, including sprint, time attack, to name a few. Each race awards XP and gold, the XP used to level up, the gold to pay for upgrades. Players can also earn gears by completing objectives in each race. These range from finishing first, to getting good air on a ramp jump, to drifting for a 1,000 feet in one race. There is a three gear objective, a two gear objective, and, of course, a one gear objective, and they are varied depending on the race type. Collecting gears opens up new events in the season, so VooFoo put incentive to race the same events over and over to collect the gears to move the career forward.
The multiplayer mode is surprisingly stout, and racing against three others in split screen couch co-op, or up to seven other people online is just as fast and fluid as racing solo against the AI. Weekly challenges also give players new things to do week in and week out, keeping Mantis Burn Racing content fresh. There are also scheduled DLC drops to come in the future.
As for the racing itself, Mantis Burn Racing is balanced incredibly well. The cars each feel different on the various types of tracks, but player skill quickly offsets any terrain issues that may come up in a race. There are dirt tracks and coastal city pavement tracks, and VooFoo extends the track numbers by flipping each track — in a good way.
During the actual race, I was shocked at how much control I had over my cars. The two triggers control and and brake, and getting the feel for when to gun it over when to pull back for a horrendous turn came very naturally. There is a boost button mapped to A/X that refills over the course of a race. Drifting was easy, and after one or two races, I managed to get the feel of my car and could then push for the lead often and early. And as I began to upgrade my cars, the extra power in the various parts of the vehicle seemed to be growing with my skill at the actual racing, which is astounding. I’ve rarely seen this type of balance in a racing game.
Graphically, Mantis Burn Racing looks great. It’s not Forza great, but for a top down arcade racer, the tracks are incredibly detailed, and the cars themselves are perfect for this type of game. The lighting effects are beautiful, and the dirt tracks kick up little plumes of dust as your race on them. The screen darkens when a player drives into a cave, and there are both day and night races, which adds so much aesthetically to the game as a whole.
The music is techno/EDM, but it never gets boring and serves as a perfect soundtrack for the amount of racing that is to be done here.
Mantis Burn Racing is a game that I have gone back to over and over for the last few weeks, setting aside bigger, more expensive games that need to be reviewed. It is that fun. The quick races and the season/career mode is designed for pick up and play, and there are always more gears to earn to further my campaign or to climb the online worldwide leaderboards for best times. Online/multiplayer racing is solid, and unlocking new vehicles and upgrades becomes addictive very quickly. With the promise of continued DLC support, this is a game that will stay on my HDD for a long time. This game is the real deal.
Mantis Burn Racing is available now for the Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC, via Steam. This review is based off a Xbox One review code provided by the publisher.