Review: Mantis Burn Racing (PS4)

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Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • PC

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4
  • HDTV
Title: Mantis Burn Racing
Format: PSN (4.0 GB)
Release Date: VooFoo Studios
Publisher: VooFoo Studios
Developer: October 12, 2016
Original MSRP: $14.99 (US), €15.99 (EU), £12.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: E
PEGI: 3
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
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Gameplay:
Mantis Burn Racing is an easy to learn, fast-paced racing game. The camera is situated high above the vehicle while smooth and fluid controls allow for easy drifting round the tightest of corners no matter the vehicle type.

You start with a sports car in the medium category. You can eventually buy the light dune buggy and heavy six-wheeler truck. There is a slight difference to the handling but it shouldn’t take long to adjust to the weight difference when skidding round corners.

As you progress through the career mode, you’re earning Mantis Burn Racing money (inexplicably called G’s) and collecting gears via the completion of varying objectives. With enough of these, you can advance to the next section. Each part of the career becomes more difficult and requires more advanced and better vehicles.

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Collecting gears by completing objectives in the race is just as important as being first across the line. An objective could be anything from spending six seconds airborne to winning without using the boost. Some are easy but others might require you to come back once your vehicle has been upgraded.

You collect upgrade parts by climbing the experience ladder and leveling up, or by completing certain events in the career mode. Balancing the upgrades makes a difference too as beefing up the engine alone could give too much power and make the vehicle difficult to control.

What sets this top-down racer apart from the rest is the superb control you have. With excellent timing and skill you can drift round every bend, smash through shortcuts, and overtake the other racers. Each bump and scrape of the scenery or another automobile causes no damage. It can however briefly slow your little vehicle down, often allowing another car to steal your position, so learning the winding courses is essential.

… It’s more about having fun and perfecting impossibly long drifts …
Because of the restrictive top-down view, you cannot see most of the corners until you are almost upon them. With only the city areas marked with large arrows, you must either glance down at the map, follow the fading tire tracks of any racer ahead of you, or know the layout from memory.

Drafting behind other racers, going over jumps, causing destruction, and taking turns cleanly will fill up the boost meter. So taking that wide turn to wipe out the wooden fence between the road and ravine might just give you the edge, or put you over it.

Facing off against the AI competitors in the career mode with names like Daisy Chain, Lil’ Moby, Dr. Dirt, and Amber Lights lets you know Mantis Burn Racing isn’t taking itself that seriously. It’s more about having fun and perfecting impossibly long drifts around very winding courses.

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You’ll revisit the courses multiple times over in various modes throughout the career. You will have to beat certain time trials, normal races, knockout challenges, and more. You’ll also race in the reverse direction on every track, which helps to increase the longevity.

Not that this is a short-lived experience, far from it, as the career demands better automobiles and upgrades along with a skill that comes from tons of practise. The new rides are not cheap and you will have to fork out plenty of that money you earn from completing races, and then acquire enough upgrades to kit it out enough to compete with the seasoned AI racers.

… The use of lighting plays a significant part …
Visuals:
The outstanding graphics really show off what the talented folks at VooFoo Studios can do. Not only are the levels verging on photorealism at some moments, but also the speed at which the game plays is a wondrous achievement.

Courses snake through a city and the winding hills surrounding it, on and under a freeway bridge, along a marina with expensive yachts, and many other places. With the use of height playing a factor in many areas, you can often see parts of the course below as you race along the edge of a cliff or bridge.

My only gripe is the vehicle distinction during a race, mostly when it needs all of the same class to meet the requirements. You often get something like eight different colored trucks all racing together, for example. It can be a little confusing, mostly when the race starts and everyone is clumped together.

Oh, and the static (locked) camera option that cuts through scenery and obscures the track is a strange option that doesn’t work on most courses. With some more tweaking it could be good, but I advise you to ignore it for now.

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The use of lighting plays a significant part in some of the tracks. As you enter a cavernous area on a mining track for example, the screen is temporarily plunged into darkness as the game pretends to adjust for the change. This effect and the dimly lit area following it aches for HDR.

A subtle tilt-shift effect increases the illusion of scale and helps focus the action on the car and track ahead. The warm glow of petrol station signage and street lights illuminate the quiet city and reflect in the countless windows and off the water surrounding it.

… this one ticks all the right boxes …
Audio:
Both the music and sound effects are good with a memorable main track and some fevered in-race tunes that get the excitement levels up, although you may want to have your own music or Spotify ready to go when the selection becomes a little repetitive.

Engine noises are weak, partly due to the camera being so far away from the action, but I would rather hear more of the revs and thumps from the boost injection. At least you can adjust the various volume levels in the settings along with disabling the chat.

Online/Multiplayer:
Up to eight online players can race against each other in a private or open lobby, with the host picking the conditions and tracks. It took me many attempts over several days to find an online lobby but once I did, the connection was good and there did not seem to be any issues.

I’m sure a private lobby between friends would have worked well too, but sadly, none of my friends own the game so I could not check that aspect. You can have four people play locally in a split-screen mode that works surprisingly well, but the need for a larger television is necessary.

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Conclusion:
Mantis Burn Racing is easy to learn and will last you ages in the single player mode. A good top-down racer is a difficult thing to get right. The speed and controls need to feel just right and the camera has to work well too. Thankfully, this one ticks all the right boxes. With a few types of cameras you’re bound to get one that feels great, controls are smooth and easy to learn, and the speed is spot on.

To top it off the local and online multiplayer works well and will keep you entertained for a long time, if you can find some good people to race. It should take even longer to get through the extensive single player career and even longer to obtain every gear.

Aside from a few minor quibbles that many would overlook, like the many loading screens and static camera option, Mantis Burn Racing is a fun and rewarding racer that deserves a place in your gaming collection.

Score:
8.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Written by Chazz Harrington

Chazz Harrington

You can find me on everything: PSN, Twitter, Wii U, Origin, Steam, etc using my universal ID: ChazzH69

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  • I have been enjoying this in Steam for awhile now, good to hear the console port went well! I hope the online eventually picks up as this is a quick and fun arcade racer that reminds me of a more mature version of RC Pro AM.

    • ChazzH69

      I think it was in part due to the PlayStation VR being released.

  • Bearbongo

    Looking forward to this on the ps4pro. Native 4K support. Looks really fun. Thanks for a nice review.

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