Antigraviator is a game that surprised me by how much I enjoyed it, since generally I’m not one for racing games. Racing games need some unique twist - being set in some game universe I like, such as in the case of Mario Kart, or have a unique standout angle that sets it apart from the contemporary, realistic car racing games that bore me to death and back. In Antigraviator, that twist is a far-future sci-fi setting and ludicrously high speeds.
In Antigraviator, you don’t race cars around a regular track burning rubber on asphalt but zoom across huge 3D structures with incredibly nimble hovercraft while knocking your opponents around with various traps. Racing games, as a genre, are quite different from most others and I had to adjust my criteria quite a bit. Usually, I place story and gameplay above all else, possibly even prioritizing story among those two, giving little to no importance to graphical fidelity, and rather judge visuals on art direction and aesthetic.
As a game that doesn’t have a story, Antigraviator skewed the typical way I appreciate video games (unless it isn’t already apparent, I play racing games exceedingly rarely). Gameplay becomes the deciding factor and graphics gain importance. When booting up the game, one is met by a popup suggesting the use of at least an i7, a GTX 1060 and 16 GB of RAM as framerate is crucial in a game where you’ll be racing at super-high speeds.
There are, of course, multiple graphical settings. My i5, GTX 980, 16 GB RAM desktop ran it an unwavering 60 FPS on maximum settings, whereas my i5-6200U, GTX 960M, 8 GB RAM laptop could only muster single digit framerates at the lowest settings. Granted, the game looks mighty fine in exchange for those requirements. The Gravs, your vehicles, look extremely crisp, textures are flawless and there are plenty of flashy effects, which fit the setting and manage to be plentiful without being gaudy.
The tracks themselves have good looking backdrops, but usually you won’t be focusing on that while playing at all. The races are unforgiving in their demand for every split second of your attention. You’ll need to focus on collecting pickups, hitting booster pads, launching and avoiding traps all the while racing at speeds where the tiniest of movement can send you careening into the walls.
Antigraviator has several modes. Campaign is broken up into leagues of four races each, requiring you to achieve first place in overall ranking to unlock the next chapter. As said before, there is no narrative framing to this, you’re just some racer competing in some race. There is a selection of game modes, and the campaign covers them all eventually. There is your usual, basic lap-based race, you have your time trials and you have Death Race, where the last person gets eliminated each lap. The quick race option allows you to mix and match tracks, race types and parameters like the number of players to your lking, and finally there is a multiplayer mode.
Antigraviator feels somewhat arcadey with the pickups - these power your button-activated speed boost - and the use of traps. There are many variations of traps, such as activating a flamethrower built into the track up ahead, releasing an avalanche of large cubes into a bottleneck or launching a missile at the Grav ahead of you, with some being potentially dangerous for you as well (such as the box avalanche) meaning you need to time these well.
I noticed no rubberbanding or other trickery to artificially make races more tense, however either due to the AI or to track layouts, regardless of how spread out the players were on any given track every now and then we’d bunch up which would become a crazed tussle with everyone trying to knock the others into the walls, each other, or just try to slip past while everyone is playing dodg’em. These moments make for some rather specatcular overtakes, reshuffling the positions of the racers.
Unfortunately for me, the high speeds at which Antigraviator is played makes it mighty hard to screenshot unless you have a helping hand or are willing to provide photographic evidence of wallowing in 8th place because you were busy pressing F12 right before a hairpin turn.
Tracks are varied in terms of scenery, often have multiple routes you can pick from and twist and turn through 3D space with huge loops and impossible funnels, all made possible by the sci-fi setting which is certainly a boon. Attention has been paid to window dressing - some of the tracks are set on a space-station, for example, and occasionally spaceships will fly past overhead. Settings vary between desert, urban, industrial, volcanic, space, icy and tropical giving plenty of visual variation. Even though much of the scenery is usually a blur, the devs clearly paid attention to it.
Antigraviator also features Grav customization, though it isn’t particularly in-depth. There are a total fo three Grav types, two of which need to be unlocked with credits earned through racing. You also have wings, plating and transmission beyond visual customization. The game also has a fun, energetic soundtrack that fits the racing style.
However, at the end of the day, there isn’t a lot of stuff in Antigraviator. You have three vehicle chasses, many tracks are just reversed versions, game modes and traps are rather limited. Very soon you’ll start to feel like you’ve seen everything the game has to offer, and if you’re not particularly fond of racing games the motivation to play ends right there. I wasn’t much of a fan of the genre, and as fun as Antigraviator is, it didn’t convert me and doesn’t offer enough to keep me invested.
Antigraviator is fun while it lasts, but fails to be memorable. The developers are clearly talented and pay attention to detail, but more content and variation would go a long way to make the game long-term entertainment even for players who aren’t big on racing titles. As it stands now, there is a lot to like for enthusiasts of the genre, but the game feels a tad threadbare. It is certainly the beginnings of something great, and should be nourished to reach its potential.
TOP GAME MOMENT
During a Death Race on one of the space-station maps, around the middle of the race I managed to get ahead of everyone else by a significant margin. Positions didn’t really change after, but as the others were being eliminated one by one the 2nd racer was steadily closing the distance between us. Due to a few missed booster pads, in the end there was just the two of us and my opponent was right on me. As we were haphazardly switching positions over and over again, I managed to boost ahead right before the finish line in a particularly Hollywoodesque victory.