A blistering racer brought to a halt by some flaws.
If there’s one thing to get right in an anti-gravity racer it’s the speed. Cybernetic Walrus plainly took this to heart when crafting Antigraviator. Oh boy, is it fast. Boasting no speed limit, this means that theoretically if you don’t get hit you could accelerate indefinitely until… your computer crashes? You bend time and space? Either way, I can’t exactly verify that claim – I can just assert that it is, indeed, face-meltingly quick.
This makes playing Antigraviator an intense, full-on experience. I first tried it while casually sitting on my sofa but was soon frustrated. It took me moving to my computer desk and sitting squarely in front of my monitor before I felt like I could actually take it all in.
Get to grips with Antigraviator’s exhilarating pace and you’ll discover that it otherwise plays mostly how you’d expect. Facing up to seven other foolhardy daredevils, you’ll hurtle through futuristic levels and hopefully end up somewhere near the front of the pack.
It’s a solid roster of 15 tracks, twisting and undulating in surprising ways. Due to the impractical levels of speed you’ll find yourself at, learning and practising the courses is crucial. Unless your reactions are exquisite, some of the sharper turns are too difficult to anticipate on your first run.
The presentation of its sci-fi tracks is another strength of Antigraviator, accented in slick neon and with stunning backdrops of cityscapes, space and far-off worlds. They’re thoughtfully done, too, with just enough glamour to excite without dazzling you beyond the ability to see where you’re going.
Where the courses try to innovate is in the trap system. Pick-ups fill a meter which can either be spent on speed boosts (as if you didn’t have enough of that already) or on launching traps at your opponents. These range from rock slides to electric fences and homing rockets.The problem is, their implementation is slightly baffling at best and downright irritating at worst.
One issue is that traps can only be deployed at certain sections of the course. A second is that they can only be activated by one player at once. Cue waiting for the relevant notification and hoping that your trigger finger is the fastest.
Traps also feel imbalanced in their impact. Some are trivial and easily avoided, such as one which merely scatters a few boulders about. The electric fences of the punny Michael’s Bay track, on the other hand, are downright cruel both in how difficult they are to avoid and the destruction they unleash upon your Grav. And whereas homing missiles prompt a warning indicator, it’s never clear when or how you can actually avoid them.
The combat system which does work, on the other hand, is the humble roll mechanic. A flick of the analogue stick barrel rolls your Grav to the side, shunting nearby opponents into the wall. Simple, satisfying and effective. If only the rest of Antigraviator’s combat was so straightforward.
The crux of Antigraviator’s solo experience is a campaign of standard, four-track Grand Prix competitions. With solid AI which gradually increases in difficulty as you progress, you’re encouraged to improve with time. Particularly considering the fact that you have to win the previous league before progressing to the next – though being able to restart races without penalty makes this less strict.
The campaign is very utilitarian with no fluff, to the point of feeling a little unrewarding. Winning a Grand Prix results in absolutely zero fanfare, unless you count the somewhat anticlimactic ‘return to main menu’ option.
The only feature adding extra meat on the bones is customisation of your Grav. By spending credits earned through a Grand Prix you can swap out modules to focus your craft on acceleration, handling or boost, often at the expense of a different stat. With only a handful of options for each part it’s far from comprehensive, but a neat little addition nonetheless.
Master the solo campaign (or progress as far as you’re able) and you’ll be ready to face human opponents in either local split-screen or online multiplayer. The inclusion of both of these is a boon but unfortunately, you’re unlikely to find many competitors in the latter. At one point I checked the leaderboards to find that I was ranked 20th in the world. If you witnessed my skills first-hand you’d appreciate what a damning surprise this really was.
Antigraviator shines in its glorious futuristic levels and the astonishing velocity at which you navigate them. Sadly, the only real USP that sets it apart from the pack – its trap system – not only fails to enhance the experience but actively hinders it. Coupled with an austere solo offering and lack of online community, Antigraviator lacks real staying power. Not a total wipeout, but falls short of pole position.