For people of a certain age Bang Bang Racing will bring back vivid memories of some brilliant top down arcade racers. Whether it’s speeding around the breakfast table in Micro Machines on the Mega Drive or tearing round the track as a cow on wheels in Super Skidmarks on the Commodore Amiga there has, and probably always will be, a place for a well crafted top down racer. Compared to its previously mentioned (much) older peers Bang Bang Racing rarely gets out of first gear.
It is a shame as well because the bright colourful visuals and sharp graphics really set Bang Bang Racing apart and give it a unique feel. The squashed up cars with huge wheels fit nicely with the chunky graphics. Things quickly slide from promising to disappointing when you get out onto the grid. The horrible default camera angle is the first alarm bell to ring - Sitting behind the car it swings around with each corner sticking to the rear of the vehicle and by the end of the first race it is easy to feel a touch of motion sickness. The default view never allows the camera to settle and it’s far too easy to lose your bearings. Thankfully the game does give you the option of a fixed camera which is a better bet, however there are times when you can struggle to see the direction of an upcoming corner.
The cutesy graphics aside Bang Bang Racing struggles to live up to its name during the opening half an hour. Straight away you are limited to the single muscle car class until you unlock more cars and classes in the main career mode. While the first set of cars serve as a decent introduction it’s an extremely slow start with cars plodding around the track at a snail’s pace. All the cars have a nitro bar which fills up when not in use and taking too many hits from your opponents or the track walls sees your car suffer damage and slow down. Damage can be repaired in the pit lane but since you can belt through at full speed there is little in the way of penalty. Each class has different cars to unlock which is done by progressing through the career mode. Some have slightly better handling, more strength or can boost for longer. In all honesty there is rarely a need to pick a different car for the races and you can quite easily complete large sections of the career using the same vehicle as there isn’t a massive difference between cars in the same class.
Things increase in pace by the time you unlock the second class of cars and you can even start to slide some of them around the tighter corners. The brakes though are very sensitive and stepping on them for any length of time will see your car come to a standstill very quickly. Each class of car does bring a significant increase in speed but the challenge never really increases in tandem. A large part of this is thanks to the very stupid AI of the computer controlled drivers. They shoot off from the starting grid and nearly always become tangled up in the first corner of the race. Getting ahead of them is a simple affair and the only thing they have to get themselves back into contention is a healthy dose of nitro and, of course, rubber-banding AI. Despite this though they will fail to offer any serious challenge and even the most cack-handed of driver can breeze through many of the races at the first time of asking.
The career mode is where you spend most of your time and completing races unlocks new tracks and cars which can be used in one off races however it is not long before you will have seen all the tracks. The career mode also takes in a handful of different modes which include standard race, elimination (where the last car gets disqualified every ten seconds) and time trial but many of the races feel very similar thanks to the unchallenging AI. There are no power-ups to liven things up although there are different coloured barrels littered around the track which create oil slicks to slow down the opposition or exploding ones which damage them. The poor AI means though you’ll never really feel the need to make use of them and often the biggest challenge is simply getting through the start of race crush at the beginning. Once you finally manage to break free it’s plain sailing for the remainder of the laps.
Dodgy AI and repetitive races could have all being ignored thanks to a decent multiplayer mode but there isn’t one and that happens to be Bang Bang Racing’s biggest crime. There is the option for four players to take on each other in split screen mode but as always with these things it can be difficult to gather that number of players in one place. What Bang Bang Racing really needed was a decent on-line competitive multiplayer mode but there isn’t one anywhere in sight. Even for a PSN / XBox live title that feels like a massive oversight. Facing off against some real world opponents could have put a radically different spin on things.
Bang Bang Racing had the potential to be an enjoyable title but it misses badly thanks to ropey AI and a lack of real depth. For PS3 players we’ve also failed to mention the elephant in the room. As much as Bang Bang Racing tugs the nostalgic part of your brain which fondly remembers the likes of Super Sprint and Micromachines the fact is that Motorstorm RC (read our review of Motorstorm) has done the top down racing thing far better and at a much more competitive price as well. Younger gamers might have some fun but older players who want simple, addictive racing with house-fly cornering cars and who own a PS3 will find way more in the shape of Motorstorm than Bang Bang Racing.