There are many gamers out there – this writer included – who would kill for a modern-day version of Out Run. Not literally, mind you, but we could probably stretch to petty crime if need be. While fans of Sega’s definitive arcade racer will be pleased to hear it’s coming to the Switch soon as part of the Sega AGES series, it would still be nice to get something new. Step forward Horizon Chase Turbo, which nails that feeling better than any other modern racer.
Actually, although Out Run is the comparison most would immediately jump to (like we just did), Horizon Chase Turbo has more in common with the Top Gear games on the SNES. Brazilian developer Aquiris has stated that its major source of inspiration was the 16-bit trilogy of Top Gear, Top Gear 2 and Top Gear 3000, to the extent that it even brought back the original game’s composer Barry Leitch to create its soundtrack.
Whichever old-school racer you want to compare it to, the important thing is that Horizon Chase Turbo is absolutely fantastic. It ticks all the boxes that define the best examples of the genre: pristine and beautiful landscapes, obscenely high speeds, incredibly satisfying handling and – that classic Sega staple – skies that are the bluest blue imaginable.
The main mode on offer here is World Tour. Consisting of just over 100 tracks spread among 12 regions, it has you starting in California and travelling right across the world – taking in the likes of Iceland, South Africa, China and the UAE – before ending up at Hawaii. Completing World Tour will take you an extremely long time, but it’s never dull or repetitive because the game goes above and beyond to ensure it always feels fresh.
Despite the large number of tracks available, each has its own personality and style. Whether it’s the Morning Walk stage set in the Sequoia National Park – complete with fir trees lining the side of the road and a giant fallen oak with a tunnel cut into it – or the large ‘EU [heart] BRASILIA’ sign on the first track in the developer’s native Brazil, you’re still going to be seeing new things even as you reach the end of this lengthy mode.
Replay value is strong in World Tour, too. While finishing at a decent position in each race is enough to keep you progressing for the most part, the real aim is to get a perfect score. There are a number of blue tokens dotted around each track, and if you can collect every token and finish first in the race, you’ll be able to tick that one off as truly complete and get a special cup for that track. There’s a special car available if you can do this on every circuit, so that’s your incentive.
Outside of World Tour, there’s a Championship mode with a more traditional Mario Kart structure: a set number of races, a certain number of points depending on where you finish, whoever has the most points at the end wins. You know how this works. Master both World Tour and Championship and you’ll get the ultimate challenge: the Endurance mode, which is a longer championship taking in either 12, 36 or all 109 races. Naturally, the latter will take a number of hours to complete, and there’s another special car for doing so: you’ll never be so grateful for the Switch’s 'suspend' feature.
Finally, there’s Playground mode, which is new for the Switch and Xbox One versions. This is a regularly updated series of challenges that let you upload your times to a leaderboard so you can compare your skills with the rest of the world. At launch, these include a couple of time trial races – one mirrored, one with changing weather – and three regular races with varying gimmicks attached (unlimited nitros, no HUD, etc). As long as this mode continues to be regularly updated it should be a fun way to keep your interest in it (especially since there’s sadly no online multiplayer).
Of course, all this would be pointless if the game itself wasn’t fun to play, and that’s really the most important thing to bear in mind here: it’s enormously entertaining. The sense of speed is fantastic – especially when you unlock the later cars and it starts to get so fast you’d swear it was more F-Zero than Out Run – and everything runs at a silky smooth 60 frames per second in both TV and handheld mode. Each car handles like a dream, and there’s something immensely satisfying about triggering a turbo boost mid-turn and slipping through a tiny gap between an opponent and the edge of the track.
It sounds incredible too. Barry Leitch composed the music for a bunch of classic racing games during the ‘90s era, including the aforementioned Top Gear, Lotus 2 and Rush 2. His all-new retro-inspired score for Horizon Chase Turbo is absolutely sensational, making it one of the few game soundtracks we’ve happily added to our Spotify library. The title screen music is even a modern cover of the title theme from Top Gear: a lovely little bonus for fans of the SNES racer.
Although (as noted) there’s no online multiplayer to speak of, you do get the option to play local multiplayer for up to four players. Whereas most games of this ilk see serious frame rate drops when you add extra players – usually a drop to 30fps when you add a third player – this one handles it surprisingly well. It more or less keeps a stable 60 during two-player split screen, and continues to aim for it while there are three or four players taking part (though it does stutter a bit). An impressive effort nonetheless.
If you’ve been craving an arcade racer for your Switch, look no further. Horizon Chase Turbo is a hugely enjoyable love letter to a gaming era when the cars were fast, the music was catchy, the action was smooth and the sky was bluer than an Eddie Murphy stand-up routine. Its enormous selection of tracks, addictive World Tour mode and excellent local multiplayer make it an absolute must-have for anyone even remotely interested in the genre.