When I first saw Ultimate Racing 2D, it brought back memories of the arcade game Super Sprint, minus the steering wheels of course. When I grabbed my Nintendo Switch and started it up, it didn’t take long to figure out it had some of the arcade-style I was expecting but also threw in some more realistic racing you would see in a modern racing sim. Did developer Applimazing score a podium finish with Ultimate Racing 2D, or did they end up out of the race due to mechanical failure? The green flag is waving, so let’s check out how the race is going with our Ultimate Racing 2D review.
In the pits
Graphically I got exactly what I expected from a modern 2D racer. You don’t get the photo-realistic visuals of modern racing simulators but you’re also not stuck in an 8-bit nightmare either. The different racing surfaces are represented well, and although the barriers and crowds are somewhat simplistic, they get the job done. My only real complaint is the international road courses and the kart circuits look too much alike. I would have liked to see the kart tracks get the same treatment the historic tracks do, adding in hay bales or lower quality surfaces, just something to differentiate them from the top tier tracks.
I was also a little disappointed in the audio quality. The audio in UR2D screams retro arcade and just deserves better. Each car type comes with its own engine sound, but don’t expect the realistic roar of an engine shifting through the gears. The only other sounds you will hear throughout the game are the low hum representing other cars and a high pitch squeal as your tires lose traction around the turns. Oh, there is the unwelcome sound of your car hitting up against a wall, but who wants to hear that?
On The Track
UR2D is packed with 45 tracks from all disciplines of racing. There are multiple ovals for those who only want to turn left and well-crafted road circuits that do a good job of representing their real-world counterparts are included for Formula One fans. For me, the kart circuits, with their constant hairpins and s-curves, were the most enjoyable, especially when using car classes with looser handling.
Speaking of cars, there are 35 classes to choose from. I doubt I have ever said this about a racing title before but that is just too many for this type of game. Too many of the classes share similar driving characteristics, making them redundant and adding little value to the game. There are also classes that just don’t fit into the style of the game. Tractors, combines, a limousine, and even a forklift find their way onto the track. Although these types of vehicles can add some hilarious hi-jinks to an arcade game, the semi-realistic model of UR2D renders these vehicles as boring at best, and utterly frustrating to drive at worst.
When it comes to racing games, developers must choose between going with arcade physics or realistic driving characteristics. I believe UR2D wants to be a realistic racer where practicing each track to learn the perfect groove, braking points, and turn entry and exit all make for a faster lap time. There are moments where you see this realism executed during a race but as soon as you bounce your car off a wall or ping pong between a couple of the AI drivers that sense of realism vanishes. What you end up with is a mash-up of both styles that I could never get the hang of.
Each of the 35 car classes has its own handling characteristics but you aren’t able to tweak the setup of your car to prepare for a track. Instead, you only have the arcade-ish choice of picking from ten presets. The more money you spend (in-game, no microtransactions here), the better car you get to drive, it’s really that simple. It would have been a better complement to the realistic tracks to allow adjustments to your car’s setup, or at least allow you to purchase upgrades to individual components. With the current system, there’s no chance of taking a low-level car and competing against the top end car of a class. Instead, you pick the best car you can afford and race it until you earn enough for a better one, finally getting to the point where you can rank high enough in your current series to move to the next class.
The flaws in this system are only compounded by the computer AI, or more precisely, the lack thereof. Each computer-controlled driver flawlessly follows the perfect driving line and never makes an error. This is taken to the extreme where the AI drivers are able to push you out of their line, often sending you off the edge of the track. There is the option to raise or lower the difficulty for each race, but this doesn’t change the AI’s ability to navigate the track; it only limits their top speed.
The Checkered Flag
At first, I thought I could overcome the issues of weak AI and lack of car setup options by practicing on the very well-made tracks until I had them memorized. The longer I played, though, the more I came to the realization that I would never be able to run a perfect race. Even if I could get off to a good start, all it would take was one bump from an AI opponent to send me to the back of the pack.
On the flip side, the excitement of an arcade racer just isn’t there. Everything that makes arcade racers fun – over-the-top physics model, extreme speed, crazy tracks with wild jumps and insane crashes – is missing. Even all the way back in the ‘80s Super Sprint allowed me to upgrade my car, yet another thing lacking in UR2D. In the end, Ultimate Racing 2D comes very close to being a good racing simulator but is hindered by elements usually reserved for arcade racers. Blending the two styles together ultimately leads to an identity crisis for the game, and the resulting gameplay ends up being bland.
Note: Our copy was reviewed on Nintendo Switch with a code provided by PR.