Xbox One, , Nintendo Switch,
September 11, 2020
Level 91 Entertainment
Inertial Drift is the debut game from North Ireland based Level 91 Entertainment. As the name would imply, this one is focussed only on drift racing and it features a unique dual stick control mechanic to boot. It is set in a retro 90s world featuring a wide range of cell shaded vehicles sliding around neon soaked vistas.
Although racing games are one of my favourite genres, drift racing is a style that I typically avoid like the plague. In racing games the drift mechanic tends to just be bolted on, too finicky and really doesn’t make a difference whether you attempt it or not. Given my allergy to drifting, I didn’t know how I was going to feel about Inertial Drift when I booted it up. But I was surprised by how much fun it was sliding through the s bends, inches away from a wall, with a non threatening house music soundtrack thumping in the background. Once I had the hang of it I even had some time to admire the beautiful scenery. Has it converted me to drift racing? Probably not, but Inertial Drift at least makes it fun.
When developer Level 91 said that Inertial Drift features a unique control scheme, they were not kidding. Usual racing tricks and skills do not apply here. If you try and take a corner steering only with the left stick, say hello to the wall. Your normal racing game skills will barely move the car. The trick to this game is using the right stick to try and control your drift angle in association with the brake and accelerator. Take what you know about racing games and throw it out the window, it is useless here. For my first few laps my muscle memory tried to correct the car on corners but this creates inevitable (bad) results. It takes a little time to unlearn how to control a video game car.
Once I got the hang of the controls, Inertial Drift turns into a fast, exciting game. Sliding around corners, the nose of the car kissing the inside wall. Screaming through winding courses with the tail of the car swinging like a pendulum, knowing that you perfected that section of the course, bringing a sense of achievement. Also, the game looks really cool.
New players should definitely start with the beginner cars as they are MUCH easier to control and you will be tail happy in no time. Although there is a varied selection of cars in Inertial Drift, they all have their own quirks and some of these beasts are hard work. They require constant attention and precise use of both sticks, accelerator and brake simultaneously.
Fortunately, you don’t have to jump in at the deep end. Inertial Drift does gently introduce you into its world with a short tutorial and a (very) short story mode with a basic storyline around a group of friends looking toward training for a summer Grand Prix. This, oddly, does not end up playing any part in the story.
Really, the story mode is an extended tutorial that consists of a series of short challenges with some short cutscenes in between. Challenges include racing a ghost, time trials, a style challenge (where you drift for points) and the odd race. Interestingly there is no collision with other vehicles in this game regardless of what type of race you are doing and there is only ever one other car on the track. So whether it’s a ghost race, time trial or actual race, it does not make any big difference to the gameplay.
I didn’t miss the lack of collision detection with other vehicles and nor did I miss a full field of cars. If we had a full field of drifters I would imagine we would just be banging into each other anyway. Inertial Drift is really about focussing on your own car control, it requires your full attention and not worrying about other racers makes this approach much more effective. With no field of racers and no collision detection, this can feel like a very solitary game at times. Fortunately then Inertial Drift includes the obligatory online racing and features good old split screen couch racing if you can find some like minded drifters.
In Arcade mode you can try any of the cars you have unlocked and race on any of the game’s tracks. Inertial Drift features 10 locations and reverse versions of each, so depending on your point of view it features 20 experiences. The courses are nicely varied so you can blast around a sunset coast and up into the hills, scream through a neon soaked city or tear down a snowy mountain road.
Without exception all of the tracks look stunning. They feature loads of neon colours and background detail, particularly in the city tracks. Developer Level 91 really managed to dial in the atmosphere with Inertial Drift. The vibrant visuals are supported by a chilled out, atmospheric, electronic soundtrack that beats along softly in the background.
Outside of Story and Arcade there is a Grand Prix option, which consists of 5 random challenges and three lives to complete them, similar to the story mode but without the story. There is a challenge mode with a range of tasks to complete, this is where you can unlock new cars if you are fast enough. Depending on the vehicle, these can be pretty frustrating and will require multiple attempts. That is okay though, because if the car is just too much of a handful and it’s not fun to drive, maybe you don’t want/need it. But if you do take the time to master the cars and pass the challenges then congratulations for taming the beast, no doubt you will be a formidable drifter on the track.
- Unique control scheme makes drifting fun
- Vehicles all drive radically differently
- Colour soaked background visuals
- Story mode is super short, there is no climax
- Some of the cars are impossible to drive
- Lack of competitor vehicles and collisions make many challenges similar
Inertial Drift is an impressive effort from Level 91 Entertainment especially for a debut game. They really delivered on the visuals and atmosphere across the board, even though it will take some practice before you are able to take some time to enjoy the scenery. The varied vehicles all require very different approaches to racing which adds replay value. Drifting may not be my thing, but Inertial Drift is well worth a drive.