Reviewed: November 6, 2007
Released: September 12, 2007
Gala-Net was founded in 2004 for the North American PC audience. In a world of monthly subscription-based online games, Gala-Net stands out as one of the leaders of the Free-To-Play Online market. This means that they offer Free-to-Play games at no cost to the consumer. They however can purchase gPotatoes, the currency of Gala-Net, to enhance their gameplay experience. Gala-Net is behind the online games Corum Online, Shot Online, FlyFF, Rapplez and the game I am reviewing Upshift StrikeRacer for the PC.
It is the late 21st Century and war and death is a thing of the past. Death is nothing more a joke as you are “respawned” on the spot. Triumph City is the birth place of StrikeRacing and you are a newcomer to the city and to StrikeRacing. StrikeRacing is condoned and governed by the triumph City Council. You must bolt on heavy ordinances to your car and take to the streets to carve a destructive path to the top.
There are many combat racing games out there but the one game that comes to mind when comparing Upshift StrikeRacer’s gameplay is Full Auto for the Xbox 360. Both games have similar styles but that’s about it.
The interface of Upshift StrikeRacer (or USR) is pretty much the same that is seen in every other racing game under the sun. There are two onscreen displays that I will talk about. The first is the weapons display cycle in the lower left of the screen. There are 3 weapons classes used in Upshift StrikeRacer: Short Range, Long Range and Rear. I will go into these classes a little more in-depth later on.
The second onscreen display is the item boxes. These boxes display any items that you pick up along the way during your races. You may have up to three in your inventory at any given time. So think of this as an updated version of the item box from Super Mario Kart. Again I will go it to this farther later on.
Upshift Racer has 3 main modes of play to choose from. They are StrikeRacing, Racing and Time Attack. The StrikeRacing mode is the main emphasis of Upshift StrikeRacer. This is where you duel it out in set path races. The objective is to come in first place and blow your opponents out of your way. The Racing Mode is straight up old fashioned racing. The Triumph City Council bans use of weapons in these races so it up to your skill as a driver to win. Both race modes allow you to race solo or race as a team.
The last mode is a twist on the Time Attack modes seen in other racing games. In USR’s Time Attack mode you can pick any track and beat your own personal time. However the Triumph City Council holds a contest ever month. If you are Rank 4 or higher you donate 50 Reputation to the common pool to race. Whoever has the best time at the end of the month wins it all.
Now on to the part you’ve all been waiting for… the combat system. Actually I’ll be hitting on several other things that go along with the weapons, so bear with me. As mentioned above you have three classes of weapons to use in USR. The Short-Range weapons include an Assault Rifle, Mini Gun, and Perforator. The Long-Range weapons vary from the target locking Sidewinders to the area devastating Hellscorcher. The final class is used to get those annoying racers off your… bumper. These weapons vary from the Party Crasher Minelayer (landmines) to Caltrops.
Unlike Full Auto, your weapons in USR do not have unlimited ammo. So use your ammo wisely. In the StrikeRacing mode, there are item “boxes” all over the track. When you drive through these boxes, assuming that you don’t already have items, you receive an item that will help you or hinder your opponents. Self-helping items include the HP Armor Boost (which raises armor by 50%) and the Recharge Weapon (which adds ammo to the currently selected weapon) items.
Now onto the part we all love; stopping your opponents dead in their tracks. Several items available will impair or damage opponents when used. One of my personal favorites is Thor’s Hammer, a guided surface-to-surface missile that smashes the lead racer from above. Kind of like the blue shell in our beloved Mario Kart games.
Now Upshift StrikeRacer is not all about the senseless destruction of your opponents. Ha ha. As I mentioned briefly, your mission is to become the best. The way to the top is by gaining Ranks. The only way to gain ranks is by winning Races or StrikeRaces. Every time you win you gain Enlightenment and Reputation. When Enlightenment (or Light) is gained you ascend slowly to the next rank. By getting a certain amount of Light, you will advance to the next rank. Reputation is basically your currency in USR. It is gained if you finish a race. By that I mean if you cross the finish line.
Everything from buying new cars, weapons, items, paint jobs, decals and body kits costs Reputation. There are about 28 different vehicles that range from the armor of the SUVs, to the fast Muscle cars, to the maneuverability of the Minis. There are however special cars and items that can be bought with “gPotatoes,” the reward of paying real money.
As Upshift StrikeRacer is a free game to play it is not required to purchase these gPotatoes, but they do add to the fun. The items that you buy with either Reputation or gPotatoes, however have expire dates, unless you fork over the dough to make them permanent. Depending on which selection you make determines how long you have them in your inventory. Everything can be bought for 1 day, 7 days, of 30 days.
Like many MMOs, there is a guild-based system in Upshift StrikeRacer called Clubs. You can enter races as a group and pwn your opponents to bits in glorious 4 versus 4 motor combat. Just don’t use Thor’s Hammer when your teammates are in first place. Please!
The only downside that I noticed was there was no gamepad or steering wheel support available so far. They developer are working on making gamepads an option, but USR is limited to the keyboard for the time being.
The graphics of Upshift StrikeRacer are not as flashy as some console or PC racers but it holds its own. The max resolution for USR is 1024 x 768 and really doesn’t need to be any higher. This ensures you play from almost any computer with ease. The car models are surprisingly good, compared to say Need For Speed. While all the cars have generic names, you can tell what cars inspired their looks. The tracks and environments are nicely done.
The first thing that grabs your attention when you start up USR for the first time is the music. The score to Upshift StrikeRacer doesn’t feature any vocal track, but for the lack of that, the tunes put you in the mood to do one thing…RACE. No matter which car, or which transmission you use, you get to hear the sounds of your car shifting up as you tear down the road.
Upshift StrikeRacer is a game puts emphasis on short game sessions so you can load up and play anytime you want without spending your time worrying about cut screens or storytelling. For that reason alone, I like this game a lot. That and it is completely free to play. So unless you want all the goodies, you will not play a dime...but you know you want the goodies.
All in all, Upshift StrikeRacer is a blast, pun intended. There isn’t much I dislike about USR. Not being able to use a gamepad is a negative, but at least they are working on that issue. The selection of the cars and being able to equip your vehicles with an array of ordinance is highly entertaining.
I highly recommend Upshift StrikeRacer to anyone that want a game that they can play whenever they want to, and not pay a dime for. In a world of subscriptions, Upshift StrikeRacer is a nice alternative. Remember you must Upshift to Transcend. See you on the track.