New Star GP Review – PC

A few weeks ago, we posted our review for New Star GP for the PlayStation, and it sounded so good I just had to try it on PC.  As someone who grew up in the 80’s arcade scene, I’ve played my fair share of driving games starting with top-down 2D racers like Rally-X and Spy Hunter before we moved into the glorious world of 3D racing with classics like Pole Position and OutRun.  It’s retro racers like these that have inspired the core look and design of New Star GP, creating a unique hybrid that looks like a simple arcade racing game, but lurking beneath are stats, dynamic weather, pit stop strategies, and even a relationship simulator.

New Star GP contains all the trappings of a modern-day racing simulation wrapped up in a marvelous presentation of stunning 4K visuals that make the 80’s look much better than they really were.  Just seeing those polygon panels that make up the curvature of the rear tires brought back instant memories.   Everything is so crisp and clean, and my 4090-equipped PC was able to deliver a fluid 120fps for single player and 60fps for two and four-player split screen either locally or using Steam’s Remote Play Together.  It is all too easy to approach this game from an arcade play perspective, but once you dive into the expansive career mode, New Star GP takes on the depth of the more serious competing titles.

Spanning 50 years, your GP career starts in the 80’s offering up a unique series of racing events across the globe.  Each venue is home to multiple events including Time Trials, Checkpoint Races, Elimination, Rival Races, and of course the big GP race to cap things off.  Winning events will earn you Cups and Bux, and you can even go back and retry previous races to earn more Bux by setting new Personal Best records.  These “currencies” are then used to upgrade your crew and car, so you can stay competitive against the smooth progression of ramping driver AI.    There are so many “systems” at play here, all working behind the scenes before you ever climb behind the wheel.  Normally, this is where a lot of players who just want to race “check out”, but I found the car upgrade system intuitive and even enjoyable, lending itself to some tactical thinking on a track-by-track basis.  After all, why would you dump hundreds of Bux into Top Speed on a curvy track where you can never even reach top speed?

Some of the more serious racing sims out there have you spending way too much time micromanaging the business side of racing.  New Star GP takes a more casual approach to keeping all these gears in the machine greased and running smoothly.  Earning Cups unlocks various Perks, which can then be assigned to your driver and team to assist your driving and pit interactions.  There are slots for up to six perks, but some need to be unlocked before they can be filled.  The real balancing act is team morale.  Perks are specific to crew members and each time you use one of their perks their Happiness level increases.  You’ll also have specific scenarios like “do I walk the track with my engineer or go get beers with my pit chief?” and you can even toss out the occasional compliment in a post-race press interview.

The happier your crew, the better they perform, even offering up special bonuses when they reach Ecstatic level.  Conversely, team members can get so sad they will call and complain or even quit over a lack of recognition.  It is a fun system dynamic trying to keep everyone happy, but near the end it felt like I was dating my Pit Chief and my Engineer at the same time while cheating on them with my Commercial Manager.  The good news is that if you don’t care about pleasing your crew with actions you can always shower them with Bux for an instant happiness boost.

Races are won and lost in the pits and New Star GP offers up a fantastic pit interface for car repair, tire changes, and refueling.  Before each race you pick a pit strategy for how many stops you plan to make during the race based on track length and design, how many laps, and any weather considerations.  Tire wear has been accelerated to fit within a 6-lap GP, and you can choose between soft, hard, and wet tires based on temp and rain.  You’ll even get a forecast before the race so you can plan for rain and when to pit.  Rainfall is realistically depicted with near-blinding streaks of rain and a cloudy mist of moisture spraying from the rear tires.  Standing water will turn into hydroplane puddles that you’ll want to avoid until they eventually evaporate, or the race is over.

I was really getting into the pit strategy of the game, quickly learning that hard tires and a full tank of gas could easily get me four laps without a stop on a sunny day.  Fuel strategy is just as important as keeping fresh rubber on the pavement, and the gas gauge is intentionally vague, so what I had to do for each new track was fill the tank and drive a full lap to see how many bars of fuel it took to complete a single lap.  Fuel weight is definitely a consideration that will affect speed, acceleration, and handling, so overall performance is constantly in flux as your fuel slowly drains.

As previously mentioned, the retro visuals for New Star GP have been perfectly captured and recreated using modern graphics, but we can’t forget about the audio portion of the package that is complete with an energetic soundtrack, great engines noises that harmonize on the starting grid, tools whirring in the pits, and even some fun commentary from the track announcers.

The last remaining system to discuss are Licensing Perks.  These are random merchandising opportunities that will grant you various buffs for a specific number of laps for a small cost.  Outside of playing around with them for the purpose of this review, I never made much use of these perks as most buffs have both positive and negative impacts to the car, but they are nice to have if you need a specific boost for a certain event.

New Star GP is the complete racing package, delivering insane amounts of fun and increasing challenge while maintaining that flawless 80’s/90’s arcade aesthetic with its bold and colorful info overlay during the race to the incredible menus, garage, and pit crew interface.  I was impressed the game could have this much sophistication while maintaining a consistent level of arcade purity for both solo and split screen racing.  This is arcade racing perfection at its finest.

Author: Mark Smith
I've been an avid gamer since I stumbled upon ZORK running in my local Radio Shack in 1980. Ten years later I was working for Sierra Online. Since then I've owned nearly every game system and most of the games to go with them. Not sure if 40+ years of gaming qualifies me to write reviews, but I do it anyway.

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