STAFF REVIEW of Slipstream (Xbox One)

Wednesday, April 6, 2022.
by Adam Dileva

Slipstream Box art Out Run was so popular when it released back in 1986 that it became quite an iconic game for the racing genre, so much so that even my wife had played it at some point, and she’s not even all that much of a gamer. There was something exciting when you saw that Ferrari sit-down arcade machine back when they existed, and it took quite a few quarters from my pocket growing up. When I started playing Slipstream, developed by Ansdor Games, my wife even asked me “Are you playing Out Run?”. If you couldn’t tell already tell what Slipstream’s direct inspiration was, it’s a modern-yet-retro take on the iconic Out Run.

Just like the game it takes inspiration from, Slipstream has the same setup with you racing against the clock or rivals with some awesome driving mechanics, fantastic retro graphics and an even better synthwave soundtrack that kept me wanting to race after each game ended. Inspired by the 80’s and 90’s, it looks as though it came straight out of that era, purposely, and has a handful of awesome references that you might catch if you have a keen eye, though don’t expect any blondes in your passenger seat in this game.

While there’s no career per-se, there are a handful of different game modes to play depending on your mood. Grand Tour is what I’d call the ‘main’ mode, playing out much like how Out Run did all those years ago. Here you race across different areas and biomes, where at the end of each segment you’ll decide to go Left or Right, all within a specified time limit. Reach the end of each section within the allotted time and you can move onto the next stage that is sectioned off on the grid like a pyramid.

Grand Prix is where you can challenge in one of three Cups that consist of five races. You can choose to play with stock cars, or interestingly can pick to have upgradable ones, tuning your car how you like from stats of Speed, Acceleration and Handling. The higher you place per race the more money you earn, which you can then upgrade your stats, so you better place well in the first race or two or you’ll struggle. The Cups get harder as you progress through, so it’s a great challenge to see how your driving skills have improved over the hours of playing.

Another mode I quite enjoyed was Battle Royal. This is essentially just an elimination race where the last to cross the finish line in each segment gets knocked out until there’s one winner. You can choose a number of different participants depending on how long you want to race for, but these races always added that extra touch of tenseness knowing you can’t finish last or you’re out.

Lastly you have Cannonball, Single Race and Time Attack Mode, with the last two being quite self-explanatory. Cannonball is basically a Custom Mode where you can choose the rivals, traffic and more settings to have a really particular setup. With most of these modes you’re able to play with up to four players simultaneously, though if you’re looking for online play or even leaderboards, sadly they are missing.

Slipstream is like going back into the past playing one of my favorite racers growing up, and while I normally can see right through many games that simply try to clone the success of others regardless of how much time has gone by since, Slipstream surely took its inspiration from Out Run, but has made it its own experience that is worthwhile. You might not be able to tell that Slipstream just released in this modern age with its retro style graphics, but that’s what it’s trying to be. If you really want a nostalgia hit, you can even go into the options for some fun visual options like NTSC and CRT filters if you want to pretend you’re playing on an old school TV that weighed a tonne.

You’re given just a few cars to select from, each with their own body kit and stats, and while they might not be licensed, it’s obvious which car they are supposed to resemble. Don’t expect any supercars here though, these are more meant for drifting at crazy speeds. Some will have higher top speeds but poor handling, others the opposite, while the rest are generally pretty decent across all three being more balanced. It takes some time to learn the drifting mechanics, so you’ll want to pick one car and stick with it until you get that aspect of racing down.

There are two main mechanics you’ll need to learn and become quite skilled in if you want to start winning those Grand Prix, Grand Tours and Battle Royals; drifting and slipstreaming. First off, mastering the drift. We all know what drifting is ever since The Fast and Furious became super popular, keeping your momentum going forwards but around corners at extreme angles, it’s no different here. Once you master how to do so properly, there’s a certain smile you get on your face when you’re able to drift around corners perfectly and within those tight S-curves going from one direction to the next in succession.

Easy to learn, hard to master is kind of the best way to describe it. To initiate a drift you have to tap the break then quickly get back on the gas while steering in a direction. Sounds simple, but knowing what lane you’re in on the road and trying to avoid traffic and opponents is where it starts to get tricky. Not every corner is the same curvature or length, so you need to always be watching the edges to see when the corner ends abruptly. If you hit the objects on the outer edge, just like Out Run, your car will do a few flips before landing back on your wheels, but you’ll have lost all of your momentum. Luckily there’s a rewind feature where you can go back in time five seconds to hopefully adjust and do it properly the second chance.

Slipstream is another mechanic you’ll need to learn if you want those first place finishes. It’s essentially a fancy name for drafting, where you race behind another car, and because they’re in front taking all the wind, you’ll slowly gain speed, able to slingshot past them when close. Combining this with drifting makes for some exhilarating races when you’re barely holding onto the pavement and your rear tires are inches from crashing into the wall at your tail. Aside from those two main mechanics, that’s what Slipstream has to offer, and while it may seem light on paper reading this, it brings me back to a time when games like this were meant to be simple yet has some modern takes on classic gameplay.

Aesthetically, it looks just like you would expect a small studio’s take on Out Run would look like, complete with retro pixel graphics and animation style, but with modern framerates and no slowdown. Slipstream’s greatest feature though is its synthwave soundtrack that always had my head bobbing. There’s only a few tracks but each is done wonderfully. I wasn’t sure how such a mellow soundtrack would fit with a high speed drift racer, but it works, even better so with its soundtrack. Even the tires squealing during each drift never become tiresome and make you feel like the car is barely sticking to the pavement.

Slipstream has simple controls, and once you master how to drift it becomes quite exciting to take the inside lane at a sharp angle as you overtake your rivals. I have no doubt I enjoyed it just that little bit more as I grew up in the era Slipstream is trying to mimic, and I had no idea I was missing Out Run so much until this filled that void. I just wish it had some online component or even Leaderboards would have probably added some longevity over time.

**Slipstream was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 8.5 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 9.0 / 10


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