STAFF REVIEW of Revhead (Xbox One)

Tuesday, September 12, 2023.
by Adam Dileva

Revhead Box art I’ll admit, I know basically nothing about cars other than how to drive them, filling the oil and adding gas. Outside of that, I couldn’t tell you where any specific car parts were if you asked me to point them out under the hood. Having now played Revhead, I do believe I have a better understanding about my vehicle and how the hundreds of parts are all interconnected.

Revhead is a mixture of two games: one part car racing, one part car mechanic simulator. The goal is to create your dream car so you can compete and win a variety of races, but to get to that point you’ll need to become a master mechanic and learn how to rebuild your car, change parts and customize it to be the fastest on the track. There really isn’t much of a narrative, though I wasn’t really expecting one either. Your friend Charlie wants help at his garage, so you fly over the Australia and start your new career as a car mechanic and racer. How you want to earn more cash to purchase more vehicles and parts is up to you.

Revhead is an ambitious combination of car mechanic sim and racer, but melding the two gets a little messy somewhere in the middle. You’re given a mostly open world map across three different zones, though I’m not entirely sure why, as you’re generally always buried deep within the mechanic menus or racing in events. Don’t expect any traffic, people or any life at all on the roads, as they are barren as it comes. Aside from getting from one map to the next, there’s no reason to really drive across the map unless you want to test out your latest car build.

Revhead: a term for a car enthusiast, which is apparent that the developers are when it comes to the mechanic portion of the game. You’re able to use your car magazine to search for used cars and parts and it’s up to you how want to earn cash. If you want to be competitive in racing you’ll need a vehicle that is up for the task. The starter car you get is basically a clunker, so you’re going to need to fix it up, swap some parts out for better racing gear, and hope that you can be competitive. You’ll need to be able to repair all your components too, as performance will be affected by broken or damaged parts quite drastically.

After the brief initial tutorial, you’re basically left to your own with no direction. Do you repair your starter car? Buy a new one? Get a clunker to strip for parts? It’s completely up to you, and my guess of trying to improve the starter car didn’t work well for me. Once I learned how to buy used and wrecked vehicles, repair and sell those parts, I finally started earning enough money to purchase a new vehicle and then add better parts to it to increase the ever important horsepower.

Actually, the opening moments are an eye opener to the rest of your experience. You have to walk from your hotel to the garage, but you’ll notice how awful the controls are trying to have them ‘run’. The animations are terrible and it just seems unnecessary considering nearly everything else is simply going through menus. While the menus are laid out fine, using a controller isn’t very intuitive and done quite poorly. You’ll constantly hit the wrong buttons, back out of one too many menus, and even install wrong parts, etc because of this. It’s clear this wasn’t built on console primarily, as the controls really aren’t great.

Racing is half the game, and while there’s a handful of events, around 70 or so, there’s only a couple tracks (including reverse versions). You start with only a dirt oval, eventually unlocking a raceway and even some drag racing on the salt flats. Some events are simple 3-5 lap races, you have time trials, and then of course the true races and championships for bonuses. The more you wager the more you’ll earn, but good luck in the beginning. Your starter vehicle is so atrocious, you won’t have a chance at anything other than last place, so you’ll turn your attention to the mechanic part for quite some time.

There are Amateur to Pro races to take part in, but you’ll need to have a seriously tricked out car if you want any chance. You also need to tailor your car for the type of race. Having street slicks on a dirt track is going to cause you issues, as will not having the right setups. My first handful of races were so awful that I ended up restarting over, thinking I did something wrong, as it was borderline unplayable. As soon as you try and take a turn you either spin out or hit the wall while the CPU laps you.

The parts inside your vehicle will greatly affect how your car handles. Tire type, air pressure, weight, steering, differential and more will all play a part in your success or failure, yet Revhead doesn’t teach you this at all. Being car illiterate, I was completely lost, as Revhead expects you to know what parts do what and how they compare to other components. Comparing parts isn’t easy as well, as you have to look at the piece, remember its stats, then look at the others and try and figure out what means what. This was frustrating putting in all this time and effort to try and improve my build only to find it didn’t make a difference or actually decreased.

As for the races themselves, they aren’t terribly exciting. Controls are poor at best, and even with a decent car upgraded, you slide around quite easily. The non-existent AI doesn’t help things either, as they have no idea you exist and simply drive the line they’re going to drive regardless. If you manage to trade paint with another racers, it usually doesn’t end well, as someone is going to spin out and probably launch into the wall. Physics just don't feel right and it's a frustrating mess to try and actually race with any confidence.

The mechanic portion of Revhead is easily the highlight and its best feature. Again, not knowing much about the workings of a car, they’ve made it simple to put together a build by essentially snapping pieces together at multiple points of the frame. While you’re given your first clunker to work with, you can browse the local vehicule buy and sell magazine to purchase something new and have it instantly delivered to you. You’re able to find all different makes and models of cars, wrecked or pre-tuned vehicles, all for different costs. The other pages of the magazines also lists random new and used parts that are for sale currently. Don’t see a car or part you need, then you can purchase a new magazine after a short period of time for another $2.

There’s a few strategies here, as you can buy a wrecked car for cheap to salvage parts to hopefully fix and maybe turn a profit, or purchase a used car and swap some parts you already have out for better performance. If you can manage to find a really cheap wrecked car where the engine isn’t broken, repairing that and reselling for a profit is an easy way to start turning a profit early on, something the game doesn't teach you.

Nearly every part and component in your cars can be removed and changed, all the way from the steering wheel, headlights and engine, down to its wiring and spark plugs. While there’s no licensed vehicles or makes, it’s obvious what some are modeled after. You have a few different engine types and have to make sure the parts you buy are for the same brand of car, or it will be incompatible. Make sure you buy the sames sizer of tire for the rims you have as well, an expensive mistake I made early on.

Once you have a decent bankroll, it’s going to be easier to have numerous vehicles, one for each type of race. Not that you couldn’t remove and swap out pieces to alter your build, but it’s time consuming. This whole process is very menu heavy, and as mentioned above, it just feel clunky on a controller. There’s also no way to directly compare parts and how each will improve your vehicle in what way, so there’s a lot of trial and error. For example, I swapped out some ‘better’ parts, or so I thought because they were clearly more expensive, only to find my engine wouldn’t change gears properly for whatever reason without redlining. Why? I’m not sure, so I had to simply try new pieces and see what worked, so there’s some some trial and error.

To put it bluntly, Revhead is quite ugly to look at. Appearing as if it’s a mobile game that’s been ported over, the draw distance is mere feet away for objects and there’s virtually no textures for everything. The world is already lifeless as is with no other people or anyone on the roads, but it’s got a very bland aesthetic overall that doesn’t impress in any way, even on an Xbox Series X. The audio is about the same; it’s there but you’ll grow tired of the bland and loud engine sounds and repeated background soundtrack.

Revhead is trying to be two separate games at once, though never really excelling at either. The mechanic portion is clearly its strong point, with the racing component being the weakest portion by far. The concept is what makes Revhead unique, building your own car then taking it to race, it’s just been executed poorly for console. Even with the atrocious controls, I still want to buy junker cars, strip them down for parts and sell the engines for a profit. Revhead needs to decide whether it wants to be a simulator or an arcade game, not this awkward mix of both. Unless you're a diehard Revhead, you might want to take this one back to the shop.

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

Overall: 3.3 / 10
Gameplay: 5.0 / 10
Visuals: 2.0 / 10
Sound: 3.0 / 10


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