Distance is a game many people will love, but many will also hate. Arcade to the core, leave now if heavy car tuning, standard racing or anything remotely realistic is what you are wanting, because Distance about to blow your face off.
Having played through all of the modes available to me, Distance has managed to provide me with a pretty good time despite the very early stages of development the game is currently in. This hands-on however, will purely be focused on the single-player aspects of the game, as I was unable to gain access to the online component due to a lack of players, an issue which once this game is out, there will no doubt be fixed.
To start with, I began my usual routine and had a fiddle with the ‘options’ menu, where I was welcomed to a host of choices to make my experience the best it could be. Overall, the amount of graphical options to change that were available to me were most impressive. After some tweaking, I began my ride into the zany world of Distance.
Beginning with the Adventure mode, I was introduced to the basic mechanics of Distance. I say basic, but in reality, there is nothing basic about this game. Prepare yourself for sensory overload and a literal crash course on hand eye coordination. Distances’ Adventure mode plays through several tracks, each introducing you to boosting, jumping, flying and thrusting. While this may initially not sound like a whole lot, when all of these mechanics are combined into one so you can make a loop-de-loop, Distance warrants some damn fine skills if you hope to make it to the end of a track. Or simply survive.
After some time with the mode, I eventually found the mechanics to become second nature and progression generally got much smoother. Boosting around tracks became a joy and it was great to see that driving through a giant spinning saw did not necessarily mean the end of me and my immense speed. It is true that you do need to have fast reactions, and you will be punished if you miss a jump or a twist, but it all feels so fair. It is easy to say a game punishes the player fairly, but Distance really does. If you miss a jump that you had ten seconds to get to, then that is no one’s fault but your own.
Speaking of death, Distance has a very forgiving checkpoint system, where failures will not mean rage quitting, but instead make the player rethink his or her strategy with the outcome being a conquered obstacle. Distance’s tracks feature death defying jumps, vertical tracks, flying enemies and many more obstructions all trying to kill you in some way or another. This is where the game stands out, not in the blinding neon lights or the intense speeds you can reach, or even the flying cars (well, maybe the flying cars). Distance is not simply a racing game of which to get to the end, it is a racing game of which to survive. The goal is always to get to the end, but the real goal is to make it to the end without blowing up. Adding leader-boards to this game was a fantastic idea since so many people will be pulling their hair out trying to make it to the end (not necessarily in one piece).
The Adventure mode of the game was incomplete at the time of this preview, but it plans to lead the player through a twisted city full of mystery. I would normally not care for a story in a racing game, but considering just how strange and unique the game is, I am quite intrigued to see where it goes. I did all I could in Adventure mode anyway, and left suitably impressed with what I had played.
After my go in Adventure mode, I went and checked out the game’s real meat in Arcade mode. Here I had the chance to replay the tracks I had done before in various modes, as well as try out some new tracks with different rule sets. Being able to set scores for tracks is certainly going to be one of Distance’s greatest features, and will keep people coming back continually. On the topic of scores, there are a few maps which are, in the simplest of terms, arenas of which players will be able to rack up insane scores by doing various tricks within a time limit. I spent a fair amount of time here and could see it being a popular area for friends to compete in. Throughout playing the Stunts mode, I could not stop thinking about the Trick Attack mode in the old Tony Hawks games, and how great it was to compete with friends. I like to hope Distance will provide the same level of joy from the small amount I have played of the mode.
Distance also has a Challenge mode, which I found to be the most disappointing of all the modes since I did not really find anything challenging about it. The two tracks available were really short and far too easy since I flew over most of the obstacles. This mode is meant to add a whole new layer of difficulty with it disabling resets and checkpoints, but it never offered enough of a challenge for that to be a problem anyway. I found the tracks in Adventure mode to be more difficult, which surely should not be the case.
Finally, I decided to take a look at the community progress on the game. Since Distance has such an interesting take on racing, it would be silly not give the people the ability to make their very own tracks. And with the innovative track editor, Refract Studios does exactly that, and the resulting efforts are simply put, superb. I got my hands on with 3 tracks deemed popular by the community, and walked away impressed.
Distance has already made for a good time and I cannot wait for more updates to come and more tracks to hit. Having a few cars to choose from would be nice too, but Distance is what it is, and the current car suits just fine. Distance is currently only available for purchase on the following link, but it will be coming to Steam shortly. Expect a follow up to this hands-on preview when Distance launches.
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