|ONLINE||Yes - Leaderboards|
|RELEASE DATE||January 22, 2019|
|PLATFORMS||Playstation 4 (Reviewed), Nintendo Switch, PC/Steam|
First, let me give a big thank you to Ryan Blanchard (@ThatRyanB) of Evolve PR for the code. Second, this is likely going to be a shorter review than you usually see from me. This isn’t exactly a massive game.
Surprising, I know, but yes – there is actually a story here. There’s no voice acting – which is honestly a little disappointing, as the voices in the trailer were pretty good.
The story in and of itself is very simple – and a bit cliche, but manages to do what it needs to do fairly well. It doesn’t lose itself or go off on any weird, unrelated tangents – it’s concise, written decently enough, and stays coherent throughout.
It’s a plot that follows your unnamed character as they sign on to race/grind/spin through various tracks in various futuristic bikes for various teams.
However – like any real future story, things aren’t as they appear on the surface – there are some weird goings-on with the creator of the sport, and your first team contact, Ada, wants you to find out exactly what.
As you progress, you sign on to more teams – and even get contacted by a strange hacker who wants you to crash the system.
All because you want to earn a nice vacation.
As I said, it’s not the most original story – company who created cool thing in the future is actually evil + hacking future company to take them down from the inside – but it’s fun and does what it needs to well, you have a driving force that makes you want to progress further.
FUTUREGRIND is a very nice looking game. It goes for a very minimalistic, low-poly look with bright, vivid colors for the rails and wheels that contrast sharply against the more muted, pastel backgrounds.
It’s not a game that relies on big explosions or photorealistic models & textures. The bikes are all sleek and shiny. Rails/wheels are bright and neon.
The soundtrack, also, is top notch. The music is gritty, yet somehow also slick – matching both the green, vibrant vistas and more industrial/metropolis locales the tracks take place on as well as the neon, cyberpunk-like aesthetic the game has.
It runs well, looks good and sounds great. There’s really not much I can say against it.
Do you like Trials? Joe Danger? What about OlliOlli? Games where the focus is more on skill and fast restarts than anything else. No super complex scoring mechanics or controls – just you, a limited set of tricks, and the track with its various hazards.
That’s FUTUREGRIND. The main crux of the game revolves (pun not-really-but-maybe-kind-of-intended) around getting through each course, spinning, grinding, and jumping your way along multi-colored rails on multi-colored wheels – matching your wheel color to a given rail. That’s where the real skill comes in – knowing when and where to jump, what wheel you need to land on and at what angle to land in order to keep your flow going and your multiplier climbing.
Every trick you do – front/backflips, manuals, hang grinds and push grinds – each gives points to your overall score for a given track. The first time you do a trick, it’s worth double points – so it’s wise to save some of your first tricks for when your multiplier is higher. Jumping from one rail to another will increase your multiplier by 1. However, transferring from rail to rail without jumping increases that multiplier by 1.5 – so try to simply fall to the next rail if you can (If the gap is small enough, for instance, you can actually just roll the bike onto the next rail as long as your wheel matches its color).
Your main goal is to get as high a score as possible – each stage has 4 different medals/trophies to earn, from bronze, moving up to silver, then gold and finally diamond which is the highest score threshold and the hardest to achieve, requiring near perfect execution and mastery of the various bikes.
Each stage also has 2 optional objectives that are generally pretty easy to complete, but test your ability to control the various bikes. Some have you doing a set number of tricks, or grinds over a set distance, or flips of a set rotation.
Others have you clearing the track with specific stipulations – don’t land on a specific colored rail, hit all specific track boosts (Orbs, track switchers, etc.), things like that.
None of them are too hard, but they still will require some thought from you.
Speaking of track boosts/hazards – yes, some tracks do have things to keep an eye out for outside of the standard color matching. Track switchers, for instance, will keep you on your toes as they will flip the rail colors around – so if a track has red and blue rails, red rails turn blue and vice-versa.
Orbs, on the other hand, are a little more friendly – as long as you touch them with the proper colored wheel, they’ll give you an extra bump – acting like another jump.
There are also hazards you’ll need to watch out for – but these don’t really appear until much later in the game, and mechanically, they don’t act any differently from each other – touch them, and your bike crashes.
There are 5 total bikes across all of the stages – each performing much, much differently. The starting bike, Slice, has only one wheel color generally (Some tracks also feature “paint” zones that can change the color of one or both of your wheels), decent balance, a decent spin speed, and 2 jumps. The Xero bike that you get later, however, has 3 jumps, but its jumps are more shallow, it features 2 wheel colors and never falls over.
Now, if there were any gripe I had with the game overall – one that I would actively consider to be a knock against it, it’s this: You don’t get to choose what bike you want to use on which track. It’s all predetermined – if you want to use a specific bike, you have to play a specific track. That kind of sucks, just a little.
What’s also disappointing is the lack of any apparent multiplayer. Whether that’s coming later, I don’t know – but currently, the game only features leaderboards to compete on. Not even ghosts as far as I could tell.
A competitive, rally-like mode where players take turns on the same track or a local party mode could have been great fun for something like this as well as giving it legs to last a bit longer. If you’re decent, you’ll be through the campaign in a matter of a few hours.
That’s not to say there’s nothing here at all, though – as completing certain special objectives (Given by the hacker I mentioned earlier) in specific tracks will unlock the endgame, a handful of extremely challenging tracks that are meant to test your skill, leading into the true final boss stage of the game.
However, I just wish I could play some of these tracks with my friends online – it’d be fun!
Last but not least, I’d like to talk about FUTUREGRIND‘s accessibility options. They’re decent. It’s no Spider-Man, but it’s certainly nice to see devs taking the time to add things like this in. If you’re colorblind – you can adjust the colors of the rails/wheels to something you can see better. Find the game too fast? Turn the game speed down. Don’t have the reflexes to manage matching the proper wheel to a rail? Turn on safe wheels and don’t worry about them (Hazards will still be a problem, though – so don’t get complacent!).
That said, Safe Wheels is a little disappointing. Purely because it disqualifies you from setting a score at all (You can complete levels, but you won’t earn any medals/trophies). I get why it doesn’t submit to the leaderboard – that part’s honestly fine, though I’d rather see a secondary leaderboard for Safe Wheels scores (Like how DiRT 4 has separate pools for Simulation and Gamer handling models). What really disappoints me is that players who use Safe Wheels can’t set any scores – meaning they can’t get medals for the tracks. The mode only really makes it easier to finish the track, as players don’t have to worry about their bike exploding from landing on the wrong rail. Other hazards still end runs, and white rails still end a combo.
I’m not a big fan of accessibility options that seem to punish players for using them or lock them out of content. You don’t have to have the scores on the leaderboard – but at least let the player still be ranked in the game’s own system. Let their scores still count towards earning medals.
Fairly high, if you actually enjoy games like this. If you like setting as high a score as possible, retrying a stage over and over until you get it just right, then you’ll feel right at home with FUTUREGRIND.
The lack of any real multiplayer does sting and takes some of the wind out of the game’s sails as it just won’t last a player quite as long as other offerings like Trials or OlliOlli. Hopefully something comes down the line – even if its just ghosts for the leaderboards.
On the trophy side of things – you’re going to have your work cut out for you. As I mentioned before, getting diamond scores requires near perfect execution and knowledge of the track – knowing when you need to jump and when you can simply transfer, and knowing what tricks you haven’t done yet to milk the most points out of them. And you need to Diamond rank every available track – that’s probably going to be the one trophy everyone struggles with most. Everything else is rather simple, with maybe one or two exceptions (Like completing a track without jumping – I haven’t found the right course to do this on yet.
Overall, my gripes with the like of multiplayer and the assists keeping players from being able to rank at all aside, the game does a lot right. It’s a ton of fun to actually play, and it feels great to actually nail a run.
It’s only $20, too – so the cost feels fair for a decently replayable game like this. FUTUREGRIND worth checking out if you’re into games like Trials – in fact, it’d be a good starting place if you’re looking to get into that kind of game, it’s much simpler.