Preview: Super Retro GP is like the Virtua Racing sequel that never was

The gaming world seems to have forgotten the magical moment in 1992 when Sega released what is arguably the most important racing game of all time: Virtua Racing.

With around 180,000 flat-shaded polygons per second and 30 frames per second, it ushered in the modern era of 3D driving games. Flat shaded polygons were superseded by textured polygons very quickly, and the gaming world has seldom looked back. But it does today.

Super Retro GP is an indie game made with Unity that aims to present a 100% unofficial spiritual sequel to Virtua Racing.

So you get all the hallmarks of early ’90s Sega racers, including time bonuses, music, multiple angles, and sparks that fly when your car hits bumps, while benefiting from modern features like force feedback steering wheel assistance and special effects.

Creator Steven Cawood is the man responsible for this ambitious throwback, and he clearly understood what made Virtua Racing so great in the first place.

The periphery of the Super Retro GP experience is still under construction. That means Split Screen mode is listed but currently locked along with Grand Prix mode.

However, many of the tracks – nine of which are listed so far – are already functional in Arcade mode, as are a number of F1 cars from the early ’90s.

One recognizes the McLaren MP4/4, the Williams FW16 and the Benetton B192, and there are several variants of each, all with different driving characteristics.

There’s already an arcade mode with 20 cars on the track, a time attack ghost mode, and even a bunch of screen filters (currently 192!) that even include a simulation of the original Game Boy’s color palette. Stupid, but still funny.

The track design looks strong: Forest Falls Raceway is reminiscent of the Big Forest track from Sega’s classic, complete with an orange-framed bridge that you can now both race under and race through. There is a sprawling oval track called Thunder Blaze Speedway and a desert track called Sandstorm Motorplex.

On some tracks there are moments where your car actually leaves the ground for a moment. This means that at some points you have to remember where you have to brake to avoid getting really airborne.

The car’s handling when stationary is surprisingly close to the AM2 race car, albeit perhaps not as ‘digital’.

Virtua Racing’s brilliant Nintendo Switch implementation has extremely precise controls, and while Super Retro Grand Prix has that precision as well, driving feels a bit more organic, as if it were an actual vehicle in the game world.

What is definitely an improvement over the 1992 factory is the way you can slam your brakes here. This is really cool because it means you’re constantly looking for the limit of liability, which bodes well for the longevity of the time attack. It takes a lot of work to find perfect laps, which is great.

We tried the game via Steam, which allowed us to play it on an nVIDIA RTX 2070 capable laptop and the game was already running well and smoothly. But even better: It already works very well on Steam Deck. The controls translate well to the Steam Deck’s analog inputs, and the screen resolution matches the flat-shaded style perfectly.

The default camera angle makes the game look exactly like Virtua Racing. It’s this attention to detail that makes this game more engaging than some other modern, retro-style racing games that often miss the point.

But there’s also something new to every classic nod, like a simulated camera lens flare where lights in the tunnel reveal dirt on the virtual lens. Very cool.

Finally, there is the damage modeling that currently only extends to the player’s car. However, this happens in zones and deforms depending on where the car hits a barrier or a rival car.

There are no more parts breaking off (which is a shame – maybe wheel ricochet is exactly what Virtua Racing 2 would have added), but the damage as it is affects your driving for a few seconds , affects your engine and sometimes leaves you with smoke from a damaged rear wheel until you pass the next checkpoint and your damage resets.

The game will be released first for PC sometime later this year and will subsequently be released on consoles thanks to Unity’s multiplatform support.

If this is anywhere near as good as the source material, it’s a must see.

I have my fingers crossed that it fulfills its enormous potential.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

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