Liftoff: Drone Racing is a game that does not hide any surprises. You get what the name suggests you get: a drone racing game. Is it a realistic drone racing game? I suppose that’s a question for a true drone expert, something I am not. What I am, however, is a fan of video games of all genres, including racing. And while this is billed as a drone game, it’s also billed as a racing game. So would you, a fellow fan of racing games, find Drone Racing to be worth your time? Unless you also double as a drone enthusiast, the likely answer is no, but let’s get into why here with this Liftoff: Drone Racing review.
Drone movement is unlike any you’ve experienced in previous racing games. On the one hand, that’s a good thing. Drones do not control or feel the same as vehicles, whether they are gasoline or Koopa-powered. But on the other hand, it’s bad in that Drone rookies are met with an immediate barrier upon starting the game: learning a whole new way to play a racing game. And while the game does a decent job of hand-holding at the beginning, it doesn’t significantly alter the steep learning curve. You sort of get a defeated feeling right from the start. It’s a struggle to simply stay on course and finish a race without crashing, much less compete.
That doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily a bad game, but it’s also definitely not a game for casual racing fans. That said, despite existing outside of the target audience, I was impressed with the amount of detail and polish found within the game. It leads me to believe that there is something worthwhile here for people who are fans of drones. For everyone else, though? Probably not.
What I Like – Liftoff: Drone Racing Review
Different Control Options
Perhaps sensing that the game might attract drone experts as well as novices, the game offers up two separate control schemes: essentially a novice and a pro mode. The pro mode gives you more complete control over the drone, but it’s incredibly difficult and unforgiving, more so than the very-difficult-as-well novice mode. The novice mode is what 99.9% of people will be more comfortable with right off the bat. For those who end up sticking with the game, eventually switching to the pro controls would add a whole new challenge and layer of replay factor to the game.
Fortunately for fans of the sport, this game is hardly bare bones. The simplistic, yet polished presentation initially suggests a shallow game, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The game does a good job of holding your hand from the start, given the challenge that lies ahead. Once you’re comfortable enough to sink your teeth in, you have a career mode, single races, online play and a wonderful customization suite that lets you tinker with your drone to your heart’s content. If you love drones, you’ll absolutely love the amount of customization here, and it’s definitely a highlight of the game.
Very Polished Presentation
Despite its difficulty, the game feels polished. The menus are simple and easy to navigate and everything runs smoothly. You can tell the developers put a lot of thought into this game and are passionate about the sport as it absolutely comes through in the final product. Despite limited knowledge of the game or the sport overall, I was able to navigate everything just fine. And although the game ultimately proved too frustrating an experience for me, it isn’t due to lack of detail or polish from the developers.
What I Don’t Like – Liftoff: Drone Racing Review
Are We Sure This Is Not A PS3/Xbox 360 Game?
The drones themselves look fine enough, and as I stated above, the menus and overall interface are well done. But everything else, including the courses and the landscapes? They feel closer to a mobile game than a console. I would expect a bit more attention to detail given the price point ($34.99). Detailed environments can really enhance a racing game, especially one with a learning curve this steep. Unfortunately, you won’t find those here. Everything feels bland and flat as you fly through the air.
Camera View Can Be Nauseating
This is certainly a “your mileage may vary” issue, but the sudden, jerky movements of the drone took some getting used to. The incredibly steep learning curve is definitely part of what drove me away, but the camera view didn’t help. If anything, it’s too accurate. As I got better and my movement became more steady, it improved somewhat, but the uncomfortable feeling always lingered. It’s easy to see how many people would have a difficult time playing this game for an extended period of time, even if they were enjoying it with no complaints. It shouldn’t be a deal breaker for you, but something to keep in mind when going in.
Very Difficult And Unforgiving
The first emotion you get from a game should not be frustration, but that’s exactly what I got here as I fumbled through the training drills, unable to execute the most basic movements and turns. It leaves you with a defeated feeling right from the start with no apparent incentive to continue playing.
If you are inclined to dig through all of the settings, you can modify the camera and controls a bit to make the difficulty more palatable from the start, but in doing so you are creating a less realistic drone experience. And isn’t the point of a drone racing game to feel like you are getting the authentic experience?
As much as I respect the game’s authenticity, it’s fair to acknowledge that the trade off for that authenticity creates a casual-gamer-sized hole that feels impossible to fill. Mario Kart fans need not apply, and I’m not sure hardcore fans of Gran Turismo or Forza would find much here either.
Despite the hand-holding and different control options, the game is still an incredible challenge, and it’s far too unforgiving for casual gamers. A game as specific and challenging as this needs some kind of initial hook to keep players coming back for more, but it just isn’t there.
If you’ve made it this far and are still contemplating a purchase, my advice is simple. If you are just a casual (or less) fan of racing games, Drone Racing isn’t worth your time. And even the biggest racing fans might not find much here since flying a virtual drone does not feel remotely similar to driving a virtual vehicle.
It’s incredibly unforgiving right from the start. The tutorial does a good job of showing you how the game works, but it does an even better job of foreshadowing all the times you’ll throw your controller at the wall after you crash your drone for the billionth time. Games should provide a challenge, but Liftoff: Drone Racing is just frustratingly difficult beyond what anyone would expect tackling a new genre.
That said, if you are a big fan of drones, this game is worth your time. Those with a working knowledge of drones and the surrounding sport should be impressed with the amount of content here. I’m not sure if the current price point is justified as the game isn’t overflowing with content, but its attention to detail should be enough to please hardcore drone fans.
Everyone else? Save your controllers. Those things are expensive.