Indeed, racing games have encouraged some excitement through the gaming sphere. The Forza series remains a constant hit that people flock to with each new iteration. Burnout 3: Takedown beat Chrono Trigger in a recent “Best Game of All Time” bracket conducted by IGN. Cars are just one of the most prominent devices of speedy action that humans have legal access to, which makes it an easy topic to replicate in video game form. While I am not by any means a “car guy,” the idea of a colorful, retro-inspired racing arcade game with a heavy emphasis on drifting seems like an enjoyable route. Thankfully, Victory Heat Rally is happy to oblige my curiosity.
While many demos available during the Steam Next Fest aren’t particularly long, Victory Heat Rally is probably the shortest on overall content. Thankfully, its base gameplay mechanic remains an enjoyable and riveting loop. Even if the demo doesn’t have much staying power, it provides a snapshot of the energy and enthusiasm that the full game will undoubtedly possess.
Victory Heat Rally is available to play as a free demo between October 1-7 during Steam’s Next Fest. A “2022” window has been provided for a full release.
Gameplay – I Feel Bad For the Tires
Typically on this site, a “Story” header typically precedes a “Gameplay” one. However, this game has no story to speak of—you simply boot it up, navigate the menus, and play. No context is provided… not like you need it. You’re racing to win, drifting on narrow roads in the meantime. What more do you need?
That said, this section won’t be too wordy, either. As alluded to in the introduction, there really isn’t much to do within this playable demo. Some tutorials, a couple tracks to race against staff ghosts, and various options menus. It’s about ten minutes of content, should you go through it all in one go with no breaks. (Brakes?)
One thing I wish to note early on is that the demo was… a little weird. Specifically, it had difficulty registering my button inputs, particularly when I wished to pause the game. I mapped what I assume is the pause button to X on an Xbox controller, and whenever I attempted to do so while in a race / tutorial, it would appear for a split second, then disappear. I could press it over and over, and it would continue to appear and disappear in an instant. Essentially, I couldn’t pause. I couldn’t exit out of something I may have entered by accident. My only resort was to close the whole demo, lest I take the effort to go through the whole scenario (again).
Doing so, though, also resulted in the demo not responding to my computer as “open.” It was “running,” but nothing was showing onscreen. I had to take the effort to restart Steam—to no avail—and eventually open my Task Manager and close it there. Such a bizarre sequence of events over a little demo.
This isn’t to suggest that the full game will be as much of a hassle to work with (fingers crossed, anyway). Just that if you intend to play the demo, be aware that it can be a little fickle. Or I am an incredibly unlucky person. Either seems reasonable.
This is not an immediately accessible game. Playing it for the first time, I was dreadful. Constantly falling off the road, not getting my drift boosts totally down, and bumping into edges was a constant struggle for me. Even a single mistake over the course of a race, particularly against staff ghosts, is enough motivation to simply start over. It’s a high-octane, high-risk style of racing that rewards precision and persistent. I love that.
Such a simple control scheme, too. Fuel, brakes, drifting, and steering are all you really need, but they threw in the ability to look behind you for good measure. Its tutorial section is a good place to learn how to get a hang of the game before really diving in. Though as a quick aside: please let the player skip the demonstration if they’ve already done it. Thank you. (And if this is actually available, the demo didn’t let me do it.) Nothing prepares the player quite like actually playing through in a trial-by-fire exhibition. It took me a few races to really get the hang of it, but by that point, I never wished to stop.
Victory Heat Rally is abundantly fun. Its simplicity is a true strength, allowing for an “accessible for all, difficult to master” approach that keeps things engaging. A game for those who are always striving for more personal achievement—how much faster can I go? How much better can I get at drifting? How it manages to push the player to do more is remarkable, complete with winding paths and mechanically efficient race stages. Even with how little there is to do, I can actually feel myself, at this moment, desiring to go back for more. Gratifying and thrilling, wondering how much more the full game will provide has me sincerely hyped.
As per the demo available, however, there really isn’t much. One playable character, a short list of tutorial challenges, and a time trial mode with only two stages. I felt I had done everything in less than a half an hour, and that was with replaying things. It’d be easy to see someone being underwhelmed by this, but it’s as risky as the game itself is. The developers seem to be rolling the dice on their gameplay being compelling enough to bring people in alone. No fluff, like a story or character profiles, should mean anything to those wishing just for a simple arcade racing game. I’m personally satisfied with it; other players not totally onboard with the premise could be turned off.
Graphics & Audio – Is it 2021 or 1991?
Within seconds, Victory Heat Rally throws you into another time period. When I say this game is arcade-inspired, there is zero hyperbole. From the dynamic camera angles, bright use of colors, and heavily compressed narration by a total hypebro, I’m back at the arcades of my (early stage) youth. Precisely what it needs to be—loud, energetic, and gets the juices ready to roll.
More than everything, I adore the audible screeches, boosts, and overall rhythm to the game. Like a modern-day DJ at a Hollywood house party, it pumps up the crowd and gets ’em moving—only you’re in a car. Perfectly encompassing the era it’s intending to emulate, where it was less about professionalism and more about ALL-CAPS EXCITEMENT. “Immersive” isn’t even strong enough of a word to use. I was practically teleported.
Graphically, it’s very striking in its use of flashing colors and blocky pixel images. More appreciable during gameplay are all of the signs that denote what’s ahead. Multiple coordinated signs point to turns ahead, as well as portions of the track where one can fall off. They come into one’s field of vision quickly, but they’re flashy and plentiful enough for players to register. The trick to being skillful is gauging when it’s best to turn during these moments, whether you want to go wide for a guaranteed high boost, or cut it short and have less to drive over, though risk falling off.
How beautifully is expresses the intensity of arcade racing. How easy it is to get absorbed into each track and analyze it with every lap for speedier execution. The visual aspect to the game is coated delicately with an essence of the past that makes it nostalgically endearing. Even in demo form, there’s a lot to take in.
Victory Heat Rally was previewed via a demo available on Steam.