Armada: F/X Racers (GBC) (2000)
Review by Faididi and Co.
We would've been happier with Armada 2
In their continuing war against the alien forces known as the Armada, the people of the Alliance haven't forgotten to take some time out for fun, which includes racing. Like many other sports spin-offs, this game doesn't have a real story. It's probably better off that way, because for a bunch of folks who have interstellar warp engines, self-guided weaponry, and other super advanced technology, nobody seems to question why they still like to race in the style of 20th century Earth. With wheeled cars. On paved tracks.
With its deliberate absurdities, Metro3D's Armada: F/X Racers is a lighthearted racing game set in the world of the original Armada. Played from an overhead perspective, it resembles a typical rally racing game at first. There are 6 characters (each representing a different human variant in the Alliance), and their cars vary in terms of turning control, boost power, and durability. Four characters participate at a time in races that are set across a handful of starbases and planets, and to win a race, your character must place at least second at the finish line.
Now, this is where things start getting really weird, because every race actually consists of two parts. After winning the normal racing part, your character and the closest rival then compete to see who can destroy an Armada boss who drives along the track. This is a twisted sort of bumper car challenge, where your character has to ram the boss more times than the opponent, all the while chasing it around the track and trying to avoid the traps.
Unfortunately, those traps are only the first of many problems that drag down the fun promised by F/X Racers' quirky design. The zoomed-in view leaves little time to see what's coming ahead, and the drones and other traps can easily ruin your character's turns and attempts to overtake opponents. Nothing is more frustrating than accidentally crashing into something while making a jump and then careening helplessly into a death pit. You'll learn to hate those death pits, too, because your character has a small number of lives to complete each race. Unlike the original Armada, this game leaves you with limited credits, so you no longer have the option to keep retrying as much as you want.
Not helping is the absence of multiplayer features. One doesn't need to be reminded that multiplayer action forms a large part of the original game, so the single-Player-only setup here leaves F/X Racers sorely lacking, especially for a racing game of its age.
The problems continue into the controls, which don't suffer from loose responsivity as much as they do from the bad physics. Easing on the accelerator causes the vehicles to slow down abruptly, as though the brakes have been applied, while scraping against walls can knock the cars completely around, costing valuable time and pissing you off beyond belief. The way the turbo boosts are automatically used as soon as they charge up over time, instead of being manually activated, is also stupid.
At least the overly zoomed-in view allows for the cars and the Armada bosses to be drawn large. The backgrounds are textured well, too, but a heavy amount of slowdown occurs whenever your character's vehicle blows up.
The sound effects comprise more or less of just tires screeching during turns and cars hitting other objects. The lack of any engine noise makes the vehicles too quiet. Many of the tunes are 8-bit renditions of the original game's music, which is odd given that their often somber tones don't exactly fit a sports atmosphere.
Armada: F/X Racers has unusual ideas for a spin-off, but as a racing game it's simply not enjoyable with its shitty physics, lousy trap design, and lack of multiplayer support. Even the most ardent fans of the original Armada will find hardly anything to like here, whether they're into the racing genre or not.