Slipstream is a great big nostalgic slap in the face for anyone that’s played a video game from the 90s. Not only in its remarkably similar gameplay and art style to SEGA’s Out Run, but also in its menu’s sound effects which reminded me of SEGA Rally Championship, and also its stage names which come straight from Sonic the Hedgehog.
If you feel a sense of déjà vu as you race through Ice Cap and Emerald Hill, it’s no coincidence; the pre-race interface even looks close to being an exact replica of Sonic’s pre-level transitions. Safe to assume that this developer favoured the SEGA Saturn over the Nintendo 64!
Its 90s inspirations run much deeper than mere homage, though. The gameplay is extremely basic by modern standards, but that’s not to say that it doesn’t add any innovation to the classic formula of 2D sprite-based racers.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s no Gran Turismo, but you will need to master Slipstream’s drift mechanics if you plan on winning even its easiest modes, while its namesake slipstream ability is overly exaggerated to the point that sharp turns will appear out of seemingly nowhere.
This can lead to some particularly frustrating races where a near-certain win is snatched from within your grasp at the final hurdle – at least until you’ve gained some muscle memory of the course layouts. There is a Codemasters-esque flashback ability, however it only grants a five-second rewind and must be re-charged before it can be used again. It’s more of a band aid than a well-implemented feature.
Slipstream’s single-player menu teases some variation with Grand Tour and Battle Royale modes hinting at a story mode and perhaps a Street Racer-inspired take on the modern multiplayer phenomenon, however the gameplay never diverts from its A to B races through one – or a selection – of its courses.
Grand Tour does introduce rival characters in an attempt to offer some context as to why we’re racing, however it’s not voice acted and so I wish you good luck in trying to read the captions while navigating the track’s twists and turns – especially on the harder settings.
The highlight for me was its Grand Prix mode with custom cars, which rewards you with in-game currency relative to your finishing position, and you must purchase upgrades to your car’s top speed, acceleration and handling in order to claw back the performance deficit from your rivals during an ongoing championship.
Do you play it safe and ensure a steady stream of updates to your car’s handling, or do you double down on performance and deal with the consequences of an unwieldy car on the track? It’s a fun mode to experiment with and find a balance which works for you.
Slipstream (PlayStation 4) Verdict
With a relaxing synthwave soundtrack and stunning 2D sprite-based graphics which mirror your rose-tinted memories of a bygone era (despite being more technically advanced than the 90’s hardware would’ve allowed) Slipstream on PlayStation 4 is a class act for retro enthusiasts looking for a modern homage to the classic racing genre. It has its shortcomings, but absolutely serves a purpose for its target audience.