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Distance: Beta Impressions
Although racing games aren’t my usual jam, Refract Games’ Distance is a game I’m willing to make an exception for. The arcade racer caught my eye when it showed up on Kickstarter towards the back end of 2012. Support from gaming luminaries like Cliff Bleszinski helped push the crowdfunding effort well past its initial goal and a mere year and a half later, the game’s beta has finally gotten into the hands of backers.
Courtesy of a very-generous benefactor and friend (who also provided some glorious high-resolution screenshots of the game), I had the chance to spent some time with the beta and came away very, very impressed.
Built off the concepts and ideas that inspired predecessor (and award-winning DigiPen student project) Nitronic Rush, Distance is an arcade racer with slick controls and an even slicker visual style. Players take control of versatile neon-lined cars capable of boosting, jumping and flying their way through the futuristic city that forms a sprawling futuristic backdrop for the game.
There’s a lot of nuances and divergences in each track and different playstyles opened up new routes and shortcuts, the advantages they offer often come with challenges of their own. In spite of the freedom Distance offers players, controls are pretty simple and it only took a quick race or two before I had a good grip on how to tackle things.
There are deadly gauntlets of lasers, saws and wormholes that spice up each track in the game and the level design in the game not only looks great but also functions incredibly well. It’s all brought to life through the game’s pulsating soundtrack and powerful level-editor which, in conjunction with Steam’s Workshop, is sure to add a lot of replay-value once the general gaming public gets ahold of the game.
Though still in beta, Distance oozes both style and substance. After seeing the game in motion I’m easily willing to call it one of the most aesthetically impressive games I’ve played in the last year. While it definitely owes more than a few favors to TRON, Distance’s neon metropolis has an almost-surreal flavour of its own.
The single player component of Distance’s beta is quite limited at present, though it does offer a good introduction to the game’s mechanics. At the moment things are limited to a brief run through the multiplayer tracks in the game – with a few fun boss encounters thrown in – but the final product is promising an explorable open city and some kind of a story to go with it. Multiplayer-wise things are a lot of fun and, best of all, ran smoothly. While I was a little bummed out at the lack of collision, it’s always possible that such options will become available closer to release.
Distance may reached beta a little bit later than backers and fans were hoping it would but it’s definitely been worth the wait. Even in beta, it’s showing incredible promise and absolutely worth checking out when it hits Steam later this year.