Reviewed for the Xbox One.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first booted up Inertial Drift. It seemed compelling enough, with its vaporwave styled art direction, drifting, and obvious inspiration from the anime series Initial D. The game surprised me however, as I found myself going over the same tracks trying for the perfect lap. Inertial Drift isn’t really a racing game, its’ a game about understanding your vehicle and what makes it tick, learning the courses by heart, and doing just one more lap to trim your time down a tiny bit more.
Buttery Smooth Controls
Inertial Drift employs a unique style of control unseen in nearly any other contemporary racing game, with both sticks being crucial. The left analogue stick controls steering as you would expect while the right swings your vehicle for an aggressive drift. This method of control separates Inertial Drift from anything else in the genre, allowing for some absurdly tight cornering. This style of play leads to blistering speeds and precision that force the player to perfect every maneuver. It’s this style of play that makes Inertial Drift special, and what makes it addictive. This level of control makes playing tracks over and over to improve your time feel like a rewarding experience.
Inertial Drift doesn’t feel the need to take itself seriously, and that’s alright, its filling a gap that’s been left open for some time between cart racers and hardcore simulation racing games. Inertial Drift wants you to focus on what you are doing, not anyone else. This is made clear in the tutorial when you are told that the cars are equipped with “Phase Shift Impact Prevention systems” which essentially means, you are just racing a ghost that you can see, but not interact with. You can’t impact other cars, but you can still hit all the walls and rail guards that your heart desires. While these impacts don’t do any damage to your car (visually or functionally) they will hinder your speed significantly. What this leads to is a game about time trial racing and going for the best lap you can manage. The addictive quality of this game comes in the smooth controls and the small improvements made on a track. This may seem like it would get old quickly, but the wide variety of vehicles give the game a longer life.
Cars Cars Cars
Each vehicle in Inertial Drift has its own quirks that you will have to overcome in order to use them. One of the most important stats for each vehicle is their “difficulty”. This stat determines how easy each of the 16 cars are to use. The first vehicles Inertial Drift points you to are straight forward, following the basic rules of the game. Use the right stick to drift, braking lets you take tighter turns, simple right? Not all cars are created equally however, and Inertial Drift makes that clear as soon as you are out of the kiddie pool of the first few cars.
The game will force you to learn very specific mechanics with many of the cars to take even the smoothest turns. For example, the in-game character Ibba’s HPE Dragon flips the script on the player by canceling out your drift upon hitting the brake. This makes the player slow down before turns but blast out of them with the vehicle’s high speed and acceleration. My personal favorite vehicle, the Coda Supremo driven by Seth is one of the fastest cars in the game and and you’re bound for confusion the first time using it. It requires you to break into turns and tap the brake delicately while drifting for the perfect line. There are many other cars with much more intricate drifting mechanics that I have yet to master. However, many of the vehicles do seem to be more effort than the benefits would justify… But it’s nice to know that there is always a new challenge to overcome in the game.
Its All About The Race
To my surprise, Inertial Drift features a story mode which is fairly uncommon in racing games. The story presents itself in a sort of visual novel style with slightly animated 2D artwork representing the characters. There are four stories to play through each with their own characters and vehicles. The story features Edward, Ada, Ibba, and Viv who all drive progressively more powerful and difficult to control vehicles.
After every event, the characters talk with themselves or other racers introduced into the story. There really isn’t too much to say about the story, it’s just a standard racing fare with each character wanting to race for different reasons and having different struggles along the way. One of the more interesting things in the story mode is how dialogue will change depending on whether an event is won or lost. Ultimately, the story is just for learning different classes of vehicles and unlocking new cars for other modes.
Inertial Drift pleasantly surprised me, it was more enjoyable than I had initially expected. Even though the lack of content outside of just racing is extremely limited, it’s a game made for racing fans. The game has an interesting visual and control style, that alone is enough to take it across the finish line. The variety of cars and tight, responsive controls make this a fun game for anyone that loves the genre. Learning all the vehicles takes time and will be rewarding for anyone who wants to put in the effort. Inertial Drift does its job and it does it well, but it doesn’t stick around to do much more.
Inertial Drift can be purchased from the Xbox Store for 19.99. What did you think of the review? Have you been able to master all the cars in the game? Let us know in the comments below.