This Classic Racers Elite review could have been finished sooner if I’d managed to identify the PlayStation game it reminds me of. An hour or so of diving down the YouTube rabbit hole watching ‘best driving games for PS1’ was hopeless, and I ended up watching car chases, dash cams footage and YouTube Shorts and scantily clad ladies. My apologies.
At the time, it felt relevant to begin with the PS1 comparison, but objectively speaking, the racing game from Vision Reelle and Funbox Media looks and feels like an old PlayStation game, only with better visuals and a DualSense controller (if playing on the PS5 – this is a PS4 title). Subjectively speaking, there’s a charm to this indie game that encourages repeat visits.
And that’s quite unusual. Driving games are one of my favourite genres, but in almost all games, such as Gran Turismo 7, I’ll skip any optional time trials as I don’t care for them, much preferring to race and unlock new vehicles. Classic Racers Elite is a time-trial game. There are no other cars on the track, no ghost vehicles to beat your time, and there isn’t much in the way of game modes, i.e. multiplayer.
Then what’s the lure?
Classic Racers Elite Review (PS4)
For PS1 racing veterans (or how about Amiga veterans? XJ220 anyone?!), there’s a nostalgic vibe, stripped-down options, no faffing about with the bloat seen in Forza or Need For Speed, and an emphasis on the driving experience. Classic Racers Elite doesn’t claim to be a realistic simulator, nor does it list licensed vehicles as one might expect from a game that embraces cars from the 60s.
The game features a Championship Mode and Free Run, pending you have unlocked the course via the former, and that’s about it. Each championship consists of a handful of tracks, and you have an allocated time slot to beat. There are no trophies for first, second or third; just finish in the time allowed and move on to the next track. There are online leaderboards if that’s your kink; otherwise, hoon each level accordingly.
Classic Racers Elite encourages players to use each available car at least once per championship (for an achievement), but also because each is slightly different from the last. At first, I didn’t see any difference in the cars, so I just stuck with a Mini clone for the first section, but as the tracks get more challenging (based on design and/or the time limit), it’s evident that each car has its own… personality. Take Fred, for example.
Tear It Up
There isn’t any licensing here, but it’s blatantly obvious that the Fred in the game is, in fact, Ford. Pirelli and Michelin appear but with different spellings. It’s not an issue, nor any different than that fake Luis Vuitton bag you carry. Yes, we all know it’s a fake, you tart. Anyhoo, the liveries and car modelling are very different for each, and therefore, very cool.
Weirdos who like to play racers in third-person, a.k.a. those who don’t drive IRL, will be pleased to see that’s an option, as is a bonnet cam and a dashboard viewpoint. From a first-person perspective, the speed is good, but there’s terrible screen tearing, so bad that I’ve mentioned it in this review. On a handful of occasions, I had to take a break as it was disorientating and, once again, brought back memories of the PS1 and a 14-inch portable. TV that is.
While each track in Classic Racers Elite is relatively short, driving with minimal mistakes is paramount. There will be quite a few times when you’ll crash or fly off the track, causing so much downtime that restarts are frequent. Finishing a track within the time limit is mandatory, or you can’t progress to the next, nor can you unlock the F1 cars. Compared to the starter cars, I didn’t have as much fun with these as the tracks are better suited for rally-style driving or slalom – one of the frequent modes in the game.
Classic Racers Elite is one of the better time-trial games I’ve played. The screen tearing isn’t good, but the fact that I keep returning is a testimony to how the cars handle. The rewards aren’t bragging rights or customising a vehicle with pointless accessories, but the joy of bombing it down a track as fast as possible in a classic car without all the fluff between races. Just don’t crash.