Has the time come already to write an Inertial Drift review? I’ve been ardent in sharing my thoughts on this for a while now – the reason being is from the moment I started playing, I knew it would be great.
With a colour palette that makes purple my new favourite colour, and a vibe that emits Initial D, this game from Level 91 Entertainment and PQube was one I’d been looking forward to since the announcement.
You’ve probably read about Intertial Drift Sunset Prologue, right? On the PC without a controller was not great but on the Switch…? Don’t drift off now.
Inertial Drift Review
Lauded as a twin-stick racer, Inertial Drift was about giving the player more command over their drifting than ever before, but an arcade-like approach that mirrors a game such as Ridge Racer.
There’s no vehicle setup or fine adjustments to find the perfect setup (if you want that, have a look into Drift21 instead) and it really is a pick-up and play title.
Implementing a twin-stick setup may seem a little outlandish, but on the contrary, it couldn’t be any more perfect in terms of handling (not for all the cars, mind). As corny as it sounds, the handling feels like an extension of yourself and the car goes where you want it to go. Mostly.
That said, the steering is handled by the left stick and in isolation, abysmal. On the opposite of the fence, the drift is perfect, and due to the analogue approach, you can finely tweak a turn for a pretty intensive, uninterrupted drift.
When using the left stick in harmony with a drift, you can place your car in a much better position and serves its purpose that way, but don’t expect to drive the game without using the right stick. I mean, it’s in the title.
There are many modes to choose from which includes the main challenges, time trials, multiplayer and leaderboards – everything you’d expect from a game of this ilk.
Jumping into the main story, you’ll pick your driver and their signature vehicle and observe a few visual novel set pieces between races either congratulating you for your mad skills or commiserating that you need to try harder.
The visuals throughout are splendid, and I can’t fault the presentation – be it the graphics or the sound effects. Sure, it’s not a game where you’re going to get all this dynamic lighting and reflections (read the WRC 9 review for realism), but it’s fit for service and excels throughout.
Pedal To The Flaw
So it’s a perfect game then, right? No, of course not, but the minor issues far outweigh everything else. When I started the game, despite being a driving veteran, I opted for the car with better handling and fitting for beginners. It handled like a dream. The only caveat was it resembled a Mazda MX5 racing a Ferrari F40 – no matter how well I drove (not perfect), I couldn’t catch up with some of the bigger cars, and you can’t change your driver mid-story.
It was interesting to note that switching to one of the beefier cars really made a difference. However, while the top-end cars go like shit off a shovel, they handle like pushing a fridge on a skateboard. Down a hill. Ok, I’m being dramatic, but the heavier cars definitely feel heavier and one for the experienced, competent drivers.
Another trivial thing is you only have one viewpoint: a chase cam/third-person perspective. If ever I have a friend round to play a game or I watch someone drive on YouTube, I find the majority drive like this. That’s fine by me, I can too, but my preference is first-person, and I’m clearly a better driver that way – especially with drifting. If I switch to this view in either WRC 9 or Drift21, my driving significantly improves.
However, the counter-argument to that is you’re picking drifting lines, and you’re awarded for lightly scraping the sides, as long as you don’t crash thus breaking your modifier, so I suppose this view is the best. But, if I could choose, I think I might be setting better times. Just sayin’.
Drifting (ha!) back to the story mode as you’ll an intelligent person, I don’t need to explain time trials or leaderboards, each stage is staggered with practice runs, time trials, ghost matches and a rival race.
Interestingly the collision detection is wicked in that there are no spin-outs or ways to cheese it by pinballing off your opponent – if you win, it’s through merit.
By the time you get to your third race in the first stage, the handling becomes second nature, and you’ll find yourself switching left and right like slalom skiing. While it’s an arcade game, there are no ridiculous collisions or going the wrong way – the momentum is spot-on.
Just be aware that almost all of the vehicles in the game do behave in a very different manner, and some are better than others.
From my perspective, Inertial Drift is easily one of the best driving games I’ve ever played. Not because of the realistic graphics, in-depth car tuning, customisations or official licensing, but the sheer pleasure it brings from throwing the car around a corner at high speed while maintaining a tempo that blends with the soundtrack.
In multiple ways, the game feels effortless with its handling. Drifting isn’t one of my favourite things as I’ve never really got on with it. I wasn’t a fan of the Ridge Racer series to be completely honest, and except for something like Need For Speed Payback, I’ve not rated drifting or taken it seriously.
Sure, I could happily binge on Ken Block’s Gymkhana in awe – I’m not anti-drift racing, I just haven’t found anything that has perfected the handling in an arcade environment until now.
Initial D Vs Inertial Drift
The Initial D comparisons may be brought up by others as the game does capture the vibe to some degree – notably the manga-like story (a bit forgettable I’m afraid), or hooning down mountainous terrain with precision.
Having played the Initial D arcade games in Japan (yes, they still have them), they felt more like Rad Mobile in the mountains. Well, not that bad, but it didn’t meet its potential and felt quite monotonous. Inertial Drift fulfils that potential, and it has swiftly overtaken the ranks to be one of my favourite games of the year so far.