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June 2024

New Star GP

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Racing
Publisher: Five Aces Publishing
Developer: New Star Games
Release Date: March 7, 2024


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PC Review - 'New Star GP'

by Cody Medellin on May 6, 2024 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

New Star GP is a fast and exciting arcade motorsport game with stunning retro visuals.

Thanks to various developers and veteran game designers, old Sega games are beginning to inspire new games. The Sonic the Hedgehog tributes are numerous, and titles like Air Twister are one of the few to be inspired by Space Harrier. On the racing side, Daytona USA and OutRun have been the inspiration for more than a few retro titles. At first glance, New Star GP looks to be another Virtua Racing-style racing game, but dig a little deeper, and you'll find something very different yet still wildly enjoyable.

The comparisons to Sega's arcade racer are immediately seen in the graphics, which add textures to the low polygon count; it's a simple act that does wonders to make the game look awesome. The lack of any real round objects is highlighted by the game's broad color palette that focuses on brighter colors, which greatly enhance the visuals. Throw in some simple particle effects like sparks and various triangles that emit from crashing into another racer, and it perfectly captures the vibe of what we imagine the old arcade games looked like. This is further solidified by the game maintaining a high frame rate at all times; ultrawide support is good for players who have those monitors.

The sound is also quite retro-inspired. The soundtrack aims for a more upbeat synthwave style than something akin to what racing games of the 1990s used, but it still provides the high tempo that racing titles require. The number of tracks spans a wide variety, which isn't usually a given for indie games but very welcome nonetheless. The sound effects are very good, with the engine noises being appropriately different as you go through the various decades. The game does sport voices, but it acts more like a sound effect because it's at such a low volume that it's just audible enough. Nothing of importance is being said, but when it plays while important notifications appear, it brings attention to that fact that the text is enough.

While the presentation mostly invokes the spirit of the low-polygon arcade hit, the gameplay goes far beyond that. Keeping your foot on the gas at all times is a sure-fire way to lose every race. Handling feels rather sim-like, as taking corners means having to feather the brakes and acceleration, so you don't spin out. Spinning out can also occur if you hit an opponent the wrong way or speed up too quickly on uneven surfaces. Weather has an effect on your car, as do the types of tires and how much fuel is stored in the tank. Pit stops and damage are a thing to pay heed to, as is opponent behavior based on your actions.

This doesn't mean that the game embraces the full simulation experience, as there are still various arcade elements sprinkled around. A full racing line guides you about when to brake or let go of the gas on a turn. Rewinding by a few seconds is available, but you might not use it often since it bars you from getting rewards when it's activated. You get a full nitro bar whenever you complete a lap, which wouldn't happen in a full F1 sim. The rules of F1 are also missing, so you don't have to worry about the meaning behind different colored flags, passing etiquette or anything else of the sort.

The mix of arcade and simulation sensibilities in New Star GP's racing mechanics blend together quite well, but the game is missing one thing that some racers may see as vital: manual transmission. Despite supporting various control schemes and a few racing wheels, the game only features automatic transmission when driving. The choice is a tad perplexing, especially since the option for driving with either automatic or manual transmission in racing games has been around since well before Virtua Racing was released. Those who can't stand automatic transmission will be dissuaded from playing this title.

The game sports only two modes, which can initially seem paltry, but both are packed with features. Career mode has you taking on the role of a new racer at the New Star racing outfit and trying to win championship cups from the 1980s all the way to the 2020s. Grand Prix are the main focus, but there are plenty of other side races to get yourself familiar with every track before the main race. Each event gives you cash to upgrade your car and crew, and you can get trophies to get more perks for your racer. Aside from the races, you have to make sure to give good press and keep your crew members happy; you also have to watch out for rival racers who act more aggressively when you're in their vicinity.

The experience is deep, and the various activities are reminiscent of what you'd typically see in a licensed F1 title. The fact that it's here in a smaller title is fascinating, but it also helps that the mode feels breezier by comparison. There are two elements that may irk some players about the mode. While you can tell how each crew member feels, you initially have no idea how that affects your entire racing crew. It takes a number of mood changes before you can see any significant changes occur. The other issue is that your overall car progress is reset once you move to a new decade. This is less of an issue than it seems, since the move to a new decade means a better car overall thanks to the technological progress in the intervening years. It is something to point out if you were hoping to take one car all the way to the end of the mode.

Championship mode acts as a contrast to Career mode by being more freeform. The game boils down things to racing, as you can choose any car and decade you want without worrying about car stats or upgrades, but you can give yourself an overall advantage to varying degrees if you want. You choose a cup and race all of the tracks in hopes of amassing enough points to be the champ. It's fairly basic stuff, but the number of cups is numerous, and the game takes pages from classic racers by having you earn enough cups to unlock new ones along the way. You can also race on your own custom cup, with tracks taken from the many available options, but be warned that playing this option doesn't contribute to the overall cup unlock process. Championship mode can be played in four-player split-screen, so you can enjoy multiplayer play while making some progress.

When it comes to this mode, the only flaw is the lack of online play. This is more of a "nice to have" option rather than something essential, as many players might be more comfortable with single races than full cups, especially if they're far behind on points with no hope of catching up for a surprise victory. Nevertheless, it would be interesting to see how big of an audience there is for a simulation racer with arcade sensibilities.

Steam Deck users will find the game to be perfect on Valve's device. The game runs at the system's full 1280x800 resolution and does so while locked at 60fps. On a Steam Deck LCD version, the average battery life for the game on a full charge is around four-and-a-half hours, which is great since it seems to be above average when compared to most other new releases.

New Star GP goes past initial expectations to deliver a very well-crafted racing game. The arcade simulation mix in the racing feels great, and while there are only two modes, they're both so well done that the title doesn't feel like it needs more modes. The lack of online play is a shame, but the omission of manual transmission will turn off those who can only drive that way. For everyone else who isn't craving a pure simulation experience, New Star GP is well worth your time.

Score: 8.0/10

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