Review: BallisticNG

At a Glance

This game is recommended!
This game is not just good fun, it also stays fairly true to Christian moral values, making it a great addition to anyone's library!

ESRB Rating: NR - Not Rated
My Rating: Everyone
Genre: Racing
License: Commercial
Release Year: 2018
Reviewed Version: 1.2.5
Review Published On: June 9th, 2021
Played on: Thaddeus

Available from:

Steam

Save System:

When you complete an event, the results are automatically stored for posterity. Custom races and tournaments cannot be saved, however.

To pause, bring up the pause menu by pressing ESC.

Summary of
Major Issues:

This game feature violence that's fairly typical for a "kart" racer. That is, you can use weapons to knock other racers out of the race.

When ships are destroyed, their model simply splits into their various polygons.

Screenshots

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Another day at the races

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The survival mode has no brakes

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Race over, around, and underground



Game Overview

If you've played "kart racers" before, then you have a pretty good idea of what to expect from BallisticNG, though it has its differences from the more typical games in its genre, largely due to it being an open love letter to the Wipeout franchise. Both games feature fast, futuristic "antigrav" racing with a mid-90s computer graphics theme. Think Mario Kart mixed with TRON.

Like most racing games, the basic gameplay revolves around driving the car (or "antigrav" ship, in this case) down various racetracks in an attempt to pass the finish line before anybody else. There's more than one way to race though, so this only covers the general idea.

At the forefront of this game is a campaign mode. Each campaign features a number of unlockable events, which are a selection of different races. At the beginning of the game, only a few are available; you'll need to unlock the others by proving your skills in these races. This seems simple enough, but it's not as easy as it sounds.

Since this is about driving hovercars, there's more involved than normal driving. Unlike cars that grip the road with rubber tires, these hovering racers need to use an airbraking system to manage their turning radius and control the pitch of the vehicle to avoid drag. Make a mistake when you use your airbrakes and you'll find yourself slamming into walls or careening off the track. That's bad enough, but if you point your vehicle's nose in the wrong way, you'll add a lot of drag that'll slow you down. As this is a race, that's usually something to avoid.

Fortunately, there is another option if the campaigns are too difficult for you. The real meat and potatoes of this game is its support for mods and custom races. In addition to letting you create and share new tracks and vehicles via the Steam Workshop, you have the ability to set up and play your own "campaigns".

In the custom race mode, you get to choose how many racers there are, how skilled the AI is, and what racetracks are involved. You can also change other things, like whether or not the racers can use powerups. There aren't any restrictions for this mode, so you can jump right in without bothering with the campaigns.

Overall, BallisticNG is a fun little racing game. But, as much as I'd like to recommend it, the unusual controls create a learning curve that may limit casual players to lower speeds or difficulty settings. There's definitely a niche community supporting this game though, so it's all a matter of taste.

Points of Interest

Plenty of ships
The base game comes with 16 different ships for you to try or master. Each ship has slightly different handling and its own lore entry, though the lore is mostly just there as window dressing. Additional ships and new skins (called "liveries") can be unlocked by winning races in the campaigns.
Huge selection of racetracks
Your typical racing game comes with about a dozen racetracks and maybe mirrored versions of those racetracks. BallisticNG, on the other hand, comes with over fifty racetracks and more are released fairly regularly, giving you a huge selection of scenery for you to avoid.
Custom games
Being able to create your own tourneys and customize the game rules really allows for a lot of possible options and plenty of room for players of all skill levels. But, the focus on this section of the game almost comes at the price of making the rest of the game feel like a giant tutorial rather than real part of the fun.
Steam community features
There are 26 achievements to earn, most of which involve performing some specific feats during a race. For example, if you manage to hit an opponent with an unguided missile, you'll earn the "Look Ma!" achievement.

There are also some Steam trading cards available, but the really interesting stuff is found in the Steam Workshop, which allows players to create and share their own hovercars and tracks!
Touchy controls
This is one game where you don't want to use the keyboard and mouse combo. The delicate controls are clearly made with controllers in mind, and even then, a lot of players have trouble figuring out the steering mechanics. Learning when to use the airbrakes is especially hit-and-miss. Mostly hit, as shown by the damage to the course's walls.

Concerns and Issues

Mild violence
As per usual for cart racers, all of the racers are capable of picking up and using weapons during the race. These include land mines, missiles, machine guns, and other futuristic weaponry, though some of the powerups are more about helping you manage on the race course than stopping your opponents.

Ships can be destroyed by weapons or by being disqualified. When this happens, they flare briefly and then the 3D model falls apart at the seams.