Altitude0: Lower & Faster - Steam Review
Altitude0: Lower & Faster
- Platform: PC
- Players: Up to 16 in Grand Prix mode, 4v4 in Team play mode
- Achievements: Yes
- Steam Trading Cards: Yes
- Controller Support : Yes
- Retail Price: $18.99
High Level Premise - Trackmania meets SkyDrift
Graphics/Style - Nice graphics, I have found some funny glitches if you stray off course a bit too much. Fun, but not realistic, real-time damage to the planes mid-race.
Music/Soundtrack - 90s SNES golf game on the menu screens, generic rock during races.
Story: Fly good, win stuff.
Replay-ability - The racing is addictive and there are lots of tracks (although they do tend to feel a bit samey after a while). and if you get bored with that - there's a course designer to play around with. Lots to do in this game.
Time Commitment - You can be in a race less than 1 minute after loading the game. Most races are drag race style, and take under a minute. Great for 10-15 minute bursts.
Value - Pretty high as long as the floaty controls, and the obstacles don't kill the game for you (spoiler, they didn't for me).
Favorite Element - In my very first race, I won a sticker tribute to Prince which now flies on my plane every race.
NOTE: Altitude0 is still in Early Access
Altitude0 brings us into the world of airplane racing. If you've ever watch air racing on TV, you know it is one of the most chill inducing sports to watch. To see pilots flying a couple hundred miles an hour, having to maneuver in between gates less than 50 feet off the ground is absolutely thrilling stuff. Altitude0 doesn't quite pull off the butt-clenching thrills of the real sport, but they have made a very entertaining arcade-style take on the sport.
The basic premise of Altitude0 is that you are a new pilot, and by completing various in-race tasks, you will unlock new planes and upgrades to your current planes. The ultimate goal in the solo game is to go through and win all the medals and trophies in Championship Mode and upgrade your planes to be mighty missiles in the sky.
In the "High Level Premise" section, I said this is Trackmania meets SkyDrift. For the uninitiated: Trackmania is a long-running series of auto racing games that involve extremely fast racing, wild tracks, and robust track creation and online services. SkyDrift is an airplane racing game from 2011 that feels like Mario Kart in the air. While Altitude0 could still use some polish around the edges, it is on its way to doing the same for airplane racing video games that Trackmania has done for auto racing video games.
The races are chaotic, but at the same time they feel kind of slow. The airplanes all give off smoke trails, and when you're in a race with 7 other planes, it can be dizzying and distracting to see these trails all over the place. Once you realize you're racing against ghosts of other players (as motivation I guess?) it does begin to get easier to ignore them...or use them to learn the best racing lines through the tracks.
Team racing is the clear star of the multiplayer modes. Your performance directly affects how well your team scores in each race. You are supposed to be teamed up against racers of your caliber, but I noticed I was by far the worst racer when I've tried this mode. But there's no need to worry. As there is no team speak, or any way to communicate. You can be as awful as you want, and you'll never hear about it. That's the kind of low pressure multiplayer I like. It's also a great way to learn the tracks as you race the same track over and over until one team has won (usually 5 wins).
There is a web-based track editor included in the game. It's much easier to use than I first thought, but a tutorial would be useful. I admit I haven't messed with the editor much, but I have made a couple primitive tracks, and it is rewarding when you put together something that's actually fun to race. Fortunately, there is a requirement that you finish a race on your track before it gets published. I don't know if that's a part of Trackmania, but I have come across a few nigh-on impossible tracks in that game that are just no fun. I look forward to exploring the track editor in this game more.
If I have one major complaint, it is with the controls. I feel like the controls are too floaty for a game that demands such precision movements. Sometimes you turn on a dime, sometimes your plane banks, but doesn't turn...and there doesn't seem to be much rhyme or reason to it. Fortunately, the game isn't a simulation, so you can instantly reset yourself into a decent position if you get too far out of line (and it doesn't seem to penalize you that much for doing so). I just wish things were a little tighter overall.
I'm also kind of mixed on the inclusion of "barrier" gates. Things like crushing pistons and rings of fire to fly through. I feel like they cheapen the experience. It adds too much luck to a game ostensibly about skillful flying.
There have been a surprising number of airplane racing games for such a niche sport. Altitude0 is on its way to becoming the best. It needs to grow a large and dedicated user base like Trackmania, it needs a sharper control system like SkyDrift, and it probably needs a little boost of speed. When I compare it head to head with SkyDrift, I think SkyDrift's racing is more fun and arcade-like, but Altitude0 has a better overall package. Altitude0 has a robust solo mode, fun low-pressure multiplayer, and a quick and dirty track creation mode. This one's definitely a keeper, and I look forward to seeing how it progresses as it gets closer to leaving Early Access.