Distance: Trapped in a glorious Tron nightmare

In what feels like an ingenious combination of Split/Second, Rez and Portal, Distance brings a neon-lit world with a dark underbelly to the action racing circuit. The speeds can be intense, the tricks insane, the paths brain-bending and even though this is the first full game from Refract Studios, it is already looking packed full of content.

But before we get too caught up in all of that, we should focus on the action on the track. As we got to grips with the limited Arcade mode of this Early Access build of the game it at first felt like an on-rails game. The steering didn’t seem to be taking us further than the outer edges of the track, more like an F-Zeroor WipEout than a Need For Speed. But then things started shifting. First we were introduced to the ability to jump. Then we learnt how to fly for short periods between pieces of track. Next we were essentially gravity hopping from one course to another, spinning the car in mid-air to start on a new stretch of course. Combining all of these moves together, while simultaneously dodging giant buzz saws, laser beams and floating blockades that spear the track to block your path, and you have a pretty frantic form of racing to contend with. Frankly, at this point having to worry about anything as pedestrian as braking would have been too much.
“  We’re starting fresh with Distance and rethinking almost every aspect of the game. Nitronic Rush was a student project and in many ways only a prototype for what Distance will become ”
Distance is at its best when all of those gameplay mechanics come together and begin to mesh with the environment and soundtrack. There’s a really solid, thumping backbeat to this whole game and once the atmosphere and backdrop of the game begins to match that rhythm with flashes of light and objects, everything really comes together in an enjoyable way. While the lightness of touch in those early moments felt rather remote, once the music got going and the world came alive, it became an incredibly immersive experience.

And that’s before we start reeling off the list of features Distance is looking to launch with on PC and PS4. Alongside an extended Arcade mode from the one we played there is already online multiplayer, a stunt mode, split-screen multiplayer and a track creator which gives you complete control over all the tools to make insane, gravity bending and warping courses of your own. For a first game out of the park, Refract Studios is delivering a lot of cool features, perhaps helped in part by overachieving on its Kickstarter goals (successfully funded in November 2012) and already having a solid community from its Nitronic Rush DigiPen project. We see big things for this game and the Refract team in the future.

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