Please be aware: This review reflects only the single player portion of the game.
What I like most about Ignite is the boost button. I think it’s the one on the dashboard they labelled TEAR REALITY ASUNDER. That’s what it feels like. When you call for nitro in this game you’re essentially passing the steering wheel to the devil himself. The screen contorts and blurs and one errant twitch of the thumbstick will have you scraping the wall at 150mph. The thrill is immense, whilst it lasts.
Ignite is a funny old thing, really. In some ways it reminds me of the original FlatOut, which held a similar wild enthusiasm for speed and destruction, but it doesn't really break any rules when trying to present the same brand of unhinged arcade racing. In fact, it doesn't even feel that unhinged when you don’t have the capacity to TEAR REALITY ASUNDER.
To start with you'll be offered some straightforward races against a few stupider-than-thou AI opponents. If you lose to these guys, I'm assuming the game just quits and uninstalls itself from your system, because to do so would mean that you’d likely never seen a gamepad before, probably never heard of ‘the internet’ and certainly shouldn't be left alone with a computer.
After this the learning curve climbs, but not all that much. You’ll whizz through it without too much hassle, unlocking cars and tracks with your successes. Within the three main car types - muscle, street and race - you'll gain access to new paint jobs that come hand in hand with bonus attributes to help you gain the lead in races.
The twist? You can lose a race and still win it. That is to say, race wins are determined on points gained from smashing, speeding and drifting your way around each track, not simply by your finishing position. Leading the pack helps, but it's not the be all and end all if you finish in second place with five thousand points in hand, whilst the guy in front has only made a couple of hundred. Points count as deductibles of your time and these are tallied up at the end of each race.
The reason for this? Presumably it gives more aggressive, slower drivers the opportunity to win big by bothering all the other cars and smashing up the scenery. But unless you're talking tricks and spins and big air, which this game explicitly isn't, then where's the fun to be had in not taking pole position? I'm unsure on this point.
After experimentation, I found it rather simple to lead each race on both points and time by picking a roadster with a destruction bonus and knocking down every piece of signage I could find. No other style or car type earned me a fraction of the points that this method did and - because points convert to nitro - I maintained the thrill of being at Beelzebub’s side the whole time. Good for me, bad for Ignite, because something’s clearly awry when your toolset consists of one sledgehammer and a bunch of inflatable mallets.
The point scoring does get in the way of the actual racing. Keeping track of it and trying to understand why you might be behind when everyone else isn’t means your mind is kept from enjoying the thrill of the chase. And because you’re given two variables by which to judge your lead, you’ll often have little idea of whether you should be threatened if you’re either lagging behind or lacking in points. It’s an odd experience and means you can never accurately gauge the competition.
For all its colour and noise there's unfortunately very little here to get excited about. It’s a pretty game and there are moments of genuine spine-tingling speed, but all too often the game seems to be holding you back, tying you to its EXCITING! NEW! CONCEPT! which, on closer inspection, isn’t that exciting. It’s still good old fashioned fun if you’re willing to accept the flaws, just don't go into it expecting the next Burnout.
Ignite is released on 28th October and will be available to purchase on Steam. (€14.99/$19.99/£12.99)