Speed is an extremely simple arcade racer for Wii, featuring fast cars and high speed explosions.
Each race starts nice and neat with 8 cars lined up on the grid, but these aren’t ordinary cars. These cars are specially designed to blow up and go airborn with the slightest bit of contact. Simply nudging the car in front will shoot it upwards in a ball of fire. Even if you don’t go near the other cars, they’ll still find a way to blow up. By the first corner the entire track will be up in flames. Speed isn’t just about winning, it’s about winning in style with an inferno of metal behind your ear.
Speed is a low budget racer without a huge amount of resources behind it, but instead of trying to hide it, it embraces it. There’s some solid racing to be had in Speed – the car handling is functional, it has some challenging tracks, and the sense of speed is fantastic. These things are good but they don’t make Speed special, it’s the over the top reactions of the cars that really brings this game out of the shadows.
While winning the race is the only actual goal in the game, the mayhem that happens on the way is often the highlight. The ridiculous physics of the game means merely scraping a wall can send your car doing backflips in an explosion that usually ends up collecting several other cars. Watching such chaos unfold at the hands of a simple mistake, is, in a word, satisfying. Speed is a game where a mistake can feel as good as nailing a corner perfectly. The game seems to accept this, because it feels like every situation is an invitation for a pile up. The AI will follow you around the track, if you’re lagging behind they’ll slow down almost to a complete crawl to let you catch up, and if you’re in first they’ll discover a hidden turbo button on their cars and be right behind you ready to pounce on the smallest mistake. Taking out other cars is encouraged with a combo meter that tallies up how many cars you can explode in a chain. This serves no other purpose, no speed boost or points; it’s just there to tell you how much mayhem you caused.
It’s controlled with the Wii Wheel, with no other option but motion control, similar to Team6’s most recent Wii racer, FlatOut. The motion steering is responsive and satisfying. The car handling is pretty stiff, but at the same time none of the corners really require you to slow down. The sharpest corners in the game only require a slight lift off the throttle once you get the racing line right. There’s an odd kind of momentum connected to the corners: it seems that the sharper you turn the faster you’ll go – it feels like a reward for commiting to a corner. There’s no mini-map on the screen either, so until you get familiar with the track, every upcoming corner is a bit of a blind guess. I was initially put off by this but I think it adds to the sensation of speed. You’ve got to really pay attention to stay in one piece.
It takes a few races to get used to the way the game handles, but after that it’s pretty easy to win every race. There’s 16 races, which consist of 8 tracks repeated in two difficulties, not a huge amount but at least the tracks have different environments to keep it fresh. If you’re looking for some challenge after that you’ll probably end up in Time Trial trying to beat your ghost. Time Trial is the only other mode in the game besides racing. The options screen is pretty bare bones too: there’s two things you can change and that’s music volume and sound volume.
The graphics aren’t very stunning, but once again Team6 have got the fundamentals right here. The frame rate is solid and the sense of speed is the highlight. Despite the game’s simple geometry it looks great when you’re flying past things at 300mph. The music is a mixed bag as well, it’s all pretty generic techno, some of it’s catchy and blends in while some are annoying. Though the constant high pitched scream of your engine will often put the music out of your mind.
Speed is a game that will reward you depending on how you approach it. If you’re looking for serious sim racing and car customisation, you won’t find much here. Your car can only be two things: completely intact, or melted. If creating carnage and constantly being amazed by ridiculous physics and low budget explosions sounds fun, then Speed is a winner. You get what you pay for with Speed, and you could do much worse in a world of overpriced demos and big budget disappointments. Speed is FUN, delivered in a refreshing ball of fire.