‘Pressure’ Review – Good Old-Fashioned Racing, Same Old Shooting
Topware Interactive, the developers who previously brought us the magical Two Worlds series, now invite gamers to slip into something a little more steampunk. Pressure is a racing game for both PC and Xbox with shooter elements, which combines gears and goggles with high-velocity road rage and infinite ammunition.
The story in Pressure, to the extent that there is one at all, goes a little like this: the Earl of Wellness, a twisty-moustache villain who probably ties women to railroad tracks as a hobby, is attempting to monopolize the entire kingdom’s water supply in order to power his cleverly-titled Wellness Spa. Playing as a be-goggled everyman with a pet robo-dog and an armed racing buggy, it’s your job to race across the land against time and various enemies in order to stop the Earl and save the kingdom from dehydration. The narrative, however, is more of a backdrop than the main drive of the game; cut-scenes are few and far between, and the levels themselves are more about mercilessly exploding your competition rather than a heroic attempt to rescue the realm from an evil plot.
Driving the buggy works in the usual way on the PC, with WASD directional controls and attack/action commands assigned to the mouse. Racing in Pressure takes more than just good driving skills – while navigating the twisting, increasingly more treacherous paths of each level, players must maintain high steam pressure to keep the buggy running by destroying rivals and crossing checkpoints, while also keeping damage to a minimum in order to avoid spontaneous combustion. Though it’s not traditional racing in the sense of trying to finish first – if you’re very good, you’ll be the only one left by the end of the race anyway – but time is of the essence, as taking too long to complete a lap results in running out of pressure and having to start over.
Racing is a blast – literally – and though the game offers little besides to appeal to non-racing fans, it’s got the genre covered pretty well, for the most part. Free-play and campaign mode are both options, and players can choose to race solo or with friends. Tracks are challenging but not impossible to navigate, and enemies are reasonably powerful and just frustrating enough to justify and thoroughly enjoy murder without being total pains in the bumper. There’s even enough variation in setting to keep the more vigilant players occupied, while the rest of us just focus on trying not to explode, run out of pressure, or fall off of cliffs.
The biggest problem – again, literally – with gameplay is the arrival of the dreaded zeppelin. Usually I’m excited to see one in any medium, even if it is trying to annihilate me, but the issue with having one in a racing game with a top-down view is pretty obvious – they block about half the screen, obscuring both enemies and the road and generally making driving a nightmare. Since aiming your attacks is tied directly to steering, there is no way to take one down; you just have to stick it out and survive until the zeppelin goes away on its own.
Completion time, body count, and the amount of gold coins collected all factor into the amount of points you are awarded at the end of a level – and how much spangle you get to spend in the local shop. Primary weapons (guns), secondary weapons (including bombs, rockets, and repair-kits to lower damage), front-bumper rams, and new buggy body designs can be purchased and upgraded at the shop between levels. Conveniently enough, if you find yourself stuck on a level and wishing, for example, that you’d bought a new grenade launcher instead of upgrading your repair kit, you can revisit the shop and undo any purchases made since the last level you completed.
While in places the design of Pressure is decidedly steampunk, overall there’s a lack of ingenuity that’s at odds with the Victorian age of invention lying at the heart of the genre. It would have been nice to see more creative and varied weaponry and gear, instead of just the familiar set of guns, grenades, and armor – a little more Battlebots, perhaps, and a little less standard shooter. (There are a few interesting secondary weapons, but not enough.) Gameplay isn’t terribly diverse either; pretty much every level consists of driving and shooting, with the occasional boss level in which, although you’re still driving and shooting, you’re focusing on one big baddie instead of hundreds of medium-sized ones.
Still, as far as racing games go, Pressure is as fast-paced and action-packed as a gamer could ask for, with a light, humorous touch that keeps things fun and interesting, with a high-energy soundtrack that emphasizes the danger and the pressure (get it?!) of racing against the odds. The sheer vivacity and challenge of the game will keep many a racer on-track even when the novelty wears off – though I would recommend trying the free demo before splurging on the full version (which is priced at about $15 currently). Both can be found on the game’s official site, and the game can also be purchased via Steam.