Banking out of a hairpin turn, avoiding the molten lava erupting into the sky and barely avoiding the missile as it explodes into the canyon wall as you cross the finish line in victory — all of this describes a typical race in this new aerial combat game developed by Digital Reality.
The single player mode in SkyDrift can be beaten within a couple hours, but will take you through tropical shipwrecks, an erupting volcano, an explosive avalanche and much more. Multiplayer supports up to 8 players simultaneously if you can find that many people playing online at the same time — I’ll go into this in detail a little later on in the review. There are 8 different planes to unlock each with varying stats and unlockable skins.
The weapons are the standard fair for a combat racing game — lock-on missiles, Gatling guns, mines, shields etc. Each weapon can be powered up by collecting two of the same weapon. Collecting two mine boxes will allow you to drop three rotating mines instead of one stationary mine. Each plane can hold two different weapons at a time and you can switch between them at any point.
Using the right stick helps turn the plane for those pesky sharp turns, but also it is useful for squeezing into tight spaces and doing barrel rolls. Doing a barrel roll is not as easy as one would think however, and more often than not you will end up crashing as a result.
Multiplayer does not fair as well as the single player mode. Joining a match works effortlessly with the ability to jump straight into the action with quick matches or define what you are looking for using the custom match options. There are 3 different game modes to choose from that change the race rules such as using weapons or speed racing using boost rings. I didn’t see an option for creating a private or invite only match — we actually had some random people join our testing matches, but as they say: the more the merrier.
The matches run just as smooth as it does in single player with no hint of lag, but as the races end the problems begin. In one match, while I crossed the finish line and thought I claimed victory, I soon realized I hadn���t. Crossing the finish line greeted me with a message prompt that said I have 20 seconds left to finish the race and then I was given 2nd place — yet my race timer had stopped and I was in full control of my plane. The other two players finished correctly and were given 1st and 2nd place respectfully (It was a true champion’s come from behind victory by the way – Marcus), with correct end race screens. This forced me to quit the multiplayer session and re-create the lobby. As soon as I quit the match, the match ended for the other players and gave everyone a DNF (Did Not Finish) placing.
In the majority of the matches we had, the game simply does not advance back to the lobby screen after the race has ended. — This forces everyone to quit and reform the match. Without having a fully functional multiplayer portion, the online community will be short lived, which is a shame as SkyDrift is such a solid combat racer game.
If Digital Reality can keep up the DLC support and patch up the issues online, this will be the best online aerial combat for a long time as SkyDrift is one of the best kart-esque racers out today.Note: SkyDrift was reviewed on PlayStation 3. A digital copy of the game provided by the publisher.