Rocket Racing isn't just a Fortnite mode - it's the arcade racer I've been looking for since Mario Kart 8 launched a decade ago

Rocket Racing
(Image credit: Epic Games)

Yes, there have been other arcade racing games since Mario Kart 8 launched in 2014 - including some great ones - but none of them have gotten me quite as excited as Rocket Racing. After 45 minutes playing the latest game from Rocket League developer Psyonix, I can't help but feel like this might end up being the new standard for kart racers, and I just can't decide if the fact that it's launching inside of Fortnite is the best or worst part.

It's great because Rocket Racing will be available for free and at least partly supported by perhaps the most successful free-to-play title out there, but I'm afraid kart racing aficionados might turn their nose up at having to launch Fortnite to play it. But make no mistake: Rocket Racing is not just a Fortnite mode. If you've ever wondered what a racing game from the Rocket League devs might look like, this is it, and my demo showed no apparent compromises.

Technically Rocket Racing doesn't feature karts, instead giving you cars in the vein of those in Rocket League. (In fact, many of the cars you've purchased in Rocket League will appear as cosmetic options here.) But this feels like a kart racer. You've got a Mario Kart-style drift system where you're encouraged to wiggle your car back and forth around corners to get a boost, and a turbo system where additional boosts slowly build up over time. There are even boost pads, About the only things missing are power-ups to let you fire blue shell-style annoyances at your opponents. 

Rocket Racing

(Image credit: Epic Games)

Rocket Racing keeps up the 'rocket' bit too. You can jump over obstacles, and while some tracks confine you within what are effectively tunnels, others let you go flying pretty wildly, cutting corners and taking advantage of boost pads that are well off the proper track. You can ride on walls and ceilings, too, defying gravity to slam your car's wheels onto an impossible road in satisfying fashion.

The track design supports all this really well, too. If you see a tunnel in midair, sure, you can just jump inside the tunnel and ride normally, but why do that when you can ride the underside tunnel and get the jump on whoever else is racing there? Tracks often have tricky splits, challenging you to ride walls, ceilings, and floors to keep up top speed. Slam left, slam up, slam down - driving here is extremely satisfying, especially once you start to combine the momentum of the on-track drift boosts with the freedom offered by all the mid-air antics.

There are 26 tracks at launch, spread across three biomes, and those I saw demonstrated a great deal of variety in both visuals and challenge levels. One of the most exciting details is that the devs are also working on a track editor that'll let players build their own courses. That's due to launch in 2024.

Rocket Racing launches today with what the devs compare to a sort of "Season 0," meaning that you can expect additional features to come in the future, just as with Fortnite. Some of the plans include different types of cosmetics like drift smoke and boost effects, as well as new modes like time trial - which is also due to launch next year. The game is already a delight and if it enjoys Fortnite-level support I could see it staying in my rotation for a long, long time to come.

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Dustin Bailey
Staff Writer

Dustin Bailey joined the GamesRadar team as a Staff Writer in May 2022, and is currently based in Missouri. He's been covering games (with occasional dalliances in the worlds of anime and pro wrestling) since 2015, first as a freelancer, then as a news writer at PCGamesN for nearly five years. His love for games was sparked somewhere between Metal Gear Solid 2 and Knights of the Old Republic, and these days you can usually find him splitting his entertainment time between retro gaming, the latest big action-adventure title, or a long haul in American Truck Simulator.