This is a very fun arcade racing game, though only if you're interested in the single player or have friends who also play it, as the multiplayer community seems practically dead.
I had a great time completing the single player campaign. There is a real sense of speed here, and while the graphics are nothing to write home about, they are pleasant enough and run great on my Radeon HD4850. It took me many tries to score 3 Stars in quite a few of the events, and some I had to come back to later after a few level ups and with a further upgraded hydrojet. The AI is decent, and I didn't notice any rubberbanding. Crashing into other players or even the scenery only slows you down a little (or a lot if you actuall hit the scenery head-on), and the only way to wipe-out is to land back in the water in the middle of performing a "Trick". In that case, you lose precious seconds while your hydro jet resets back on the track, and then has to accelerate back up to speed.
The game worked perfectly with my 360 controller, but didn't recognize a Logitech Attack joystick, so perhaps only the 360 pad is supported. There is keyboard support , but I didn't use it so can't comment much about how well it works. It's worth noting that "auto-acceleration" can only be disabled when using the controller and is forced for the keyboard. Mouse is only supported in the menus.
The single player Campaign mode is made up of 9 "Series" of events . The events in a series are played stand-alone - there is no "comlete these X events one after another and then total up your score to get your placement" type of tours in this game. The first "Beginner's Luck" Series contains only 4 events, but this increases all the way up to 12 events in final "All Stars Cup". In each event you get 1, 2 or 3 Stars for placing in the third, second or first place respectively, and the total number of stars are used to unlock/qualify for latter events.
There are four types of events. "Race" is self-explanatory. In "Elimination," every 15 seconds the racer in the last place is eliminated until only the winner is left. "Hot Lap" has you race a single lap against time, and "Free Style" give you 60 seconds to score as many points as you can by performing Tricks. The first 8 series all contain a mix of these four event types, while the final "All Stars Cup" only has Races.
A core part of the game game is the character progression system. As you place in the events, you earn experience points to level up your character, and money to purchase and upgrade hydrojets. Every time you level up, you get 1-2 skill points to spend on either new Tricks or perks.
There are 9 hydro jets to purchase in addition to the one you start with, all with upgradable Acceleration, Top Speed, Handling and Boost attributes. Each hydro jet has a different starting and maximum upgradable value for each attribute, and not even the most expensive hydro jet is the best at everything. I personally prefer the Lancer which is a Jack-of-all-trades - pretty good in every area but not the best in any.
Tricks are crucial to doing performing well in all event types as they are used fill up your boost gauge, as well as scoring points during Free Style events. Complex tricks giving greater boost and point rewards require more skill points to unlock, and the most difficult ones even have "prerequisite" tricks that your character must have first. As mentioned before, Tricks can only be executed while the hydrojet is in the air, and landing back on the water before the trick is completed results in a temporary wipeout. The more difficult the trick, the more airtime is required to execute it. Using the same trick multiple times in a single event results in diminishing returns, so it is recommended to have multiple tricks of each difficulty in your repertouire.
Dissapointingly, Perks only come in two flavors - extending the boost time granted per trick, and allowing you to land a tiny bit earlier without wiping out while performing a trick (though you get less boost/point rewards if the trick isn't completely finished.)
And unfortunately the progression system is a detriment to the Online mode. Even if you do happen to find someone playing, the chances of them being a similar level as you are very slim, which leads to very one-sided races. There is an "Invite Friends" option though which would work much better if you have Steam friends who you know are a good matchup for you. I played a few online matches against a couple mis-matched opponents, and didn't notice any lag - the game ran the same as offline.
There's a Split Screen option for 2-4 local players, but I couldn't try it because it seems to require each player to use a 360 controller and I only have the one. I'll update the review if it turns out there's a way around this.
The final mode is the "VR Challenge" which has you race against the "ghosts" of your Steam friends to try to beat their times. Again, you need to have Steam friends who play this game and have a similarly built up character to yours.
TL;DR get this game for the great single player arcade racing, unless you know you have some buddies to play with.