Downforce is a very good example of why you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. Just because you've probably never heard of it, or aren't impressed by its unassuming box art, that doesn't mean Downforce isn't an enjoyable game. In fact, that's precisely what Downforce is--enjoyable. Though not for very long. It's a very accessible racing game, reminiscent of more serious F1- or Indy-style simulations, but it's infused with a healthy dose of gameplay from the likes of Wipeout and San Francisco Rush.
Downforce is a lot of fun to play.
It's clear that this game was inspired by some kind of open-wheel racing league, as the racecars in Downforce all look like they're F1 cars from the not-so-distant future. They all boast aggressive, muscular designs, yet retain the same basic shape of modern-day racecars, with their prominent front and rear wings, pointy nose, massive air scoops, and open-air cockpit. Likewise, the tracks themselves are supposedly situated in recognizable cities like Las Vegas, Sydney, and Toronto, most of which play host to some form of racing venue in real life. And yet, the game certainly doesn't depict any kind of existing motorsport. Each car description is more outrageous than the next, as hyper-drive engines and turbo-fan reverse thrusters for brakes are the norm here.
Downforce is very simple to play, but it's not as forgiving as you'd imagine a game like this would be. As in any racing event, your goal is to cross the finish line first, but you'll need to employ generous use of your brakes while navigating the tracks' many tights corners and sweeping turns. The game delivers a great sense of speed, so it's never difficult to judge when you're going too fast into a turn, and unlike in hard-core driving simulators, braking late won't send you careening into a concrete wall. Still, if you're too aggressive, sooner or later you'll crash, and crash hard. The cars in Downforce can take quite a beating--you'll often see smoking engines or loose wings on your chassis--but if you slam into a barrier too fast, you'll bear witness to a spectacular crash that'll leave your car useless until it gets reset on the track after a few seconds.
But aside from these basic tenets of racing, Downforce has no additional gameplay mechanics, control schemes, or anything of the like. It's a simple game with a simple set of features. None of the cars, for example, has any kind of weapons, turbo boosts, or other powers-ups. Likewise, the game has no upgrades or aftermarket parts that you can use to modify your car after every race. What's more, even though the game has 10 playable cars and another four that can be unlocked in the career mode, it's not immediately obvious that their differences go beyond the shape and color of their chassis, despite their wild descriptions in the menu interface. Additionally, each car is supposedly piloted by a unique driver, but again, they never come into play beyond their physical depiction in the car selection menu.