Inertial Drift: Twilight Rivals Edition review

I never quite got around to Inertial Drift when it was first released in 2020, so this pumped-up version for next-gen consoles is mighty welcome.

Even two years later, its twin-stick set-up remains an unusual proposition: left to steer, right to drift. It takes a good few laps to get the feel of it – and it is a feel, because there’s no objective sense in the combinations of accelerate, brake, steer and drift you’ll be pulling. But before long it becomes muscle memory, and on the best courses it starts to flow beautifully.

And it is beautiful: the cel-shaded neon visuals fit brilliantly with the overblown handling, and it moves at quite the lick – intimidatingly so to begin with. It’s not an easy game, but the learning process is rewarding, both of the handling of each car, and the tracks. It’s that rarest of games where practice laps are actively enjoyable.

The main story mode lets you stick with one car for the couple of hours duration, so it’s just the tracks to learn. There’s an endearingly supportive storyline which keeps things moving effectively enough, and a bit of variation in events, with points-based style competitions and head-to-heads. Most events are basically equivalent though – time trial, ghost races, actual races – since there’s no contact with other cars, so you drive straight through even real opponents. Contact with walls and barriers is relatively lightly punished too – far lighter than driving through mud, sand or snow, oddly.

The story mode can be played through with different characters, and their different cars. Very different cars. Those with easier handling flick happily in and out of drifts, but others need coaxing in different ways – a lift of the accelerator, a dab of the brakes. That learning process – getting the feel – starts again every time, pretty much from scratch. They are very different beasts.

The new Twilight Rivals mode – essentially a second story mode – runs with that, by constantly swapping characters between events. It’s a real challenge to constantly flip your mindset – mostly an enjoyable challenge, but some combinations of car and track are more endure than enjoy.

Neither of the main modes are long – and I had a few instances of the game crashing out across the two. But with additional arcade, grand prix and challenge modes, and real variety in the cars on offer, there’s plenty to go at if that central drift mechanic clicks. It did for me.

Inertial Drift: Twilight Rivals Edition is out now for PlayStation 5 (played) and Xbox Series X|S. Inertial Drift is also available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch and PC, with Twilight Rivals available as DLC.