Qualifier 1: Ready to Launch
Qualifier 2: Roll the Dice
Qualifier 3: Enter the Assassin
Qualifier 4: Go Hard or Go Home
Knockout 1: Head to Head
Knockout 2: Checkers or Wreckers
Knockout 3: Track is Hot
Wild Card: A Chance at Redemption
Semifinal: Last Chance
Finale: The Monster
Hyperdrive’s biggest problem also happens to be Netflix’s achilles heel. If there was ever an argument against releasing an entire season in one go – Hyperdrive is it. Acting as the racing equivalent of Ninja Warrior and Wipeout, this 10 episode racing series sees talented drivers from across the globe competing in one of the most elaborate, high-stakes obstacle courses ever designed.
The premise is very simple. Gathering some of the best street racers from across the globe, this knockout competition pushes its competitors – and their cars – to the absolute limit in a number of challenging and elaborate obstacles. At the end of each run their time is recorded, with each qualifier seeing 12 racers compete. The top 3 times qualify for the knock-out rounds while the bottom 3 are eliminated from the competition completely. The middle pack of racers are then forced to compete again in another qualifying round. With each episode ending on a cliffhanger, oftentimes partway through races (except for some of the later episodes), there’s a real incentive here to watch more than one at a time.
The competition continues through knockout rounds to the semi-final, which sees each of the familiar obstacles we’ve become accustomed to made even more challenging, with extra targets, turns and speed required to push racers to their limits. The final six racers who survive this then compete for the coveted title of champion in the exhilarating hour-long finale.
From drifting through water to hit targets through to gut-wrenching 6-storey high suspension bridges, Hyperdrive peppers its episodes with enough excitement and thrills to make for a really enjoyable competition. Unfortunately the experience feels more like a high-speed drag sprint than a stylish, 3-lap race, dropping all episodes at once and failing to build any sort of hype for its finale.
Because of this, Hyperdrive is probably the most frustrating show I’ve watched this year. As I watched through all 10 episodes, I couldn’t help but feel this reality series would work far more effectively if the episodes were released one or two a week, building momentum, and an audience, along the way for a hyped-up finale. Unfortunately, in Netflix’s eagerness to drop the series in one go, the finale lacks the same exciting tension and build-up other weeky competitions have, feeling ever-so-slightly anticlimactic despite some excitement late on as the racers compete for the best time. In this competitive wild-west setting of streaming services vowing for attention, Hyperdrive feels like a missed opportunity to capitalise on this.
Stylistically though, Hyperdrive adopts all the usual tropes you’d expect from a reality series like this. There’s a slew of slow motion shots of vehicles drifting and hitting targets, as well as some surprisingly effective split-screen shots that help show off the skilful moves racers adopt as they drift round tight corners and speed through targets. The over-the-top, dramatic music does well to build tension but it all feels standard fare for this sort of show.
With the presence of ex-UFC heavyweight Michael Bisping on commentary duties, the narration is hilariously over the top, exaggerating every move and mistake with an edge of UFC commentary to proceedings. Hearing the team gasp and shout or hilariously sprint for cover on a bridge overlooking the finish line are particular highlights here and certainly make this a bit of a guilty pleasure as you watch through.
Hyperdrive itself is incredulous enough to build a following through word of mouth and easy enough to watch in the background or as light evening entertainment. It’s disappointing then that like it’s previous reality ventures, including Awake and Blown Away, Netflix hasn’t capitalised on this idea out and released these episodes in chunks rather than in one hit. It’s something that’s been a big talking point with recent series on the platform too but here, in the reality TV market, Netflix could really benefit from slowing its roll and building a sustainable audience, incentivised to come back for more every week.
It’s not perfect, and there’s certainly room for improvement with this high-speed series but if you’re a fan of other reality competitions, Hyperdrive is the perfect nitrous-fuelled competition you’re looking for. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel but it does deliver something that’s sure to whet the appetite for car enthusiasts and competition-junkies alike.
Verdict - 7/10