Fliss and I have spent some time on this retro-style driving and shooting game. It’s a novel combination of genres and for the most part it does work well.
One of you takes control of the famous red car with the white flash from the 70’s series, while the other takes control of an on-screen target which allows them to shoot at power-ups, vehicles, traffic lights, and other odds and ends as the need arises. Coolest of all is the cop badge – shoot one, or drive through it to trigger a cut scene, usually a large explosion or a truck barreling its way out of control towards you.
The gameplay can be frantic, as you’ll not only be trying to complete the primary and secondary objectives to complete the mission (or “episode”), but you’ll have to perform plenty of gnarly driving antics in order to keep your viewing figures healthy, too. If they drop to zero it doesn’t matter how close you are to catching the baddies, it’s game over.
Although it’s a clever game dynamic, the viewing figures are undoubtedly fudged depending on the mission. Some of the point to point stuff is so lacking in excitement that the streets are littered with viewer boosting icons to shoot in order to keep your counter healthy. However, getting shot or running over pedestrians will also have your audience switching over to Quincy MD.
If you can keep the viewers enthralled then you can set about catching the bad guys. This involves chasing them down on the road and then filling them with enough lead to sink a battleship before their vehicle of choice comes to a hault.
For the first “Series” of missions it’s not particularly hard to finish them all without breaking too much of a sweat. Sure, there are some manic moments, but once the co-driver gets the hang of shooting when their sights are constantly moving, and the driver holds it steady for long range efforts, most missions can be dispatched pretty easily, allowing you time to look for hidden goodies within the well presented city streets.
From the rash of poor to average racing titles on the market, it’s obvious that the PS2 lacks a real high quality racing sim. Brain in a Jar have added IndyCar Series into the mix – a title which promises to recreate the 200mph+ speeds of the North American oval racing series. But, from their effort, I guess developing a good, honest and fun racer is just too challenging for some of the smaller studios out there, as IndyCar series’ team seem to have found it as straight-forward as juggling custard.
Brain in a Jar, along with “Driving Development”, as they proclaim on the loading screen, are also pushing to have Pad Hurling accepted as a sport in the next Olympics. They might call it a driving game, oh yes, but rest assured – it’s really a cunningly disguised training program that should see a vast improvement in the distance and quality of pad-hurling before the 2004 olympics are upon us.
Well, their tutorial mode, although a cool idea, lends almost no help to the novice IndyCar racer who I imagine will have sent many a Dual Shock 2 sailing across the room before they even fathom which of the myriad settings is hindering their car. It took me (a fairly seasoned racing gamer) god-knows how many attempts to pass two of the “Master class” tests – challenges which make the GT License tests pale into insignificance. Granted they become easier after you’ve spent a while on the settings, but it’s a challenge to get settings anywhere near right in the first place.
If you finally get a working set-up then you can treat yourself to a race against a quirky AI, featuring occasional slowdown even in half-field races, running at around-about 30fps with unintentionally cell-shaded looking textures. Scant reward for the hours of testing required to get your car sorted on just one of the tracks.
From the Codemasters forum I see that the short-fallings I’ve encountered so far are just the tip of the iceberg. Making this title a poor effort, a poor game and a waste of what would be a fantastic license if justice had been done.
Senior Web Application Developer, Alan Green dropped me a surprise e-mail recently. A friend of the family going back almost 30 years, Alan was kind of responsible for getting me into all this computer crap before I was even in my teens.
Had he not encouraged me to use his ZX Spectrum and then followed that up ten years later by building me my first PC, I doubt I would have geeked out the way I have done.
Anyhow, it’s good to know that he’s alive and well, and senior too. Must arrange a meet-up at some point, for there is beer to be drunk and stories to be told. :o)