Thursday, January 19, 2006

Racing London

Sometimes racing game clich├ęs get old. Shiny cars, night driving, and lame physics (including unrealistically breakneck speeds) are among the most common problems with racing games. But one game set out to change that: London Racer.

You won't find shiny cars or streets in this racing game. Instead, you'll find realistically textured (and modeled) cars, buildings, obstacles, etc. The graphics are HDTV compatible as well, and lots of options will let you tune the graphics engine to fit your computer, for the most efficient and detailed graphics available.

Night driving has disappeared in this one too. All races are done in broad daylight (okay not all, but most) so it's easy to see where you're going and which way to go. The tracks are excellent, although there aren't any fun shortcuts reminiscent of Need for Speed. The designers did do a good job of modeling the tracks to be unique, however, and there aren't the myriad of obstacles and easy-to-make-mistakes like in other games in this genre.

The physics engine is excellent: Acceleration, drifting, braking, nitro, and turning are all accurately modeled in this game. No top speeds of 180 here; all the stats are true to the cars.

Also available is a refreshing change from the "garage" style racing game (tuning your car in between races); instead of worrying about buying new parts, you're brain is left to concentrate on more important things, like hitting the nitro at the right time.

The system that replaces this is the "powerup" style system: run into the nitro boost to fill your meter. The same system repairs your car (hit the floating wrenches to repair). It is unrealistic, but it's clean, slick, and polished, and best of all, fun!

When you hit the nitro, a strange phenomenon occurs: the air around you bends, the picture is distorted, and the audio portrays obstacles whistling past you! Don't turn though; it slows you way down (as it should). The artists must have spent alot of time making the graphics show how fast you were going, and it shows. This is truly the most memorable part of the game (it really is that good!)

The AI is also fantastic. Instead of stupid cars running into each other and the buildings surrounding them, they easily glide over jumps, curve around bends and boost through arches. The AI can also pick up the powerups, so they also know how to steer toward the nitro and wrenches. When a cop chases you, it really knows its stuff, and stays on your tail for a long time, making an already adrenaline-pumping experience even more thrilling!

All said is done, London Racer certainly comes out near the top of my list. It is truly one of the greatest racing games ever. 9.5/10


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