Aug 16 2009

Racing Evoluzione

zorro @ 2:07 pm

First of all, let’s make one thing clear.  I bought my X-Box to play Halo – anything else is a bonus :) Now I have Racing Evoluzione to play.  I saw a clip of the intro someone at work had downloaded and it looked like the usual fare.  But then I noticed the name Milestone and it reminded me of an article in Edge Magazine about the game.  Milestone, as some of you will know were responsible for my all time favourite Rally game - Screamer Rally.  So, my interest was piqued, I paid a visit to their website and made a mental note to check the game out on its release.

Racing games on X-Box are not exactly hard to find, but so far they have failed to set my world on fire.  I’m a different breed you see.  The only racing game to get me excited recently has been Burnout on Gamecube and that certainly satisfied me, but it’s not since Ridge Racer / Need for Speed that a straight-out road racing game has grabbed me.  The whole Gran Turismo thing just passed me by, even though I appreciated it’s technical majesty, it was just too realistic. Had every racing game caught the simulator bug, sacrificing playability for realism?  It certainly seemed so.

Thank goodness then for Milestone. They have taken everything good from the Ridge Racer series and quadrupled it.  The addition of the garage is a brilliant stroke and really adds to the whole progress of the game.

The Interface

Carrying the Atari brand, Racing Evoluzione has an amazing introduction, slick, action-packed and straight to the point.  Some wicked beats underscore the tempo and the whole thing lasts a long time – about three minutes!

A test I always try to give a new racing game is how fast and how many button presses it takes me to begin a race.  Seven clicks and I’m off.  This compares favourably to Ridge Racer with four.

The menu system is well designed with a clear, functional layout and this becomes more important in the ‘Dream Mode’, but more on that later.

Arcade Mode

This is just what I was after, one-off races that use a default set of cars.  More cars are revealed, as usual, by progressing through the Dream Mode and this is clearly a good thing, since even your early opponents kick your ass in the top speed and acceleration stakes.

Performing my usual mix of slamming into my opponents and walls, I still managed to come 3rd, but I did notice how close the pack were at all times.  No getting out in front and staying there for this game, your opponents are on your ass every step lap.

I played all the circuits in Arcade Mode first, expecting them to be the early tracks in Dream Mode and it turns out I was correct – the practice was well worth it.

The theme of the tracks is very similar to Need for Speed – City and Mountain tracks abound, but RE adds the more traditional Gran Turismo-style speedway tracks into the mix as well.  Unlike NFS though, the emphasis is not on flat out speed at least 2/3 of the courses require moderate speed with lots of good, careful braking.

Dream Mode

One begins the game having bought a seedy, run-down garage and workshop in the middle of nowhere and the services of an excellent mechanic.  As most of you will know wooden acting, crappy animation and boring as bat-shit information character interaction are the rule rather than the exception.  RE has obviously used motion capture for the mechanic as he talks to you and the voice acting is excellent.

Pretty soon you have your first concept car built.  At this lowly level, you don’t have a test track, but the car park makes an acceptable interim solution.

Take it out onto the track, win a few races and pretty soon your fame starts to spread and people start to buy your cars.  Once you have enough money you can start designing and building a new model.  Eventually you’ll have a Production department, Research & Design section as well as a workshop full of your concept cars.

This is no Championship Manager of motor-sport, you don’t need to keep constant control of your empire, it pretty much runs itself.  Occasionally you’ll be called on to make choices about new designs, new productions and of course you can do some tweaking of the gear ratio, down-force and driving style.  These choices are seamlessly integrated into the game and it actually feels like you are taking part of something much larger.  The cut scenes of your workshop expanding (including the brand new test track out the back) are atmospheric additions to your expanding trophy set in the lobby and of course, the new cars parked in your garage.

Sound

Excellent, as is to be expected, although I turn off the music in racing games almost immediately. I need to hear the engine and the dull throaty roar of some of the later race-cars really stirs the blood.  Tyres grip, wheels screech, panels crush and spot effects like wailing sirens and the roar of the crowd add atmosphere.

Graphics

Superb, but then so they should be.  This is 2nd generation X-Box stuff.  Some of the lighting effects are very nice, less of the beautiful, but ultimately unrealistic, lens flare and more of the “Oh God, I can’t see!” effects, which means you should try and stay in the shadows as you hit that particular corner.  Cool!

Overall

I am an absolute sucker for great arcade racers and this is one of the best.  Whether it can topple GT3 from it’s position as King of the Driving Sims remains to be seen, but it’s game more than a sim anyway.  For me, a breath of fresh air…

9/10

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