Summer is here and the time is right for racing around the streets of famous cities in a souped-up car. Enter London Racer – World Challenge to fulfill all your racing needs.
The game plays like an arcade racing game such as Virtua Racing, Ridge Racer and all those games that succeeded them. You race 3 other cars around a circuit trying to finish 1st. The simple racing premise. As you race around, your car takes damage when smash into objects such as street lights, phone booths, other cars etc. This leads me to one of the first oddities about the game: some objects seem to be completely solid while others you can run through with no problem. For example a park bench seems to be able to stop your car dead while a street light or phone box crumble as you smack into it. Fortunately there’s pick-ups around the track that repair a certain amount of damage to the car.
To s**e up the game you have a choice of cars and colours. However, the cars don’t have any information about them: not even the manufacturer and name of the car. It’s obvious what some of the cars are, let’s be honest you can’t mistake the new mini’s profile but some of the others require the a*istance of a petrol head to identify. Not that it’s that important, they all seem to handle in the same way and have the same speed..
There are three single player modes to the game: championship, time-trial and quick race. In time-trial you try to get the fastest lap time possible while quick race will thrust you straight into the heart of the action. In championship mode there are 6 championships each with 4 leagues. A league can be anything from one race to a number of races or a time trial. When you complete a league or championship you unlock cars and tracks – all standard stuff. As you proceed through the champions ships your opponents get more aggressive and will run you off the road, cops will show up trying to do the same and you’ll get traffic too.
Each car has a nitro boost which gives you a boost of speed, you can only carry a certain amount of nitro but there are pick-ups around the tracks which allow you to increase your stock. This is handy for getting a good run on the straight areas of the circuits. However if you use it too often you risk damaging your car.
The game can be controlled from the keyboard or any kind of joy pad/ steering wheel. I tried to control a car with the keyboard but gave it up as a bad job, mainly because I have a decent analogue joy pad I could use. For those of you without such a device you can customise the sensitivity of the steering which allows you to determine how fast or slow the car turns. Unfortunately this brings me to another of my gripes about the game: you can’t customise the controls you can only use pre-set profiles. This means that you’re stuck with how the game programmers defined the buttons. While some people may like this I find it annoying that I can’t set my own configuration. Freedom of choice man!
Graphics wise the game does look quite good. London looks like London with the correct building styles, red phone boxes and street lights. Munich looks decent enough too, although I haven’t traveled to any of the other locations I can only a*ume they have been rendered correctly. The textures are clear and crisp and you get a good feeling of speed as you dash around. As I mentioned earlier some of the cars are instantly recognizable with good detail on the contours of the body work and radiator grilles. Car buffs shouldn’t have too much to complain about here.
As with most car games you have a choice of viewpoints: just above and behind the car or the front bumper. While most games have more viewpoints, these tend to be inside the car which most people seem to avoid using so there’s no real loss here.
Sound wise the game features a radio station for every city. However, while these sound reasonably good, there’s very little variation so after hearing the lass say hi to all her friends for the 5th time you just want to turn the sound off. When you’re out of England you get a radio station in the language of wherever you’re racing, which is a nice touch but you still want to turn the d** thing off!
A car racing game wouldn’t be a car racing game without a multi-player mode. You can race a friend around a track of your choice at a particular time of day in horizontal split screen action.
I do have one major problem with this game. It looks for the CD in the first ‘removable’ drive on the computer: in my machine I have 6 such drives and the 5th one is my CD-ROM. When I play the game it throws up an error message for every drive while it looks for the CD. So I have to dismiss a Windows error message a number of times before the game finds the CD. OK it’s not as bad as the game crashing my computer every 5 minutes but there’s no excuse for not handling the error properly.
All in all this is a pretty standard racer. It can be quite fun at times but it’s nothing special. If you don’t own a racing game and fancy hitting the highway with a game you can pick up and play whenever, then this is going to fit your needs perfectly. However, if you’re a Grand Turismo or Project Gotham Racing fan you probably won’t get anything from this game.