Racing titles generally fall neatly into one of two categories: arcade or sim, but Whiptail Interactive’s RC Cars attempts to blend the two. The result is a game that is difficult to master, but ultimately provides a satisfying experience to RC and racing game fans alike. A word of caution (or a word of congratulations): this game is not easy to pick up and win; it is the best model of RC physics I have seen and requires a lot of time and patience.The game provides players with a basic stock RC car that they race around tracks that become progressively more difficult. The well thought out level design in RC Cars consists of locations that seem to come from the same general geographic area and each is replete with shortcuts and hazards. Levels include sandy beaches, military bases, a mine, and a camping area. The player progresses through the race by passing checkpoints placed throughout each track while avoiding obstacles both stationary and mobile. Falling off a ledge or into water automatically places a player at the last checkpoint passed, sometimes a time-consuming penalty for careless driving. The levels require a reasonable amount of familiarity in order to finish in the top three, so it is difficult to enter a race on a track and win it the first time through. Each race in championship mode is 5 laps long and requires about 10 minutes to complete. Fortunately, a player has the opportunity to practice a run before entering a race and this practice, though time consuming, is helpful. Winning a race results in a cash award and this money becomes the focal point of the game, allowing the purchase of better items. On the downside, I found it necessary to re-race some earlier tracks as I progressed because I lost money along the way due to poor finished that resulted in no award. The developers made a good attempt at giving you just enough money to open a new track and perhaps get an upgrade or two, but you are required to pay an entrance fee every time you race on a track, and some fees are steep. Ultimately this eats up a lot of time and takes away from the “fun factor.”The AI in RC Cars is interesting in that it is susceptible to the same pitfalls that you are and cars actually do encounter problems frequently enough that you are usually within striking distance on the easier tracks, even if you encounter a few problems along the way. AI cars will try to bump you and, at times, avoid collisions if they will benefit.Control in RC Cars will depend upon your choice of input. A gaming peripheral of some type is definitely advantageous in the game, although it is possible to control movement with the keyboard. I have a variety of devices including a steering wheel, several joysticks and gamepads. Ultimately I found that an analog gamepad offered the best control in the game. My second choice is a digital gamepad, but the control becomes very tricky. Utilizing a good input device will provide the player with very good control and the buttons/triggers are customizable thus meeting any player’s preference.The options present in RC Racers are plentiful with respect to both gameplay and customization. Players with reasonably good graphics cards will have a very attractive game to play with few frame-rate issues. I was able to enjoy the game on several different machines including a laptop with a 32 MB card. RC Cars offers players a few modes of gameplay including championship (in which you will spend most of your time), single race, ghost race and multiplayer. The multiplayer options were difficult to take advantage of because I did not find many active servers with people playing this title. This is a shame, because I think this game would be very fun to play against human opponents.The graphics engine in RC cars provides racers with nice looking and well-articulated vehicles, reasonable but not spectacular looking locations and fair textures. The ultimate sense of speed experienced is excellent. The “living” objects in the game, including dogs and people, were the least impressive aspect of the game as they all seemed to just mill about in the same location. This is fine for soldiers at an army base, but I have never seen people looking quite so glum at the beach on a sunny day. Oddly, not all objects collide with the vehicles. I found it unnecessary to try to avoid the crabs at the beach while hitting even the smallest pebble would cause a devastating flip or loss of control. These small details may not bother some gamers, but ultimately the randomness of this detracts from the overall experience.I want to say something positive about the sound, but I am having a difficult time because of the choice of soundtrack. The ambient sounds are fine and the cars sound good as well, however, the soundtrack is so horrible that I wanted to destroy my speakers. Fortunately, I realized that music could be turned off in the options. Music preference is very subjective, so I tried to imagine that it would please someone, but I find it difficult to believe that anyone would want to play any game listening to this music.Only 10 tracks are included with the game and they become repetitive quickly. A track builder option would have been a welcome addition. I would also have liked to see a better level of customizability in the length of championship races. 5 laps may be too long for some players, especially those who have limited time to play games. Ultimately a 10-minute investment is not huge, but having to re-race tracks for money becomes frustrating and the hours can add up quickly. A simple “restart race” option would solve this altogether.On a very positive note, RC Cars includes the best manual for a game I have seen in a very long time. It is 88 pages long and includes details of every aspect of the game. If you are not able to figure something out using the in game menus, the manual is an excellent reference. Some will say it is overkill, but I wish more designers would spend as much time making sure even the most inexperienced users will be able to find answers quickly and easily.RC Cars is a good game in a genre that has plentiful titles on consoles, but not nearly enough on the PC and those that do exist tend to lack in quality. Players looking for a casual RC game should avoid this title. Although it contains arcade elements, it also contains the most accurate physics model I have ever experienced. The sense of speed is exhilarating and winning a race is a cause for celebration. If the multiplayer community grows this could be a title RC fans will spend a lot of time with. Although it is frustrating at times, ultimately, anyone spending ample time with this game will walk away feeling like an accomplished RC racer.
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.