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Although there are many racing games already available on the Playstation there has yet to be a quality title that captures the thrills and spills of horse racing.
Gallop Racer was a huge success in Japan and is now finally becoming available in other areas of the world
Gallop Racer is a 3D horse racing game which requires the player to be both owner and jockey.
Sound and Vision:
I must say that it is hard to find fault with the graphical content of Gallop Racer. When entering the horse selection menu each quadruped can be viewed walking on the spot. If you cannot decide which horse to choose by using the more traditional methods of selection; that is distance, handicap and temperament, then this option allows you to throw the form book out of the window and decide by using Granma's favorite method - "I'll have that one with the white spot above it's nose" or "that one with the cute little white socks on".
At the start of a race the camera zooms in behind your jockey as he patiently waits in the stalls for 'the off'. As soon as the horses have been released the view quickly moves to the front of the pack to offer you a glimpse at how well you started in relation to the rest of the field. The camera then returns back to it's original position where a press of the select button offers three different perspectives in which to view the race. The first is up and behind the jockey, offering you the best possible angle to keep an eye on other racers. Next up is an (in-car) horses eye view and finally there is a rather useless 'through a semi-transparent jockeys back'. The shoulder buttons allow you to glance left and right or over either of the jockeys shoulders (surprise, surprise).
The horses and jockeys look mighty impressive as they gallop down the opening straight. Each horse has it's own distinct markings and shadings making it easily identifiable from the pack. There's blacks, greys, browns and even dark horses with white socks on their hind legs, while each has it's race number clearly marked on the saddle. The jockeys look as dapper as ever with their bright multi-colored shirts, tasteless briefs topped off with a mismatching cap.
The race course is surrounded by a line of trees and bushes while the shading of the track surface depends on the climate and race type. There are two kinds of race meetings - turf or dirt, while the inclement weather can change from hot sunny days to torrential rain that lashes down on the proceedings.
The track is wide enough to easily allow you to take the long route around the bunched up pack, but if you want to be first past the post then you must carefully judge the gaps between horses and ease your way onto the rails, taking the shortest route to the finish line. As you race down the final straight a glance to the left will reveal an enormous screen that is relaying the race to the watching masses in the opposite Grandstand.
It's only when you turn down the very bland selection of background music on offer that you can really hear the actual 'racing' sound effects, which unfortunately are not really up to scratch. You hear a constant noise of the crowd cheering, the sound of horses hooves galloping and the occasional lash of the jockeys whip but none of this goes towards creating any kind of big race atmosphere, which is a shame.
There are two modes of play within Gallop Racer - Pre-season and Season.
Pre-season is the exhibition mode where you can select from a wide range of horses for a one-off race. Choose from male, female, GI winners or a combination of all. Handicaps may be implemented. To help you choose a horse each has their own data screen which is packed with useful information. A slide bar is used to highlight their speed and stamina ratings for both turf and dirt races. Also indicated is the horses preferred race distance and the specific point when to push for home. A rating scale is offered showing the horses temperament, guts, dash and fondness of rainy conditions.
Once decided you must then select a race meeting from a complete years diary, making sure that the race length is compatible with your horses preferences. You are then shown a full race listing which you can browse at your leisure. When first playing Gallop Racer it will be worthwhile noting which rival horses have similar strengths of speed and stamina to your own. You can then track them during the race and begin your final push for the line around the same time.
It's race time and the announcer will warn you a few seconds before the off. Timing and reaction is all important to get a good start because a poor one will leave you trailing the pack helplessly. Once the announcer asks if you are ready, slowly count to three in your head before pressing the up button on your directional pad. As soon as the stall opens you must take off and begin carrying out your race plan. If you jump the starters call your horse will become tangled in the stalls and suffer a delayed start.
A fast start will see your mount grouped with the leading bunch and the remainder of the race depends very much on your horses strengths and weaknesses. If your horse has high stamina but low speed then you are going to need a healthy lead when you come into the final straight. Obviously high speed and low stamina will require alternative tactics.
To steer your horse use the left and right directional pad. A couple of gentle taps on the up button will make your jockey flick the reigns to speed up your horse while two of the face buttons are used to whip your horse into action on the final few furlongs. If triumphant, a press of the triangle button makes your jockey stand up in his seat and raise his arm in celebration.
Season mode is a lot more involved and becomes more of a management sim. You get to choose your jockey and dress him as distastefully as you wish before moving on to the horse shop to purchase your mount. You are initially awarded a set number of points to buy a couple of below average nags because the top thoroughbreds will be beyond your price range. The skill is choosing a couple of varied horses that will scrape together a placing in the opening races. Points are awarded for finishing in the top five placing and eventually you should accumulate sufficient points to purchase a better horse. Should you finish in last position then a set number of points are deducted from your wealth. At the end of each month a fee is automatically deducted to cover the cost of keeping your horses.
Racing follows the Pre-season method and after each event you will be re-assessed by the jockey club and notified of your championship position. Should you run out of jockey points you will be deemed a failure and the season is ended.
The split screen 2 player mode is a welcome addition, allowing you and a friend to compete in the action together.
This is a single disk game for 1 or 2 Players. It is compatible with the standard (digital) joypad and the dual shock (analog) joypad. Games can be saved via memory card (1 block per save).
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