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A.P.I Review: NEWMAN HAAS RACING
Developer: Studio 33 OPTIONS: S.SHOT
SCREENSHOTS:
No.1   No.2   No.3
Distributor: Psygnosis 1-2 Player
Game Type: Racing Memory Card
Review Date: April 1998 Analog Compatible

Setting the Scene

I have lost count with the number of racing games presently 
available on the Playstation, but if you care to list your personal 
Top 5 'quality' titles then I am sure Psygnosis' efforts would 
feature predominantly in the roster. Two Formula 1's, a pair of 
Wipeout's and a brace of Destruction Derby's. So just what may we 
expect to roll out of the Liverpool developers studio next? 
IndyCar, that's what. 

Newman-Haas Racing has been developed with the support of the Newman 
Haas Team which will bring to the table their world famous drivers 
Christian Fittipaldi and Michael Andretti. Other drivers include 
Alex Zanardi the 1997 CART World Champion. Former IRL driver and 
the 1997 Indy 500 winner Arie Luyndyk. Former F1 driver Mauritzio 
Gugelmin. CART 1997 Runner up and Former 96 Champion Jimmy Vasser. 
The very popular young driver Scott Pruett. The British former F1 
driver who won most of the last few races after an engineer change 
and is a potential for the World Championship 1998, Mark Blundell. 
The most famous NASCAR driver who may move to CART in 1998, Robby 
Gordon. Former F1 driver Gils de Ferran. Other top names include 
Roberto Moreno, Boesel, Herta, Fernandez, Ribero and Carpentier. 

Genre

Developed in association with the Newman-Haas racing team, this 
fast moving racing game brings the thrills and spills of Indy car 
racing to your screen. It features 16 top class IndyCar drivers 
and 11 tracks to test your reactionary skills to the limit.

Graphics

The hi resolution 512x256 graphics run at 30fps while the 
game engine has been based on the one used for Formula 1 and 
Formula 1 '97.  In other words it all looks very similar to both 
of those games, which is no bad deal.  While the cars do not 
appear as detailed as Psygnosis' past efforts, they do seem a 
lot more solid having lost that slight grainy look.  The circuits 
are impressive being precise replicas of the actual race tracks 
although I would say that they look a little less sharp and defined 
as the F1 tracks. 

I quite liked the motion captured polygon pit crews who set to 
work on your car when you call in for a quick tyre change and fuel 
top up, giving you someone to blame when a pit stop goes drastically 
wrong.  Talking about when things go wrong, your car reacts and 
responds very realistically when colliding with either the barriers 
or another vehicle.  Things tend to drop off.  First it's your nose 
cone, followed quickly by various sections of the bodywork.  Too many 
collisions and your vehicle smokes and spits out a trail of sparks 
before grinding slowly to a halt.

There is also the welcome return of the TV camera replays that were 
sadly missing from F1 '97. The five viewing angles used have now 
become standard among the more classy racing games which range from 
high above and behind the car to a rather neat in-car view where 
the dashboard panel contains a digitized readout of your speed, 
turbo, gear, race position, fuel, lap time and engine temperature.  
The best viewing angle is reserved for the smash ups when the camera 
zooms high above to give the player a perspective of where they 
are on the track in relation to other cars.
  
Psygnosis have decided to stick with the 2 Player split-screen 
mode rather than go for the more daring link-up option which is 
a shame in my book. 

Sounds and Effects

The dual commentary features famous US commentators Danny 
Sullivan and Bobby Varsha who I have renamed the Gruesome Twosome.  
Do they ever get anything right.  "He's really accelerating now!"  
This after I had just crumpled up my car on a barrier and was 
lucky if my maximum speed would rise above 60mph.  A few seconds 
after I crossed the winning line they reported that: "He's still 
defending that winning position".  At one stage Bobby chirps in 
with  "Would you like a sandwich, Danny?" At which point I thought 
to myself, "please take it Danny, it may shut you up for a few 
minutes".

The racing car engine sounds are as good as it gets and I would 
even go to say that there is a slight improvement over the recent 
Formula 1 '97, which was developed by the very same team.

Playability

Following the tasty intro you are thrust straight into the 
main options screen where ten sections of the game may be tinkered 
with.  First you must select your driver from the sixteen real 
names that are listed at the head of this feature.  Inner options 
allow you to adjust sound, screen and configure the joypad.  
The analog controller is supported and for once uses both sticks, 
although I still find it a little difficult to brake correctly 
when the face buttons are not in use.

Get this.  In the race set up screen you decide on the length of 
each race which can be as low as a paltry two laps to a mind 
boggling, endurance sapping, finger blistering TWO HUNDRED.  
Yellow flags and damage may be switched on for further realism 
and crash spins have three different settings from low to high.  
From this point you can go directly for a free practice at the 
Firebird East Test Track in Phoenix, Arizona.  Further adjustments 
may be made in the car setup screen which allows you to switch 
on the fuel, tyre wear, turbo boost, steer and brake assist while 
the front and rear downforce each have five settings.  There are 
four difficulty settings which range from amateur to superstar.

Should you decide on a single race then Newman Haas Racing 
includes a wide range of testing circuits.  There are 11 licensed 
tracks spread over 2 ovals, 5 permanent road and 4 temporary 
street. Houston Grand Prix is the new circuit for the 1998 Cart 
Season. It was developed from plans and computer simulation. 
There's the Milwaukee Mile, Emmerson Fittipaldi Speedway in 
Rio de Janeiro, Road America in Elkhart Lake, Laguna Seca Raceway 
in Monterey California, Portland Raceway in Oregon, MidOhio 200 
and the Australian Surfers Paradise. It's off the Canada for 
the Toronto race and then back to Long Beach before concluding 
on the famous test track Firebird, which has never before appeared 
in a computer racing game. A further 4 fantasy tracks are to be 
revealed as the game is played. 

Apart from a single race, gameplay modes include a full blown 
Championship and a Challenge mode.  There is also the option to 
play in two player split screen mode.  Finally should you require 
further detail a trip around the History archives should answer 
most of your questions as this includes an in-depth profile of 
each driver, racing circuit and even the games sponsors, Newman Haas.

I selected the main man Andretti, opted for the Challenge mode 
(Arcade), boosted the difficulty up to pro and headed off to the 
Milwaukee Mile for my first encounter of Newman Haas Racing.  
With a rolling start from pole position I had little problems 
controlling the vehicle.  A slight skid on the first corner of 
this massive oval quickly taught me to tap the directional pad 
when turning rather than firmly pressing down.  It was all over 
in a matter of minutes and I won by a mile.  I hoped the next event 
was more of a challenge.

Next up it was the Laguna Sega circuit and surprise, surprise 
Andretti was on pole once again.  The opening section of this 
track is more like a slalom course as I weaved left, right, left 
before entering my first really tight corner.  CRASH!  Straight 
into the barriers.  Breaking seems a little on the unresponsive 
side but generally the controls feel quite smooth, in fact a little 
too smooth.  The following up hill gradually rising straight had a 
nasty surprise just over the summit - another tricky corner.  CRUNCH!  
Strangely enough I was still in first position when I returned to 
the track - perhaps there was no-one there?  "Race on!  The gaps 
getting smaller." claimed the Gruesome Twosome.  But they were 
wrong, I was pulling away and heading for my second easy victory.

The following two races of the first challenge were slightly more 
demanding but I held on to win them both.  Seeming as the opposition 
were not putting up much of a fight I messed around with the in-game 
options and found a rather nice map selection screen that allowed 
me to adjust the angle of the on-screen map.  You could zoom in, 
out or even rotate it into the direction you are travelling.  What 
am I doing in here?  Am I getting bored?  I remember when first 
playing Formula 1.  I was so captivated that I didn't tamper with 
the in-game options for weeks.

Challenge 2 began.  What's this?  I'm not in pole position.  Ah, I 
see, a gradual increase in the difficulty.  Okay, I'm up for that.  I 
still won the second series but at least the other drivers now 
seemed up for it and battled hard to overtake.  Challenge 3 increases 
the pace by moving your starting position further down the grid, 
switching tyre wear on and reducing the steering and brake assist.  
Actually it's a good idea and allows you to learn the circuits 
little by little before entering the final challenge where every option 
is switched on and then racing is down to pure skill.

Once familiar with the circuits you are about ready to take 
part in a grueling full blown Championship where 200 laps of the 
oval are up for grabs if you decide on a 100% event.  For each venue 
you are allowed a free practice session and a qualifying session to 
determine your grid position before the action really heats up the 
main race.
  
During each session you can issue your pit orders by entering the 
in-game menu and adjusting your car set up.  Springs, stagger, 
gearing, fuel load, front and rear downforce, tyre pressure and 
compound may all be adjusted while a wibbly aerial may be fitted 
(whatever that may be).

Championship mode is more of a simulation mode and the cars react 
accordingly fighting their ground for every inch of space, so 
don't expect any favors in this mode.  The competition follows 
the usual route of points being awarded for the position you finish 
a race which are totted up into a league table.  

I decided on only a 25% race lengths and I can tell you, forty 
odd laps on an oval can make you feel quite nauseous.  I led for 
the majority of the race but with two laps to go a slight loss of 
concentration saw my car slammed from the rear and then smack 
into the barrier.  In a split second I was in fourth position and 
with a final flurry I finished in second place.  The remainder of 
the season was an enjoyable experience and one that I would return 
to once more, only next time it would be on Amateur setting.

Value for Money

Enjoy Formula 1?  
Slightly disappointed that Formula 1 '97 only had a couple of new tracks?
Then this is the racing title for you.  Much more of the same but with 11 
new tracks to learn and conquer.
Opinion
MARTIN
GRAPHICS: 18/20 I was expecting Newman Haas Racing to be a watered down version of Formula 1 but in fact it is way up their with both of Psygnosis' excellent Grand Prix games. I wouldn't say that it was better than either of them because basically the same game engine has been used. Surprisingly even the ovals were a pleasure to race and not the usual boring trip around the block. If I was to pick a fault with the game it would be the lack of Link-up mode and perhaps a few more options to adjust the car settings would be welcome. Overall, another splendid title from the lads from Liverpool.
SOUND: 8/10
PLAYABILITY: 46/50
VALUE: 17/20
OVERALL 89%

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