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A.P.I Review: MAX POWER RACING
Developer: Eutechnyx OPTIONS: S.SHOT
SCREENSHOTS:
No.1   No.2   No.3
Distributor: Infogrames 1-2 Player
Game Type: Arcade Racing Memory Card
Review Date: March 1999 Dual Shock/Analog Compatible

Setting the Scene

Most games suffer the indignity of being sorted into categories, but this brings to light a slight problem for those that touch several genres in the hope of reaching a wider audience.

Take Twisted Metal 3 (please) for example... It is a Shoot-em-Up and an Arcade Driving game, with elements of Strategy and Action thrown in for good measure.

Apocalypse is an Action, Adventure, Platform, Shoot-em-Up.

Now racing games usually head off in one of two directions...
Rally Cross is undoubtedly a raw Arcade Racer. Pick the control pad up, throw the vehicle around for a few laps and then return back to reality and get on with your day.
Gran Turismo eased more towards realism. Each car could be tuned and tampered with before being thrust onto the starting grid where your skill as a mechanic made all of the difference on handling and holding.
Formula 1 '97 (forget '98) included separate Simulation and Arcade modes. No chance of confusion there.

With Max Power Racing, Eutechnyx have combined the out and out adrenaline rush of Arcade Mode with a few hurdles normally reserved for an accurate simulation of this sporting event.

Do they pull it off?
Read on....

Genre

Max Power Racing is an arcade racer that offers players the opportunity to drive some of the world's most desirable cars from such manufacturers as Toyota, Renault, Marcos and Mitsubishi in a series of races spanning 10 international settings. As well as driving under normal daytime conditions, players will also face fog, mist, rain, snow and night-time driving as they battle to prove their dominance.

Battle for Championship points to reveal more secrets and advance to the next level of competition in this next-generation racer that combines incredible realism with arcade-quality excitement.

Graphics

Let's not beat around the bush here... the background scenery in Max Power is awesome. Those of you who remember the realistic setting of Eutechnyx' last project, Total Drivin', will not be surprised by the quality. Everything from the large white fluffy clouds hanging over the snowy horizon to the lush green pastures in the surrounding fields are truly picturesque. A replay of Africa at dusk could easily be used to entice holiday goers into confirming their annual safari booking, while cutting through the misty mountains of Peru, or the lush dense forests of Brazil is a visual experience certainly worth recommending.

Night-time driving offers us our first taste of the aforementioned simulation aspect of this arcade racer. It's pitch black and viewing distance is nil beyond the reach of those piercing headlights, which may be switched between full beam and low roadside angle. Only those who have driven through a winding countryside on an overcast night will appreciate the realism of this effect. The rest of you may find it all quite stressful and at points, rather frightening.

As the countdown begins the select button provides three different viewing angles. The in-car perspective offers a useful rear view mirror, while the on board camera has a nice rocking effect to it which we haven't witnessed since the original F1 game and certainly adds to the jolting off-road experience.

A few months ago we received a preview copy of this title and found the vehicles were a little too high in resolution for our liking. This seems to have been toned down a touch, but unless you are using the in-car view I still found this to be a distraction. The rear windscreen reflects the blazing sunlight in real time, but reacts as if it were a panel of black plastic rather than a tinted sheet of glass. When the more high-powered supercars were revealed for selection I switched to the in-car view because it was destroying the effect created by the photo-realistic scenery. A nice touch worth mentioning is the damage sustained by each collision. The bodywork buckles and dents while the front and rear windscreen can be shattered into tiny fragments.

Sounds and Effects

The engine sound effects seem fairly accurate and meaty (who am I to say what a Marcus Mantis sounds like at 170 mph), while the soundtrack, supplied by the new dance label Coded, had been described as "epic European-trance" and features, among other commercial tracks, Paralysed Paradise by Digital Monkeys, a track currently riding high in a number of DJ Buzz charts. In fact I could easily settle back and listen to a CD of this music as it stands out in it's own right (although I wouldn't be sitting down for too long).

Playability

Choose from Arcade and Championship, for single player or split screen action. Arcade mode follows the usual format where a world map reveals that only two venues are initially available to play, with a further eight venues screaming out to be unlocked. Championship mode offers a choice of four seasons, two exclusively designed for GTI class cars and two for high performance vehicles.

Choice of cars is kept to the minimum at the early stage of the game therefore it was either a Nissan Micra or the Renault Clio 1.6 RXE. To help with the selection process vehicle stats are readily available for inspection describing maximum speed, acceleration, brake HP and drive type. This may be ignored for those of you not so technically minded... just choose between the deep pacific blue car or the sickly green one. Since speed is my preference I opted for the Renault Clio and headed off to the test track.

The Test Circuit is set in a 3D world that allows you to drive anywhere, anyspeed, anyhow. The open terrain is connected by a network of roads, dirt tracks and forecourts where you may practice most driving maneuvers. For speed tests there is also the option to take your car for a spin in Time Trial mode.

Before starting a race the Car Setup may be adjusted. This option is quite thorough involving tweaking and fine tuning of steering, gear ratio, damping, front and rear downforce, spring length, brake level and bias. Each of the eighteen settings is increased or decreased via a slide bar scaling with every adjustment affecting the overall balance of the vehicle.

When a standard joypad is used the cars seem fairly responsive to acceleration and braking, and should steering prove too tight or slack it may be eased at the aforementioned Setup screen. Analog joysticks may only be used with acceleration and braking configured to the right stick and steering to the left. This can be a little annoying because the vehicle almost grinds to a standstill every time the brake is applied, whereas a tap of a face button while holding down another is suffice and keeps the momentum going. Every collision and connection with off-track obstacles sends a resounding rumble through the Dual Shock control pad that warns of impending danger. This is also accompanied by a fine display of flying sparks.

Each of the ten venues have three tracks to unveil, totalling thirty in all. The difference between the three of them is basically a few diversions and a couple of added short-cuts. Winning each group of races in Arcade Mode opens up a new country, presenting a different environment and fresh challenge.

More simulation aspects come to life when racing in both Arcade and Championship modes. Imagine the setting... It's late at night... the streets of Rome are deserted... it's started raining and a thunder storm is brewing... six high-powered racing cars explode towards the first corner... narrow winding cobbled streets must be negotiated before the road opens up into a large courtyard... zigzag hills, sewer tunnels and monumental roundabout's... survive all of this and you head along the narrow harbor... there are no safety barriers and it's pitch black... your passenger wheel hit's thin air and the vehicle plunges into the fast flowing river... You're dead..! Game Over. What? In Championship mode maybe, but Arcade mode?

Value for Money

With 30 circuits and dozens of the world's most desirable cars value for money cannot be questioned. However, I recently played Ridge Racer 4 and couldn't put the game down until all modes had been conquered. Max Power Racing? Gathering dust after a few days of effort.

Opinion
MARTIN
GRAPHICS: 16/20 Max Power Racing is undoubtedly a quality Arcade Racer. However, there are so many aspects of the gameplay usually attributed towards simulation that I was left wondering which audience this racer would appeal towards. The Gran Turismo boffins may well frown at the Arcade nature of this title, while the Rally Cross crowd certainly won't endure dying too often.

For this reason Max Power stands alone and the only comparison I could offer would be V-Rally with more attractive scenery but less realistic cars.
SOUND: 8/10
PLAYABILITY: 39/50
VALUE: 18/20
OVERALL 81%

 

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