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A.P.I Review: MOTORHEAD
Developer: Digital Illusions OPTIONS: S.SHOT
SCREENSHOTS:
No.1   No.2   No.3
Distributor: Gremlin 1-2 Player
Game Type: Racing Memory Card
Review Date: November 1998 Analog Compatible

Setting the Scene

Drivers required... 
World class racing teams are looking for new drivers to compete in 
the transatlantic speed league; the fastest, most skillful championship 
ever to grace the roads of this little spinning rock. Thrill seekers, 
adrenaline junkies, egotistical masochists and the psychotically 
affected should definitely apply. Delusions of grandeur and 
immortality could be beneficial. Are you ready for the future 
in "High Velocity" entertainment?

Genre

Motorhead is an arcade racing game. 
All of you who wanted to see "Wipeout" converted to a motor racing game, 
well you're in luck, because this game is as close as it gets.

Graphics

This game is VERY graphical and induced the same jaw dropping 
sense of awe that was experienced while playing "Ridge Racer" for 
the first time, way back in 1995.

Right from the opening intro sequence you can tell that this game 
is going to be something special. The FMV is of very high quality 
and features the cars racing against each other at high speed though 
a very futuristic city. It lasts almost a minute and is one of the 
better examples of how game intros should be done.

The "options" screens are based on a speed gauge. Selecting the 
different available options moves the dial up or down the scale. 
The whole presentation of these screens are easy to follow and 
give me the impression that the roots of the programmers may have 
been in creating some of the fantastic "Amiga" demos that were 
very popular a few years ago.

Time to peel back your eyelids for a truly amazing experience 
as we sample the in-game graphics. You have the option to select 
60/50 frames per second, or 30/25 Frames per second (NTSC/PAL). These 
setting effect both the numbers of cars racing against you and the 
quality, speed and smoothness of the graphics. Running at the higher 
setting, this game will challenge the graphics on any high-end 
arcade racing machine and are very close in quality to the intro 
graphics. You may think that such quality would hinder the speed 
that the game runs - not so, this little beauty would give the 
"Starship Enterprise" a run for its money. In fact you can just 
about hear a little voice from your PlayStation shouting - 
"I canna' push it any harder, It's gonna blow!".

To achieve these speeds the coders have used a similar technique 
seen in Wipeout. Rather than storing the whole track in memory at 
the same time and letting you see it span far into the distance 
(as in Formula 1), it only processes the track that is immediately 
visible in front of you. Obviously the less graphics it has to 
process, the faster the game will run. In Wipeout they disguised 
this fact by making the tracks undulating and twisting, hiding 
much of the track in front of you behind buildings and corners. 
In Motorhead they have gone for the same less subtle approach used 
in G-Police in that all of the approaching graphics appear out of 
a misty haze. This hides the fact that only the very close graphics 
are being displayed and due to the fact that the gamplay is not 
hindered in any way, seems to have very successfully done.

Due to the high speed of the graphics being displayed, the games 
designers have sacrificed a lot of the trackside details, however 
when added to the dark misty backgrounds of many of the levels, you 
get a very atmospheric and post apocalyptic feel to the game.

Sounds and Effects

All of the soundtrack music is "Techno" based, providing a very 
atmospheric and futuristic feel to the game at all times. Each of 
the tracks has been very professionally produced and sounds fantastic 
when played through a good sound system at high volume.

In the in game effects are acceptable, but hardly ground breaking.

Playability

If you are big fan of racing games, then I would expect that 
you have already purchased an Analog Joypad. If you haven't, 
then invest in one. Most of the new racers are designed around 
them and this game is no exception. Using the normal digital 
pad will see your lap times increase and force you to powerslide 
around corners that can be taken with ease using the analog pad. 
The game also becomes a much more realistic and enjoyable experience. 
Unfortunately, the game is not compatible with the new "Dual Shock" 
vibrating feature of the newest pads, although the analog steering 
and acceleration/braking works fine.

The racing options available are:

* Quick Race - throws you in at the deep end using the most 
		recent settings selected and getting you straight 
		into the action.
* Single Race - allows you to choose your car and track before 
		starting the race.
* League Race - enters you in a competition, consisting of 
		several races across three leagues. When you start 
		a game you are put into division 3. From here you 
		can earn promotion up to the higher and more 
		competitive leagues. Promotion also rewards you with 
		new tracks to play. Their are four hidden tracks to 
		uncover before you have access to the special bonuses 
		available.
* Time Attack - is a solo race against time, allowing you to 
		master each of the tracks without interference 
		from other drivers.
* Ghost Mode - again sees you racing against yourself, however 
		introduces a translucent ghost car which is a 
		recording of your current best lap, allowing 
		you to fine tune your skills.

There is also a 2-Player mode, which allows you to play against 
your friends in a head to head split-screen race. Boo to Gremlin 
for not including a stripped down link-up mode within this game. 

Two variants of game are available in this mode:

* Head 2 Head - simply you versus a friend racing on any chosen track.
* Time Difference - similar to the first mode, however as the first 
		car crosses a checkpoint, a countdown will be 
		started. The player in second place must cross 
		the checkpoint before the countdown has finished, 
		otherwise thy will be disqualified and the race 
		will be over. As every lap is completed the countdown 
		is reduced by one second, gradually making the race 
		much tighter.

There are three difficulty settings to choose from, which will effect 
all but the league races. A catch-up option is also available.

The cars in this game are similar to Ridge Racer in that they each 
have a different grade of Speed, Acceleration and grip. Correct 
selection of car for each track will assist you greatly. Each of 
the vehicles has a similar, but very futuristic style to them 
- kind of like the "McLaren F1" sports car crossed with the 
speedbikes used in the movie "Tron".

Gremlin tells us that the A.I used in the cars is revolutionary, 
which is strange because this is one of the poorer elements of 
the game. More often than not, most of the computer cars stay 
bunched together during the entire race allowing you to pass 2 
or three of them in one slick manoeuvre. Also, with the tracks 
being quite narrow and the cars being wide, overtaking usually 
involves barging your way past, rather than picking a better 
racing line and gliding gracefully through the opposition. At 
least the designers have built a little fallibility into the 
computer racers - you will often see them smashing into each 
other, crashing into obstructions and occasionally driving 
the wrong way straight towards you!

Another slight disappointment is the lack of a replay mode after 
you have completed the race. I find that these often allow you 
to appreciate the actual shape of the tracks and spot better 
lines through corners.

A rear view mirror would also have helped you to see other racers 
trying to get past you. There is a rear view available, but due 
to the extreme speed of this game, you seldom have time to switch 
to a rear view without risking the possibility of going off the track.

Two racing views are available:

* In Car - this mode allows you to truly appreciate the speed 
		at which you are travelling, it also makes 
		cornering and overtaking a little easier too.
* Car in Front - much more visually appealing and still quite 
		good to use.

Track loading times are just over 10 seconds, which considering 
the quality of graphics is quite an achievement.

Value for Money

In terms of speed and graphics, this game is streets ahead of 
anything so far seen on the PlayStation, the only thing worrying 
me is that once you have beaten the league and uncovered all of 
the tracks, I can't see you coming back to it again. Possibly 
either a link-up mode or Rage Racer approach (win race - earn 
points - uncover tracks - buy better cars), would have upped the 
longevity substantially. Maybe we will see this appear in Motorhead 2?
Opinion
JIM
GRAPHICS: 20/20 This game is not trying to be Gran Turismo, or Formula 1. There are no settings to fine tune and the quantity of cars and tracks to race, is nowhere near those featured in these titles. No, this game is very similar to both Ridge Racer and Wipeout in that it's a no holds barred pure arcade speed-fest.

As such anyone who compares Motorhead to either G.T or F1 is completely missing the point - it's aimed at those who like a pick up and play racer, rather than become immersed in the technicalities of ride height, downforce levels etc.

This game could have been a classic if they had spent more time on the computer car A.I and added a few more tracks. Features like a rear view mirror, longer races and a link-up mode may also have helped the overall lifespan considerably. If the coders set out to update Ridge Racer or Wipeout, then they have succeeded admirably; however I think that they possibly should have tried to emulate the additional features that were present in Rage Racer.
SOUND: 6/10
PLAYABILITY: 46/50
VALUE: 15/20
OVERALL 87%

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