Le Mans 24 Hours
Review of Le Mans 24 Hours
We have already seen Le Mans 24 Hours on the PSOne some time ago, and now the Playstation 2 version of the game has been released. Forget anything you remember about the former version, this game has to be treated not just as conversion or sequel, but almost as a whole new game.
For those that dont know (thats about 2 people then!), Le Mans 24 Hours is a GT endurance motor race that takes place each year at Le Mans, France. Lasting 24 hours, the race is real trial of man against man, car against car, and reliability against just about everything else. Three categories of car take part together at Le Mans; the GT class, Open Prototype and Closed Prototype being the fastest. With such a long race pit stops are essential and frequent, making them a crucial factor. Timing is everything, leave a pit stop too late and risk running out of fuel, or the weather changes and driving on a wet track with slicks becomes a distinctly bleak prospect.
So thats the background over with, on to the game! Contrary to its title the game does feature more than just one track. These become unlocked together with extra cars by progressing through the Championship Mode, giving a choice of 12 real circuits and 70 official licensed cars. Admittedly some of them are subtle re-works of previous ones, bringing the total number of original tracks down to a rather meager 7. The Championship Mode starts with the Rookie GT class, win this and the Pro GT class becomes available and so on. Early on races are short, 5 lap affairs where qualifying well is vitally important, but these quickly extend to longer 10 or 15 lap endurance races where at least one pit stop must be made. The addition of the pit stop changes everything, which combined with variable weather conditions provided by the excellent weather system, can make or break the race.
The extensive Championship mode makes up the main backbone of this game, however there are another four modes of play available. Quick Race provides a quick start into the game and is great for a quick five minute blast. Select a car, select a circuit, and its Go! Go! Go! Versus mode provides two player only action unfortunately without any opposition, and Time Trial will occupy those days when theres really nothing better to do…
All this Championship stuff is all very well, but why is the game called Le Mans 24 hours?
The answer to this question exists as the last race mode which, yes youve guessed it, is called the Le Mans mode! This faithfully recreates a full Le Mans weekend of racing. Start the weekend by qualifying, then take part against a mixed field of GT, Open and Closed Prototype cars for up to 24 hours. Thats right, the race can last that long if you really want to stick it out. Fortunately for those of us that need sleep, the race can be compressed into either a 10, 24, or 240 minute session. Whichever length chosen the race starts off on the Saturday afternoon, dusk falls, the track lights up and carries on through the night until the final climax 24 hours later on the Sunday. Should you wish to race for a whole 24 hours, the game can be saved during pit stops, allowing you to continue racing at your leisure.
Graphics wise the game is a real improvement on some of the previous PS2 driving games. The draw distance is huge with no pop up, and it doesnt appear to suffer from any slowdown even during busy moments on screen. The tracks are all nicely drawn with plenty of track side detail and little jaggedness. In comparison the cars appear a bit bland and flat. Its not that theyre bad, theyre just not that exciting! However, what really amazes in this game are the fantastic lighting effects. Infogrames have obviously swallowed the Development Manual chapter on Lighting when coding this game. They have implemented superb lens flare effects, track lighting and car headlights, all of which come into play as night falls and the stars start to come out. One of the highlights is driving around the Catalunya course as dusk falls, taking an off camber right hand bend only to find the sun in your eyes, and then straining to see exactly where the track is really going. What you dont realize until a couple of laps later is that the sun is actually setting and that particular bend is only going to get worse… Other graphic highlights include a fully animated and motion captured pit crew, the likes of which I have never seen before, glowing brake discs, tire smoke, skid effects, and clouds of dust that disperse slowly where another car has come off the track. All these nice little touches complement the excellent graphics.
When the Infogrames developed the handling model for the cars, they obviously took care to make it appeal to a broad market. At its simplest with all driving aids turned on, a five year old could play the game and probably win. Turning the settings up to the max and turning off all driving aids results in much more realistic handling. Accelerate too hard and too early out of a bend, and the car will spin out and doughnut. However even at this level, the handling is useable and not stupidly difficult - a failure of the latest F1 game. It is probably best described as Toca or GT like, realistic but not ridiculous. The cars can be tuned up before racing; downforce, tires, fuel, gear ratio and type of engine can all be changed. This has also been simplified with the settings being choices of low, medium or high values, but in this case the simplification has just gone a bit too far. The values cannot really be tweaked and some tuning options are obvious by their absence - suspension tuning anyone?
If a chart for Game Music existed, then this title wouldnt be in the Top 10, or even in the Top 40. Suffice to say if you like Rock Style elevator music then it will be right up your street, otherwise do everyone a favour and turn it off... Sound effects arent bad with some nice engine, tire screech, and backfiring sounds. Nothing in either sound or music really amazes though.
With all the game modes, cars and tracks to unlock and play, this title should keep you occupied for quite some time. With many of the cars being evenly matched, the racing is close, intense and after progressing through the Rookie class it can also become quite difficult. Make one mistake and play catch up for the rest of the race. In conclusion Infogrames have created a nice looking, fun to play, simulation racer with just a hint of arcade thrown in for good measure. Just a shame the musics so bad...
OUR PLEDGE: We promise that we have fully played 'Le Mans 24 Hours' before writing this review. The scores given above are our honest opinion and were not influenced in any way by the manufacturer or distributor of the game.
This review was written by James Goode © Absolute PlayStation
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