Until very recently, there were very few racing games available for the N64, and even fewer decent ones. Now though, like the proverbial bus, a whole bunch of them have all turned up more or less at once.
The strangely named Automobili Lamborghini is the latest offering from French developers Titus, and it has to be said, it's pretty damn good!
Nice Colours... Not!
Visually, the graphics are all smooth and detailed, but for some reason the colours are all drab and dull (is this what everything looks like in France or something?) Even the brighter colours, like red and green, look as if someone's painted them with a thin grey paint, and to be honest, after a while it starts to get a little depressing!
What Lamborghini (which is what this game should have been called, and shall henceforth be referred to as such for the duration of this review) loses in primary colours, it makes up for in smooth animation and speed. One player mode is full-screen and fast, and although it suffers a teensy bit from slow-down when there are a lot of cars on the screen, it's not so bad that you'll really notice most of the time. Two-player mode on the other hand, runs extremely sluggishly nearly all the time, which completely kilts the gameplay. This is strange, considering that the three and four player modes run - if anything - faster than the one player mode. This probably has something to do with the smaller cars and slightly lower detail.
Initially, you can play Lamborghini with six different cars - all Lamborghinis, surprisingly - and six tracks. As and when you successfully complete the various sections of the game, you'll be awarded access to other, more impressive cars more impressive than a Lambo? - Ed with which to compete.
There are basically four different race modes in single-player. These are, in no particular order, Arcade mode, Championship mode, Single race and Time Trials.
Gentlemen... Start Your Engines!
Arcade mode is sub-divided into two sections each containing three tracks - section one is the basic series (the three easiest tracks), and section two is the pro series (the three hardest tracks).
In each series, you race six laps around the three tracks in sequence, competing against not just the AI players, but also against the timer, and checkpoints at various stages of the track give you more time. In this mode, the car operation is straightforward arcade (hence the name) and the cars don't suffer from tyre wear or run out of fuel. The pit lanes have no effect in this mode, although they can still be driven through which makes for a useful shortcut if you can do it without colliding with the walls. To progress on to the next track in arcade mode players must beat the clock and win, else it's game over!
Championship mode consists of all six tracks, again raced in sequence over six laps, although this time players race on all six tracks whether they come first or not. Points are awarded after each race, ranging from nine for the winner down to a pathetic zero for the loser. The player with the most points at the end of all six races then wins the championship. In this mode, cars suffer tyre damage and run out of fuel, so pit-stops are required. The pit operation is a bit unusual in that the players affect the speed of the stop by waggling the analogue stick!
Single race mode is fairly self-explanatory. Players can race on any track, and the track features can be adjusted; the number of laps can be altered from three to thirty, pit-stops can be turned on or off, and direction of the race can be changed (although this option isn't immediately available).
Time Trial mode is also pretty self-explanatory. Players race on their own on any track until they're happy with their time and then they quit. Simple as that!
The game options are fairly simple. There is a choice of two difficulty levels - novice and expert - but if you're the sort of person who buys a game, plays it through on the easiest level in a few days, and then complains that it was too easy (and I'm talking about the reader who complained that Goldeneye was easy on Agent level - it's supposed to be! Try playing on oo Agent, you fool!) Er, where was I? Yes, if you're one of those people, then you'll be happy to know that 'novice' level is far from easy, so there's no worries about finishing too quickly.
Other options include changing the speed display from miles per hour to kilometres per hour, and turning the in-game directional arrows on or off, which is useful since once you've gotten used to the tracks, the huge deeley-bopper arrows do become something of an annoyance. The last option is for adjusting the speed of the back-markers from real to accelerated, and since the AI cars are pretty fast anyway, you're not likely to want to speed them up in a hurry!
So What's The Verdict?
The cars themselves come with the option of automatic and manual gear boxes, the manual having a slightly higher top speed but the automatic obviously being easier to play at the outset.
Lamborghini has all the makings of a great game, and it is a great game. However, the limited number of tracks (at time of writing this review, we hadn't found any extra tracks, and hadn't heard of any) tends to make the game a little repetitive after a while. The dreary colours (which were commented on by just about everyone in the office at least twice) do make the game less attractive to look at, but the gameplay makes up for this (as said people in the office would have found out if they'd actually taken the time to play the game instead of just throwing critical snap judgements at it over my shoulders!).
The real long-term fun though, will come from the four-player mode. Obviously this relies on N64 owners having three friends to play it with (the two-player mode is not good at all) but - need to make friends not withstanding - Lamborghini... oh, all right, Automobili Lamborghini (stupid bloody name) - should provide hours of racing enjoyment for a long time to come.
Automobili Lamborghini DownloadsAutomobili Lamborghini download
Titus's racer tries to give the sensation of head-to-head duelling in expensive supercars, but doesn't quite succeed. There isn't enough of a sensation of speed to make you believe you're really hammering along in a Lamborghini. Having the cars race in a pack rather than being spread out does make things interesting, though, and the four-player mode provides some excitement.
Arcade-style racer featuring real supercars which is some fun with four players but lacks speed and excitement otherwise.
It's not that it's actually bad. just only really competent. It'll pass a few hours but don't expect anything as lasting as Top Gear Rally.
When in the pits, you have to waggle the analogue stick to make your crew work faster. Remember: waggle in a circle, not from side-to-side.
I am a sucker for a good racing game. I always have been and probably always will be. As long as the play is fast and the control is tight, I will play for hours. Naturally, when Titus released Automobili Lamborghini, I had high expectations. I mean, we are talking the most powerful automobiles produced on the most powerful console (ahem) ever produced. This had to be a can't miss, right?
Automobili Lamborghini offers players the dream of a lifetime: the chance to rip around six different road courses in a Lamborghini. You can race in a championship, arcade mode, time trial or single race. Throw in a four-player split screen and I can see the smile starting to form already. With so many racing games on the market, how does this one stand up to the competition? Not too bad.
Okay, I love racing games. I said it. Since I have such a fondness for this type of game, I also tend to judge them a little harder than other games. Since I have played almost every racer for the PSX, it was nice to check out what the N64 has to offer. To get right down to it, this game was pretty fun and looked decent, yet I did have some issues with the controls.
Let's start off with the good and work our way down from there. I think that this game does a great job of conveying the feeling of speed. When you are flying down the road, just watch the pavement fly by and you will see what I am talking about. The feeling of speed is one of the most important things in a racing game, so if you don't do that correctly then you may as well forget it. Not a problem here. Since you are racing some of the world's fastest cars, you would expect to feel like it. After you hit the first major turn, you will agree that the sensation is definitely there.
The next thing that I look for in a racing game is the tracks. It is important to have a good number of tracks, but it is nearly as important to have good track design on the tracks you do get. I was very impressed with the design of the available tracks and felt that the number was adequate. You will have six tracks to race on, all of them road course. You can unlock a mirrored track mode which will double the number and give you 12 different tracks if you are good enough to unlock them. I was really impressed with the variety of the tracks. The game had some beginner tracks that were pretty much the equivalent of an oval, and the expert tracks have all of the twists and turns you would expect. This variety allows you a chance to check out the speed of your cars and also the handling, which we will talk about a little later.
As with most racing games, you have a number of different modes. You can either play arcade mode, championship mode, single race or time trial. Usually I spend my time on either the championship mode or the arcade mode, and this game was no exception. The arcade mode was shorter races that would span three tracks. The championship mode, which was far and away the best, was a longer series of races that would span all six tracks. Since the races were longer you could turn on the option for pit stops. This would require you to strategically pit in during the races. This was one of the coolest parts of the game, because you would actually see your pit crew run out, jack up the car and change your tires. Anyway, the idea of the championship mode was to accumulate the most points across the six races. The person with the most points in the end wins the championship. I spent the most time playing this mode.
In the opening paragraph, I said that the two things that I really look for in a racing game are fast play and tight control. I have already talked about the feeling of speed that the game gives, so let me give you a little warning about the control. I can't decide if the problem is that the control is too tight or what. Let me just lay it all out for you. If you are going around a corner when you are going fast, you will spin out. I am not talking about a really sharp corner either. The control was almost too tight at times. It was great for the tracks that were shorter and had more turns because you could never get going fast enough to really get out of control, but on the beginner tracks that have a lot of straight-aways you will find yourself sliding sideways even on corners that should not be that big of a deal. One thing you can do to try to offset this is to set your controller from full analog to semi-analog. This seemed to make the stick a little less sensitive, but it was still pretty tough.
Another minor little complaint I have about the game is that the difficulty level is a bit skewed. When you play on beginner, you will not have much of a challenge. When you move up to expert, it is a whole different story. I had a really tough time winning races on expert. If you make any little mistake you are screwed. It is almost impossible to make up any ground once you fall behind. This game could have used a medium difficulty level to help ease into the challenges. I don't mind a challenge, but this was a bit too hard. One other little thing was that it would have been nice to race as other cars. In order to open up any other cars, you had to win the arcade session and the championship session on expert mode. Good luck.
The graphics on this game are pretty good in most places, but you will also find out what "the N64 fog" is all about. The graphics have a semi-high resolution look to them and some of the backgrounds (like the waterfall) are just plain awesome. There are other times that the game will really slow down if there is too much activity happening at one time. I really thought it was a neat touch to show the pit crew actually running out and working on your car when you pulled into the pit instead of just having your car repair itself. The cars also looked really good and they did a great job of using the mirroring effects.
By no means is this a bad racing game, but it is also not a great racing game. I think that it is pretty average, but does flash some glimpses of greatness. The overall feeling of speed makes the game much more fun to play, but the overly tight controls will make it a little difficult for some. If you can pick this game up on sale somewhere, it may be worth adding to your library. If not, I would rent it first to see if it's for you.