Driving Emotion Type-S
As of this writing, PlayStation2's not even out yet and it has enough racing games to last it at least a year. But Square's getting into it with its own racer, Driving Emotion Type-S, scheduled for a release later this spring. Graphically, it looks great. It's very detailed, with a smooth and realistic in-the-car view which has just a touch of motion blur to the steering wheel/driver's hands. A variety of tracks include day/night through various terrain. What we saw and played at Square Millennium was fairly early, and Square needs to tighten up the control quite a bit still. It felt like driving on ice, but this will probably be cleaned up and tightened before its release. How can a driving game have emotion, anyway? Let's hope Square changes the name if and when this game gets a U.S. release.
Download Driving Emotion Type-S
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
The PlayStation is home to some of the best racing action of all time -- Gran Turismo is the king of all racers and set the standard for all others to follow. The Dreamcast has some good racing action as well, if you know where to look. With the power behind the PlayStation 2, the potential to supplant Gran Turismo from the throne is endless. Ridge Racer V was decent but it was also clearly a launch title and suffered in some areas. Enter Driving Emotion Type-S from Squaresoft. I know you are thinking to yourself 'Squaresoft has redefined console RPGs but can they pull off a racing game with the same vigor and beauty?" Let's just say that Final Fantasy this game is not.
According to the press materials, Driving Emotion Type-S captures 'the sensation of driving.'? They are touting a realistic physics engine to simulate collisions, suspension techniques, acceleration, and handling. They did manage to land licenses with major automakers so you will get a chance to drive a Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Mitsubishi, Mazda, Subaru, Porsche, Ferrari, BMW, Alfa Romeo, TRV and Lexus. Real tracks are also recreated and the U.S. even gets an exclusive track to call its own. All of this sounds great but this is one of those cases where the press material and the gaming experience seem to be based upon two completely different games.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Wow -- where do I begin? Let me start by saying this: I really wanted to like this game. I love driving games and frankly, I am good at them. I am always looking for a new series to pop up and push the big boys like Gran Turismo and Need for Speed. In all my gaming years, I have never felt the frustration that I felt when playing this game. On more than one occasion, I had to physically get up and leave the room or risk throwing the controller through my television screen.
So what could cause an experienced gamer such a level of frustration? Easy. The control and handling of the cars. For a game that is using the tagline 'the sensation of driving,'? I have no clue how they managed to make the game feel nothing at all like driving. When you start the game, there are only a few vehicles available so I jumped into the Toyota Celica. From the instant I took control of the car, I knew there were some serious problems. If keeping the car going straight was such a chore, I was dreading the first corner. Well, my worst fears were realized when I did hit that corner -- I swerved violently to the left then overcorrected and swung violently to the right. This kept up three or four more times until I finally held down the brakes and came to a complete stop. I started to back up and fought to keep the car going in a straight line, eyeing the map awaiting the next corner. Same results. If this is the sensation of driving, I think I will start taking the bus.
To be fair, that was the experience in my first race and I did do much better in subsequent races. I was partly to blame for the cornering problems because the majority of racing games don't require any use of brakes. Try not using your brakes in Driving Emotion and see how far you make it. My guess is you make it to the first corner of the first track. Anyway, my point is that I needed to make a major adjustment in my driving style if I was going to compete in any of these races. So after a few trial runs, I started to get the feeling for when to brake and when to corner at full speed. While I never truly felt like I was in complete control of my vehicle, I did manage to start winning races.
After a few races, I began digging in a bit deeper and found that I had the ability to make custom adjustments to various aspects of my car; I could change suspension, brakes and gearing. To the developer's credit, each of the changes made were readily apparent next time I took my car out on the track. After tweaking some of the adjustments, I gained a bit more control of the car but no matter what I tried, it just never felt right.
Another thing that really frustrated me about the game was that the computer-controlled cars had no problems with maintaining the best racing lines or cornering. If they were bumped, they would react but they seemed to recover much quicker and with less consequence. Since you have to finish in first place, any little mistake on your part will send you careening off the road or into a spin while the perfectly controlled computer cars speed on past you. I can't tell you the number of times that I made a minor error on the last lap only to lose the race and see my blood pressure escalate to levels that can only be described as 'not good.'?
Since control was such a huge issue and I knew that any little mistake would be my undoing, there was really only one option: cheating. Well, maybe it was not cheating but it still should have not been possible to do what I did to get the upper hand. Since the majority of the problems occurred while cornering, I merely cornered only when absolutely necessary. A number of tracks had 'S'? curves in them so instead of slowing down and navigating the curves, I would just blow through them in a straight line. The best part is that there was little or no repercussion for doing so. My speed would drop 10 MPH or so but that was the only consequence. Since I would have needed to come nearly to a stop to navigate the curves, this was actually no penalty at all.
Along these same lines, I was very disappointed in the lack of environmental interaction and the effects the conditions actually had on my car -- I could drive along in the grass and only lose a few MPH off my speed; I could hit the sand and it was not much different than the grass. If I tried to corner at a high speed when I was in the grass or sand, I would slide sideways but not a terrible amount more than if I was on the pavement. Good racing games force you to stay on the road by either making the off-road conditions unbearable or by placing hazards for you to hit to slow you down and Driving Emotion did neither of these things, so driving on the pavement was purely optional.
One last thing that I wanted to mention was the track selection. There are a total of seven tracks, two of which are variations of the same track. None of them were all that exciting and most were very short. There were also frustrating elements to some of the tracks that required the player to come to a nearly complete stop and negotiate a corner, and these elements never really felt like they belonged in the tracks. It was almost as if the developers knew how bad the handling was and decide to throw these things into the tracks just to frustrate the player even more.
Did I mention that I really wanted to like this game? Talk about another letdown. I won't go so far as to say that the graphics look more like PlayStation graphics but they are definitely not up to par with other PS2 games on the market. Bland colors, generic surfaces and textures, awful flicker, jagged lines and a marginal feeling of speed round out the disappointments. While the cars do look shiny and, depending on where they are on the screen in relation to the other cars and background, they do look decent, they are not nearly what I was expecting.
The replay mode looked nice but that is pretty standard for racing games these days. The original Gran Turismo was the first to showcase photo-realistic replays but now they are a dime a dozen. Driving Emotion features these same types of replays but really adds nothing new. Actually, replays have become so standard that I will not mention them in a review again unless someone breaks some new ground.
As you must have gathered, Driving Emotion Type-S is a game that failed to deliver in almost every category possible. I can handle games that have a steep learning curve or games that make you break old habits but regardless of how much time I spent trying to perfect the control, I just was never able to do so. A racing game that never lets you feel like you are in control of your vehicle will never succeed. I should walk away from every race feeling that I won the race because of my skill or lost because I made a mistake on a factor that was in my control. This was never the case here. All I can do now is just walk away.