|a game by||Rage Games|
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With Codemasters' Insane already out and EA's Need For Speed: Motor City Online due to be released in a few months, it looks like online driving games are finally going to catch up -if not in quantity, certainly in quality - with the choice currendy offered to first-person deathmatchers and online role-players.
However, before what is to be the sixth in the Need For Speed series, Rage Software will have a chance to take pole position with its own online driving game, E-Racer. And, typical of Liverpool's finest codeshop, the game sports a rather nice set of graphics and shifts them around the screen at quite a pace - which is important for a game like this, especially online.
We at ZONE know all this because we have a copy of the game here, or rather I have a copy, which I have been playing a fair bit, pardy because I like it and also because on my soon-to-be-retired office PC, it runs so well that at first I thought someone had swapped it for a 1GHz Athlon.
Crisp graphics and solid performance aside, however, E-Racer is something of a typical racing game. Not to alienate diose of us yet to sample the delights of competing against other people sat halfway around the world, E-Racer will sport the usual range of single-player options: time trials against ghost cars, single arcade races and a full championship featuring eight cars across 14 tracks. There are a couple of things that should make E-Racer stand out, though: one is the aforementioned online stuff, the other is the tracks and cars.
Unlike those games that feature 'real world' vehicles, E-Racer features eight fantasy cars. As you can see, these aren't steam-powered wooden behemoths driven by dwarfs, they are in fact closely modelled on real cars. So why not license real cars, you ask? Because it's expensive. More importantly, car manufacturers don't take too kindly to seeing their vehicles smashed to bits, even if it is on a computer screen. Therefore Rage has introduced a rather nifty damage modelling system where you can disfigure the cars as much as you like - apart from windows, which seem to be unbreakable.
There's still some way to go though, and in terms of physics, there are a couple of spots on some tracks where you can bounce your car rubber-like off the walls. That aside, the tracks are very good - not too big or small - with some clever turns and spectacular backdrops, which whether played online or off, will be just as good to tear across. At the time of the game's release, eight players will be able to race across single tracks, and which track they race on depends on whether the player has unlocked them in the single-player game. Best lap and race times will be posted online, as well as replay files. Most importantly, Rage is keen to promote regular online tournaments, with real prizes up for grabs for winners.
The game will retail for around $30 and will be free to play, but there are plans to charge players to enter the big prize (ie win a car) championships. In the future, as well as new cars and tracks to download, we can look forward to teams racing for points in a massive online championship. Providing enough people buy the game, of course.