Fatal Racing

Platform: PC
User Rating: 8.0/10 - 1 vote
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Before raving about Fatal Racing. I just want to have a bit of a beef about something. And it's this: bloody Pentiums inducing lazy programgiing. Fatal Racing you see, (and it's not the only offender), runs like a three-legged dog on any platform lower than a p6o. And the majority of folk haven't got a p-anything yet, so they have to drop off the detail levels... no textures, no rotatey-bitmaps, no distant backgrounds, nothing. But that's not really the problem. The problem is that even at this mega low res toggle, proceedings still chug along rather lamely (why?) - and possibly worse even than this is that everything looks bloody awful. Why should this be? After all, you know the brilliant F1GP? And how it doesn't have any rotatey-bitmaps or anything? But still manages to look great and run at a zillion miles per second? Even on a 386? Exactly. Good programming, utilising code and stuff to the nth degree rather than leaning on unwelcome hardware shortcuts. Whinge, whinge, whinge.

But back to the review. Okay, I think we've sorted out the fact that it's a case of'Beware Ye With Shite Systems', so if you're a 486-er you can just sob quietly to yourself. The rest of you. I'll assume, are Pentium dudes and chicks.

Fatal Racing, to do a sort of boring point by point listing, has 16 tracks. There are eight cars to choose from, all with different pros and cons (good acceleration but poor top speed, high top speed but crap brakes, and so on). There are several race modes: time trials; head-to-head with one computer controlled opponent; you versus eight computer controlled opponents; or you versus the full 16 (and in this mode you've got a team mate... you can press different function keys to give him instructions, such as blocking the road and so forth). And then we come to the network options, with everything from two-player through a serial cable to eight or 16 players on a network. Oh, and there's also a horizontal split screen mode. So there's your basics.

Disengage Brain

Now onto the gameplay. which is fab. I'd better mention, however, that the cars don't handle particularly realistically - The Need For Speed this ain't. What it is. though, is a bloody good laugh. Disengage brain and enjoy. Fatal Racing is a full contact sport, and the idea is to smash as many cars off the road as you can on your way to the finish line... and the ai on the computer controlled cars is pretty good, meaning they're more than capable of doling it out as well as receiving. What this adds up to is that you're going to find yourself pulling into the pits at least a couple of times each race, because the damage you incur tots up to the point where your engine catches fire (at best this reduces visibility, at worst you'll explode and lose one of three 'lives').

'Fair enough,' you might be thinking, 'but this is pretty standard stuff with some Pentium graphics. Where's the meat?' And I'll tell you where the 'meat' is - it's in the 16 aforementioned tracks. Tracks that are of the ilk of, say. Hard Driving, or Stunt Car Racer. Loops and corkscrews. Crevasses in the middle of the road. Ramps that send you spinning into the air to perform a 360 degree roll before landing back on your wheels (or a 540 degree roll before landing on your roof if you get it wrong). That sort of thing, but all the time you're also hacking it for a good finishing position while simultaneously slamming the sides and backs of your adversaries. You don't get much time to think, basically. I got through a whole packet of fags while playing Fatal Racing one evening, and didn't smoke any of them. (I'd light one up, only to leave it burning away, forgotten, in the ashtray. Repeat cycle 20 times.)

So at the end of the day, it's got to be full marks to the track designers, who have done an excellent job. And also top marks to the sound effects folk, because what with the engine sounds, the squealing tyres, and the race 'commentator', a sense of urgency is sustained at all times. (Yeah okay, you have to be there.) But back very briefly to the graphics.

I know I whinged at length earlier, but here's a final wheeze, as it were. Okay. They look fab, but they're Pentium graphics and so they should look fab. However, they don't actually move very quickly. The fluidity's hunky dory, but when you glance at your speedo it'll very often read, say, 2iomph. Bollocks. The maximum speed 'feels' more like gomph. Still, this doesn't really matter. Either ignore the speedo, or pretend that you're continental and covering kilometres rather than miles.

Oh, there's one other thing: the Fatal Racing manual says: "We suggest you use the svga mode only on a Pentium". I suggest you only use the svga mode on a Cray Supercomputer. Yup, it's Slide Show time again, folks.

It's Good, But...

So, it's now time to sum up. Right, as mentioned, the cars don't handle in a breathtakingly realistic fashion... but take it from me (a bit of a propellor head when it comes to these things) - it doesn't matter. You'll happily live with it. And the sense of speed (or rather lack of it) soon gets forgotten, amidst all the action. That means the two main drawbacks are getting on for irrelevant. One thing that isn't irrelevant, however, is that Fatal Racing is rather unlucky in that it shares roughly the same release date as a bevvy of other excellent driving games: Screamer, F1GP2, and a few others. I'm taking this into account in the score, which may seem mean, but it's not really. Oh, all right then, it is mean. But it's a jungle out there.

Download Fatal Racing

PC

System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP

Game Reviews

Gremlin Has Made A Few Viewed-from-behind racing games in its time. "And now it has made another. So what's new?" you're probably thinking. Well, for a start, Fatal Racing isn't just viewed from behind. You can view the proceedings from an in-car viewpoint, from two outside views and another in-car view with a rear-view mirror option - although, as we all know, only ponces use the rear-view mirror. Who wants to know what losers are up to? Only their mothers. And I bet even they won't be interested once you've shown them your hand-painted helmet.

What else Is new?

Well, it's bye-bye to those old, seemingly endless stretches of road, lined at regular intervals with trees, boulders, burning prams and axe-wielding pensioners whose only purpose was to stop you straying too far from the road, and which you bounced off of, regardless of your speed and the supposed density of the object. And it's hello to proper circuits, with weaving, banked corners, pits and spectator areas to plough through. Well, alright, there aren't any spectator areas. And some of the circuits aren't quite what you would expect in the average touring car championship, exactly...

How so?

Well, most of the circuits are given over to decidedly perilous stunt sections, not dissimilar to that old Amiga and ST classic, Stunt Car Racer (except that in this you're not stuck up in mid-air on a suspended track). For example, you might come haring round a bend with your foot firmly to the floor, and find the track banking steeply to the left. With scarcely a thought, and certainly nothing so poncey as a backward glance (see opening paragraph), you head straight for it. Two seconds later, you're upside down, spiralling madly through the boundless empyrean (as we call it round here) in a steroided-up version of the barrel-roll stunt from that James Bond film with the bloke with the extra nipple in it. On another circuit, you'll find that the whole race takes place on a large and gravity-defying loop-the-loop. Slow down too much on the upside-down bit, and you fall off, land upside down in a steaming, crumpled heap on the track below, and await the battering which will shortly ensue as the other racers tear into you. Or you might find that the road seems to split into two, and to have acquired a large stretch of concrete in the middle of it that resembles the beginnings of a life-size model of the Lusitania. Not something you would really enjoy meeting head-on at 23omph.

230mph?

Er, yes. We're not sure what's going to happen with that side of things. Given that the cars used seem to look more like fancy versions of a double-glazing salesman's trusty transport than the kind of thing that turns out at Le Mans, the speed readouts do seem a tad high. And although the car's weight shifts authentically on corners and when accelerating, at the moment the handling seems a bit twitchy. But remember sports fans, this is just a very raw version of the game.

Basically, it's another in the current crop of good-looking Ridge Racer-inspired racers, with the extra twist of the stunt sections. The sound and graphics are good, and it's certainly fast, so it might be quite a laugh when it's finished. We'll let you know...

Snapshots and Media

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