We've done the gags in Reality Check so let's crack on with the facts. Indy Car Racing is a bastard hybrid of Formula One and NASCAR, and IndyCar Series (made in Cheshire) is a comprehensive simulation of the popular American sport. And while much of the marketing has been aimed towards our Stateside allies, it shouldn't be dismissed over here simply because we know nothing about the sport.
All you really need to know is that the cars travel in excess of 230mph on a series of left-hand ovals, and that the races are very, very long. Naturally, truncated versions are on offer here - from 10 laps and upwards - and it is wise to start with reduced length races, unless of course you are serving a medium to long-term custodial sentence. IndyCar Series falls comfortably into the genre of 'Prison Gaming', in so much that nobody outside of Her Majesty's Pleasure will be able to find enough hours in the day to enjoy it to the full. Even so, anyone thinking of attempting a full-length race might be advised to consider some kind of horse tranquilliser opponent for a couple of laps. Getting a decent position on the grid is crucial.
The antithesis of a throwaway arcade game, concentration is paramount and the key skill involves sticking to the racing line like shit to a blanket. Making up tenths of a second on the car in front, it can often be like the gaming equivalent of watching a progress bar. Patience is required though, as an over-ambitious manoeuvre can set you back a few seconds, which can in turn take several laps to claw back.
Overtaking has to be planned days in advance, and it is perfectly feasible to remain wheel-to-wheel with an and with only two qualifying laps available, it is worth familiarising yourself with the tracks beforehand. Believe it or not, there are marked differences between them.
In easy mode, your car is invulnerable and you can largely bludgeon your way to the front. But it's a measure of how much respect the game instills that you won't want to, preferring instead to wait for an opening and use skill and timing. Split-second precision is called for, as the speed of the game is impressive, with the scenery flashing past in a mildly terrifying blur.
Clearly a labour of love, the attention to detail is almost perverse, with one of the circuits offering less downforce and slipstreaming due to it being a mile above sea level. The realism continues under the bonnet, and almost every aspect can be tweaked, assuming of course you're a fully trained mechanic. Laden with extras, including a Masterclass and unlockable footage of the history of the sport, there is enough here to make you go blind. Not everyone's bag admittedly, but if you accept the challenge of the mind-numbing action, it's oddly satisfying. Skeeter, pass me the horse tranquilliser.
Download Indycar Series
Thanks to our friends over at Codemasters, open-wheel racing finally comes to the PS2 in the form of Indycar Series. Featuring eye-popping graphics and animation, 14 speedways including Indianapolis Motor Speedway, 33 cars on track, realistic physics, and blistering 220mph racing action, IndyCar comes out of pits and races to take the checkered flag. Unfortunately, if oval-track racing with left-turns, left-turns, and more left-turns doesn't get your engine runnin', then I'm afraid this game may not be for you.
On the other hand, if you live and breathe open-wheel-oval-track racing, IndyCar Series may be your dream come true. The game features Quick Race, The IndyCar Series Career Mode, where you'll complete in the entire 15-race circuit, and The Indy 500, where you'll compete at the 'Brickyard' in the most famous race of all. Multiple options and levels of customization are available for honing your skills and setting the parameters of the game to your liking. Choose one of several professional drivers or unlock the ability to create your own. Choose a track and practice to your hearts content. Among other things, you can also adjust the number of laps (from 10-200), the number of opponents (from 1-25), the skill level (easy, normal, or hard), the types of penalties, and the level of damage inflicted upon your car and CPU-controlled cars. During each race you'll need to visit the pits to fix damage, change tires, and fuel up. The frequency of your pit-stops will vary depending on the damage level and race length. Nonetheless, pit-stops are handled quite well in the game, as they're an integral part of your success or failure in getting to the finish line first. Support for two-player simultaneous racing is included and it works well.
The game features digital or analog steering and the usual control setup for accelerating, braking, shifting, and changing views. For the most part, the controls are tight, but trust me on this; you'll want to log in several practice laps before you consider partaking in a competitive race. Surprisingly (and sadly), the game does not feature wheel support'a major omission by the developers indeed.
At this stage in the PS2's life cycle, anything less than spectacular graphics are unacceptable. In this area, I am pleased to report that the game does not disappoint. The car models and trackside environments are clean, colorful, and highly detailed. The frame rate is fast and fluid and remains solid without any noticeable slowdown. With car damage set to full tilt, collisions are spectacular with various roll-overs and car parts flying everywhere. And you'll want to watch them over and over again with the excellent replay mode. Complementing the visuals, the sound effects also get high marks for creating an appropriate racing atmosphere. Engine noises, the violent boom and bang of collisions, and the voice of your spotter, rattle the senses and pump you up for the task at hand.
With the creation of IndyCar Series, Codemasters have succeeded in doing what they set out to do. And that's providing Indy Car racing fans with the most realistic and entertaining game to date. If you fall into that category, it's a no-brainer, buy this game now. And even if you only have a mild interest in the sport, give it a rent, grab a buddy, and get your PS2's motor runnin'.