Le Mans 24 Hours
No, this is not exactly the same game released under the Test Drive label last year. Infogrames has made a variety of changes and upgrades to be sure that PlayStation 2 owners get their money's worth this summer. Developed by Melbourne House (the guys who did the DC version), Le Mans 24 Hours will feature over 70 licensed cars, 30 of which are the new 2000 models that weren't featured in the earlier game. Players will also be able to race on Road America in the U.S., experience the 2000 24 Heures du Mans race, and play with their car settings in even more ways.
What's more, the drivers in each car will now be animated, as will the pit crews. Melbourne is reportedly tweaking the Al for opposing drivers to make the game even more challenging. Finally, as you can tell from the title, Infogrames has decided to drop the Test Drive name from this sequel. We feel that's probably a good idea, since the franchise's reputation is spotty at best.
There's nothing more entertaining than watching someone fail, more so when that person happens to be the most hated man in England. New Year's Day 1998 was memorable for two reasons: the first was my brain trying to pick-axe its way through my skull thanks to the obligatory drinking session the night before, and the other - during a bit of channel-surfing, you understand - was finding Noel Edmonds trying to emulate Steve McQueen in the Le Mans 24 Hour race. As I watched I fell asleep within five minutes. It was wonderful.
Fortunately, developers Eutechnyx have opted to omit Team Noel from their simulation of the world's most gruelling motor race, and have instead sought out the official licence. On their side are French publishers Infogrames, and come May, when the small town of Le Mans begins its annual population increase, the rest of us will be able to recreate the whole spectacle in the comfort of our own homes. That's how the theory goes,anyway.
However, there are two main problems with simulating such an event on the PC. One is that with only one track, Le Mans 24 Hour could well turn out to be exceedingly dull. The other is that the challenge of Le Mans is to stay awake for a full day while in charge of a speeding car without killing yourself or the spectators who camp by the track. To overcome these problems, Eutechnyx have gone for the obvious solution: they've invented four extra tracks and split the game into traditional arcade and simulation modes.
If you really want to, you can actually do the full 24 heures, spending day and night encased in leathers, kept alive with whatever stimulant does it for you. Alternatively, you can pull into the pits and save the game, have a kip and then join the race later on. As well as this, you can also take part in a fictitious championship where points mean a lucrative contract from another team the following season. There was talk of including an option whereby, nearing the end of the race, you experienced the simulated effects of sleep depravation, but it was decided that most gamers are cursed with that particular affliction on a permanent is anyway.
Having played an early version of the game as well as TOCA 2,I have to confess to preferring Le Mans. This could be down to the fact that I'm not a hard-core driving nut, and that Le Mans is a far easier game to get into - it was easy to take the chequered flag, although that was more likely due to the AI being incomplete rather than to my flair at the wheel. There are already some impressive details in place: the weather effects are one thing, but watching the sun rise near the end of a time-compressed race, my body clock forgot that it was actually early evening in real life and I found it difficult to stifle a yawn.
The developers may have been worried that I found Le Mans boring, but from what I've seen so far they've got nothing to worry about.
Now, let's see what I've got for you racing fans out there. You are going to just love this! Do you love driving at speeds that make your very bones shake in their sockets? Or maybe you're a fan of making split second turns right before you get wasted against cement barriers. It all sounds exciting, doesn't it? If you're looking for more then you're going to have to put yourself up to the challenge. What am I talking about? Haven't you been listening? All of this and more can be found in Le Mans 24 Hours. It has what you've been yearning for. Let's say that you have a fetish for cars that make your mouth water. Well, it's got those. Or maybe you're a fan of humiliating others as you leave them in your dust. Le Mans can do that one too. So how about you ignore those other wannabes and hop into your brand new Viper GTS-R and take it for a few laps around the track. The keys are in the ignition.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
I suggest that before you get involved too far into the game you wait a second and watch the intro. I found that it helped set the mood, particularly for the category of people the game was attempting to attract. Usually, when I watch the intros to most games in this type of category they don't live up to the enjoyment of the actual game. Other than that, though, it is just a little part of the game that is enjoyable viewing before you get down to business and burn some serious rubber.
Once you get past the intro you will have the option to choose one of five challenging game modes. Keep in mind though that only a couple of these modes will allow you to unlock more tracks and new cars. I suggest in the beginning that you choose the Quick Time mode since it presents a good opportunity for you to become familiar with the feel of the track and the cars that are available to you. After you have chosen what mode suits you best, you may pick from a variety of different automobiles from three categories. Even though you can't start with some of the advanced cars, I suggest that you get familiar with the controls before exploring the rest of the modes. As soon as you have chosen your car you may wish to adjust the difficulty of the gameplay to something that will help you get the feel of the game. Each one of the three difficulty settings will do different things for you, so I advise you to read up on it.
After you have gotten your car, you need a track to race it on. If you're a beginner you may wish to try one of the smaller tracks so that you don't feel to overwhelmed by how long it takes to complete the it. Now you can start the race.
Once you're on the track, there are a few things you should know about how to interpret the display on the screen. If you look up to the right you'll notice a couple of boxes with numbers in them. Those are what you use to determine what place you are in. Right below that are the best lap time and the current record time. If you are in the Time Trial mode, the record time is what you want to keep an eye on since you can unlock more cars if you beat the current record. If you look to the bottom right you'll see the fuel gauge, tachometer, speed and the gear you're in. Once you become more accustomed to the game, these icons will be invaluable to you on some of the longer tracks. At the top left you'll be able to determine how many laps are left in the race and your current lap time. To the bottom left is the display for the track map that will help you determine where you are to the other competitors. If you learn to use the displays to your advantage you'll have no trouble at all at beating all the opposition.
There are a number of different strategies to remember while you are racing. On some of the different tracks you may need a certain time to qualify to the next circuit. You can best take advantage of this situation if you learn the courses before you make your attempt. This way you'll already be familiar with what the course is going to throw at you. Before you start the race you shouldn't accelerate too fast or you'll spin out and lose time that may cost you the race. If you decide to sit behind one of your opponents, you can attempt to overtake him by taking advantage of his slipstream. Another thing to remember is learning to brake at the appropriate times. If you don't brake soon enough you won't be able to make the turns on some of the courses. Also, you must be able to take advantage of the pit stops. Sooner or later you'll have to stop and refuel but you must learn to plan when you should stop so that it doesn't cost you the race.
There are few unique options available to you during the race. One of these is the ability to adjust the camera angle. Keep in mind that if you use this option during the race you may lose control of your car and crash into one of the barriers. If you wait until after the race you can watch the replay of the entire race and adjust the camera angle then.
If you like being able to adjust the parameters of an already existing car then I suggest you go the workshop. This option is available during all the modes except Quick Race. You may adjust the parameters manually or if you don't want to bother with it you can choose the default setting. If you choose to adjust things yourself, you can start with the quantity of fuel in your tank. If you decide to put more fuel in your tank, it will make your car slower on the track. You can also adjust the down force of the car which can make the car faster with the sacrifice to its handling. If you want, you can choose whether you want to make the car an automatic or manual. If you choose to change tires, keep in mind that if you take tires that make your car faster they will drastically affect its handling. Finally, you may adjust the gear ratio for better performance and the engine for the type of track you're on. If you want to have a better chance at winning the championship, you should do your best at becoming familiar with all the settings.
Once you have mastered all the courses in single player mode you'll be ready to test your skills against a friend. Keep in mind that you'll be able to use all the courses and cars if you decided to take time to unlock them all. The only cars that won't be available to you both are the cars from themode. I truly suggest that you take the time to play against a couple of your friends and show off some of your tremendous driving skills.
I must say that the effects were simply spectacular. Each car looks like what you would expect if you were standing right next to it. The detail was so extensive that I could actually read the decals off the car hood. With craftsmanship like that, it is no wonder the game is so much fun to play. Also, while racing around the track, I found that the sun gives a glare in the window -- a nice touch to an already superb setup. One of the graphical aspects really helped me in the game -- the cars would leave skid marks in the pavement that I would use later to gauge when I should brake for turns. The interaction with the scenery and the weather makes the gameplay even more fun.
If they were meticulous in the detail that was put into the graphical design then the audio performance only serves to compliment it. The roar of the engine and the screeching of the tires will make you feel like are really in the race. On top of that, the announcer is energetic and full of sarcasm, making you love to hate him. I was pleased that they put racing theme music into the game. As I have said in the past, theme music can definitely add to the enjoyment of any game.
So what type of game do we have here? We've got fast cars and challenging circuits. We can look forward to terrific graphics and amazing sound performance. As an added bonus there are more courses and even more advanced cars to unlock throughout the game. Well, I don't know about you, but I'm sold! Don't take my word for it, you should go get a copy of your very own and experience it for yourself.