Sno-Cross Championship Racing
The balance between keeping a racing title realistic and fun is a precarious one, and only a few games--Ridge Racer and Gran Turismo, for example--have ever truly achieved it. As you can probably guess by the rating, Sno-Cross was one of the far more numerous titles not up to the challenge. It's not that UDS didn't try with their first snowmobile racing game; they worked closely with Yamaha and utilized actual CAD drawings to create 12 super-realistic vehicles, and everything from the physics, to the sound effects, to the computer players' Al are all about as true-to-life as you can get. But, of course, that's the problem--it's almost too realistic. I don't know about you, but slipping and sliding around a course with an easily damaged snowmobile, all while trying to race against three opponents who apparently don't share my control troubles, isn't exactly my idea of fun. Sadly, the two-player mode isn't that enjoyable either--in fact I couldn't get anyone in the office to race me more than once. Unfortunately the visuals don't help the situation; this game can get downright ugly at times, with its close draw-in and horrible textures. There are some interesting other modes though, like a Hill Climbing mode and a well-designed track editor (which is one of this game's highlights, despite a lack of tiles to build courses with), but neither mean much when the core game isn't fun to play.
Sno-Cross is a weak starter but becomes more tolerable as you build up your sled. That's not exactly high praise but often decent racing games are brought down by their early, less exciting levels. I'm not saying it gets great but compared to the initial crappy sleds and courses, it picks up. Still, I have to say it's no Sled Storm--not by a long shot. Overall, the handling is loose, the courses awkward and the graphics just so-so. The difficulty level is a bit whacked as well. It's a challenge to win on any level, due in part to the slippery handling. The track editor is nice and the first-person view surprisingly good, but in the end, I didn't have much fun with this one.
Sno-Cross is perhaps the epitome of the "average" game. Despite decent controls, the game only allows four racers to compete at a time. That makes for some boring races since the CPU's usually kicking your ass, and the tracks are too damn long. The lack of a competent vibration system also saps whatever tactile excitement could have been had from the game. Is it a too-realistic simulation? Not really. Riding a snowmobile is an often terrifying experience contingent on the conditions of the show you're riding on. Sno-Cross offers not only very little of the adrenaline-pumping fear, but also very little fun.