XCar Experimental Racing
|a game by||Bethesda Softworks|
|Editor Rating:||8/10, based on 2 reviews|
|Rate this game:|
Bethesda's cooking up the latest twist on racing action with XCar. This sim drops you behind the wheel of 16 high-speed cars to explore the cutting edge of racing: experimental prototypes. XCar lets you customize every element of your futuristic vehicle, then check it out on test tracks so you can use telemetry readings to make last-minute adjustments. The flag drops on 10 courses in either a tricked-out Sim mode or an easier Arcade mode. Up to eight players can toe the line over a netv ork or modem.
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Racing buffs around the world, it is here. XCar Experimental Racing from Bethesda Softworks just might be that ultimate racing sim you have been waiting for. As you probably have guessed, XCar is a racing sim based on prototype experimental racing. Apparently, Bethesda actually received information from race teams and component manufacturers who, secretive about their advancements, agreed to provide information only if they were kept anonymous. You get 16 cars to start with, 11 tracks to race on and access to more modification and tweaking than any other racing game out there.
XCar is far more than your average racer. But I'll be honest with you: my first impressions of XCar were not the greatest. I've been waiting for this game ever since I saw the first screenshots of the Seattle Grand Prix, but when I took my first spin my jaw dropped for the wrong reasons. The controls seemed awkward, and the way the graphics scrolled gave me the feeling I was running rather than driving. I thought, come on guys, you must have at least played some of the better racing games for comparison. This game feels like Skynet with a car rather than a gun representing my first-person perspective.
Little did I know what was about to happen, and what this game is actually about.
In time, I began to get the feel of the car I was racing and I thought, "this really isn't all that bad." I then decided to try one of the other cars, not thinking there was going to be much of a difference. I actually chose another car because I wanted to race a cooler-looking one than I started with. To my surprise, the new car really did handle differently. I then tried even more cars and they all handled differently as well. I looked in the manual and read something that should have been so obvious, but wasn't, because of what I have come to expect in the average game. "In order to be competitive on different tracks you must modify, or 'set up', your car." Duh. The next natural step was to modify a car myself. I went into the car modifier and started tweaking away. I was able to tweak my engine, brakes, gears, suspension, steering, my tires, the fuel I used and how many gallons (remember, weight is an issue in reality), and the aerodynamics of my car. Next stop was the Paint Shop. In a simple bitmap app I was able to fully customize the appearance of my prototype.
Racing became a new experience for me on the PC. Not only was I simply trying to maneuver about a course faster than my opponent, but I was going back and forth into the editor, finding that perfect balance between performance aspects of my car. Because each track is different, you will want to tweak cars differently for each track. You can't win by giving yourself the fastest engine and the most aerodynamic body possible. Trust me, I tried it.
The graphics for XCar are decent but not outstanding. Bethesda went with their souped-up version of their XnGine. I love the engine for 1st-person shooters and the like, but I found it lacked the polish necessary to make this racer stand out above others. Everything is grainy-looking, and we're talking major pixelation up close.
The track lines on curves are way too jagged, giving the appearance of straight lines pieced together to make a curve on the fly rather than an actual smooth curve. The tracks, cars, buildings, tents, campers, and most other objects are true 3D and texture-mapped. Trees, people, and the distant background wallpaper are all 2D bitmaps. The 3Dfx version is only slightly better. It seemed to increase frame-rates more than actually improve the appearance of the graphics. Things are still grainy and slightly pixelated compared to the glossy smooth graphics we have come to expect from true 3D accelerated games. One only needs to take a look atto see what I mean.
_ XCar_ also requires some heavy duty gear to be acceptable. Don't let the minimum requirements fool you; they're probably for the lowest graphics options possible, which I tried. They brought back memories of <span class="nolink">Night Racer</span>. Remember that one? We're talking "Pong" Racer, if there ever was one. I tested the game, for the most part, on my P90 with 40 MB of RAM and a 4 MB Rendition Verite-based video adapter, and the game was barely passable with all options maxed out. It ran pretty smoothly on a Pentium II-266 with 64 MB of RAM and a 4 MB 3Dfx video adapter. But then, _XCar_ had better run well, considering that's the best system available at this point in time.
The audio for XCar is pretty good, but nothing too spectacular either. You get your typical pop-rocker tracks and decent digital effects. It was recorded with Redline audio, so it does sound good. The engine revving sounds as good as expected, and it changes appropriately as you go through tunnels and the like.
The documentation for XCar is superb. If there is one thing Bethesda never holds back on, it's excellent documentation. It covers everything you need to know to play the game, plus a lot more. The section that covers modifying your car actually covers the basic physics behind the components and gives you pointers on how you might want to tweak these components for different effects in performance. Remember, you will want different attributes for different tracks. You can also get info by right-clicking on items in the editing portion of the game.
Microsoft DOS 5.0 or greater, Pentium 60MHz required minimum, 256-color SVGA, VESA 2.0, 2X CD-ROM drive (MPC Level 2 required), 16 MB RAM, 10 MB hard drive space, SoundBlaster, Pro Audio Spectrum, Ensoniq Soundscape, Gravis Ultrasound and 100% compatibles.
Two player via modem or direct cable connection via a null modem cable. Up to eight players via IPX network.
Bethesda just might have a winner on its hands. Time will tell. XCar may not have the sleekest graphics available for the racing sim genre, but it does have the most options, and it is definitely one of the most realistic. If you're looking for that shiny arcade racer, keep looking. If you're looking for a racer that goes well beyond the surface, and you have a system with the horsepower, XCar just might be for you. If you plan on getting this game, or if you already have it but haven't gotten into it, remember to take your time to learning how to control and tweak your car. It took me about a week of playing to really get into this one. Also make sure to check out the official XCar website at www.xcar.com. Bethesda has supplied a tire editor for download and is promising an engine editor and more to come. Hopefully they'll throw in a Rendition patch along with the 3Dfx for people like me. Please ...