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Roadsters
Platform:  Playstation
# of Players:  1-2
Developer:  Smart Dog
Publisher:  Titus
Features:  Dual Shock compatible
Ratings:  Teen
Memory Req.:  
Info:  http://www.titusgames.com
After playing this game on the Dreamcast, I was even more curious about the Playstation version- could Smart Dog pull off the impossible feat of squeezing Dreamcast code onto the PSX sucessfully, or would they have to rebuild the game from the wheels up? Well, let's just say that what's here is definitely not the Dreamcast version. In fact, if the game didn't have the same cool cars, annoying drivers and nondescript title, it could be seen as a different game entirely- but with some of the same problems that kept the DC version from being a top of the line racer, and a few new ones that make the game a lot harder than it should be.

First, the good points- The game is fast, and I mean REALLY fast. You'll be setting records most likely within about 20 minutes or so, and on the class A settings, you'll be flying around the courses like you're piloting an X-15. The courses in this version are a lot different than the ones on the DC, narrower, with no shortcuts at all. This is probably due to the games' high speed and loads of detail, in certain background areas, like the Temple, Ski Resort, and Area 51 tracks. Thing is, a great deal of the detail is wasted, since you can't actually interact with these surroundings- you'll be a lot more concerned with staying within the racing line. There are the usual graphic effects (lens flares, rain, skid marks) and yes, there is some pop-up, but not on the tracks themselves. Roadsters does look a LOT better than the last couple of Test Drive games, and maybe these guys should do the next few in the series. Strangely enough, the car sound effects are also a bit better than in the DC version, and the annoying voices and one-liners seem drowned out by them here- not a bad thing at all.

Unfortunately, problems arise as soon as you turn your Playstation on- from the intro screen on, the game has some really, really long load times, and if you save your data to a memory card, expect to wait almost a minute between races as the game saves information! If you're in the Championship mode, you can expect to spend about two to three minutes (or more) buying parts, tweaking upgrading, and placing bets before you race. Between the loading screens (yipe.)! It's a good thing the races are set at a default six laps- imagine racing a short two-lapper after three plus minutes of loading and such. Also, for some unknown reason, the game resets the Analog control between races, so you have to keep switching it back on- I actually lost a few races, because I forgot to turn the stick on! The D-pad is useless in this game, as a light touch in either direction sends you all the way left or right into the trackside or another car. The analog control is also a bit touchy, depending on the car, and the option to calibrate the controller, or use a wheel, NegCon, or Ultra Racer would have been nice. As it is, you'll be ping-ponging around the track, losing race after race until you come to grips with the limited controls. Since the tracks are so narrow and twisting, you'll find that for a lot of the cars, using powerslides is a must, but using the brake will actually make you lose a race here and there- go figure.

The game has two more things that make it extremely frustrating, especially if you're looking for a fair fight. Thank to the track design and the need to keep the frame rate up, there's a staggered start for each race- In other words, the cars are lined up along the track from first to eighth place, and guess where you are? I spent about two hours racing the first time out, and NEVER even saw the first place car, except once, when I grabbed a quick lead, and lost it as I miscalculated a turn. You can set lap records for each lap, and still come in last, which brings me to point two: the CPU drivers have amazing skill. Way too amazing. Sure, once in a while a driver will spin out, but if you're behind that same driver at the same time at the same turn, the driver will also spin out in the same place as before. The cars also seem to have a sort of force-field around them, and should you grab the lead, or gain a spot or three, you'll be pushed around by the other drivers like a pocket-protector wearing nerd in a high school playground. You'll also find that going off-road or hitting a fence will have you flinging controllers like red-hot boomerangs, if you're among the easily frustrated- can you say dead stop, kids? I guess the most telling example of the game's lack of complexity is in the instruction manual- it's only 8 pages thin, and you really don't need to read it, as you'll get most of the same information from the game CD, with the exception of the unchangeable control layout.

But despite all this, the game ends up becoming one of those really challenging affairs, a real man's game, so to speak. When you finally get good at the game, you'll be skidding around, setting records, and unlocking extra courses and cars (some really nice ones, too) with relative ease. I kept going back to it just to see if I could do better, but racing the same courses over and over wore thin after a day or so. Had this game come out a year or two ago, it might have been a lot more fun, but racing fans these days are too spoiled by the likes of Gran Turismo, the Need for Speed games, and other, higher quality racers than this one- which is too bad. Roadsters on the Playstation ends up being mostly pretty to look at, mainly frustrating in execution, but way too simple in concept to stand up to the big boys on the block.

Greg Wilcox


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