As many racing games as there are on the PS one, a few of the better ones will no doubt be overlooked, especially now that the PS2 is out. Acclaim has just published Taito's great and unusual RC de Go!, a radio control racing simulator that reminded me of a cross between R.C. Pro-Am for the NES and Gran Turismo. If the name rings a bell, give yourself five bonus points right away. Yes, it's part of Taito's Japanese lineup of arcade-based simulation games such as Densya de Go! and Jet de Go!, but unlike the previous games, R.C. doesn't require a specialized controller to get the most out of the game. In fact the game uses only three buttons on the PS analog controller, simulating a real R.C. car control, yet it takes a bit of patience and practice to fully master this one.
The game furthers the illusion (quite successfully, by the way) by presenting the action from the vantage point of someone controlling a radio control car. As you drive around the tracks, it actually feels as if you're watching yourself steer your very own R.C. car. Other R.C. car games fail because they try too hard to draw players into a specific viewpoint, and very often these games fall prey to odd track designs, and emphasize special effects over solid gameplay. In R.C. de Go!, everything feels real, from the track layouts to the customization feature. The only thing that breaks the illusion is the colored trail that comes from your car when you hit the turbo button.
If you're new to this sort of game, you'll want to hit the training stages, where you'll learn the controls. The game is a lot less complicated than Shiny's classic R.C. Stunt Copter, but again, adjusting to the stationary viewpoint here is a bit tricky. The right stick is for acceleration and braking, and the left one steers. You also have a limited turbo boost (L1 or R1), and mastering this is the key to winning and losing on a few of the tracks. You can knock other cars around the track and grab the lead, if you're quick enough. There aren't any weapons, power ups, or cute mascot characters here- it's all about pure racing. There are some fun tasks in the training level, like popping balloons with your car, and the first time out you probably won't be able to get a perfect score, but the events are addictive, and you'll be back time and again to better your scores.
Graphically, the game does a great job of making you feel like you're really "there"- the tracks look just like miniature road courses, and there are some nice touches, like the spectators and life sized furniture. The courses range from simple paved tracks to twisty dirt circuits, complete with jumps and water hazards, and there are some nice rain effects along for the ride as well. It's such a joy to play a racing game that doesn't have pop-up or fogging to hide stuff, and most likely you'll be too busy having fun racing to notice the flawless scaling of the cars as they race around the track. The cars look great, and once you get into the customization part of the game, you can put together some really balanced machines. The game gives you four generic models to work with (balanced, acceleration, grip, and high speed), but it feels much better to win races with a car that you've put together yourself.
The sound effects and music are nothing too special, but they don't annoy either, and that's a good thing. I love how Taito got the same guy from Densya de Go! to announce this game's title, but again, only a few people here in the States will appreciate this. There's really nothing negative I can say about this game at all, except that there are only 14 tracks, and the game probably won't take too long to finish. There's also no two player mode, thanks to the innovative viewpoint, but the game is still a decent party game, as everyone will want to try their hand at a race or two. RC de Go! is one of those rare games that catches you off guard with how good it is, and is one you'll keep just because it's so much fun to play.
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