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Ducati World: Racing Challenge
Platform:  Dreamcast
# of Players:  1-2
Developer:  ATD
Publisher:  Acclaim
Features:  Jump Pack
Ratings:  Everyone
Memory Req.:  VMU Compatible, 8 Blocks
If youíre looking for a decent bike racing game, Ducati World: Racing Challenge is pretty cool. You get to play around with a lot of different motorcycles (all made by Ducati,) and thereís a good selection of courses to choose from. The backgrounds are great and the sound track features some mellow trance/techno type stuff, which makes it a cool wind down at the end of the day. You get the option to either jump right into to 1 track races, or start of at the bottom of the Ducati Life barrel by buying a used bike, helmet, and earning your first license and working your way up from there. The game is pretty realistic Ė working a lot with skidding out and slipping around on the gravel along side parts of the courses. There are some weird idiosyncrasies, though, like how your bike will actually start riding up on the walls of tunnels a little bit if you hit them just right. Ducati World definitely isnít the coolest racing game Iíve ever played, but itís hard to pick out what isnít to like about it. It doesnít have any features that are outstandingly cool, but it doesnít have any big problems either. Itís a nice game to sit down and play and have fun with Ė thatís really the bottom line.

While the Quick Race option, which lets you just start racing on the track of your choice with the bike of your choice, is pretty cool, I think the game is the most fun when youíre playing Ducati Life. You start out with $10,000 and access to bike dealerships, classified ads, bike magazines, and other outlets through which you can buy your first cycle. You also shop for a helmet and leathers (though you donít need leathers), and you have to pass a bunch of tests to get your Beginners Level 1 license. From there you enter racing leagues according to what type of bike youíve got (modern or vintage). Your license level also limits you, though there is one league that doesnít require any license at all. By winning races, you get more money. Then you upgrade your stuff, buy new bikes, train for better licenses and race in more elite leagues.

The game lets you choose between 3 difficulty levels: easy, normal, and difficult. On normal, the game isnít all that hard. The biggest difficulty factor is being able to control youíre speed when youíre taking turns. It takes a couple tries for each course, though, so it isnít overly simple. You have to see where youíre going to slip up, hit any gravel that may be on the course side. You do get to race warm-up laps for each course before you go for it, so itís possible to learn the course well enough that you probably wouldnít ever have to lose if you wanted to be anal about it. Most people wouldnít do that Ė so itís more than likely that youíll end up running the courses a few times before you beat them.

Once you actually start racing, things feel fairly real. The graphics are great and you can choose between a 3rd person view, a 1st person view with the front of the bike, or a 1st person view without the front. Itís cool to switch back and forth, because itís a little harder to play with either of the 1st person views. It feels a lot faster when you play 1st person as well. The handling of the bikes is comfortable, and, though Iíve never ridden a motor cycle myself, I assume itís reasonably realistic. You canít just bump around on bikes like you do with cars. Other bikes will trip you up from behind often, and if you run into a wall and youíre going too fast, you fall off the bike. The game is actually kind of cool in that you can sometimes hit walls or crash and not fall off. In a lot of biking games itís one or the other Ė you do or you donít. In Ducati World, various aspects of real-world physics actually matter. This is kind of suspenseful, because you donít know if youíll be able to hang on through a corner, or if youíll slip up and go flying off your bike, or if youíll slip up and be able to recover. You always have that chance until youíre actually on the ground.

If youíre really really into the normal, straight out racing style of game, you might not like Ducati World that much for a few reasons. First of all, you have the licensing aspect to deal with. It took me a good half-hour to get my Beginners Level 1, and there are 3 or 4 more licenses available that you will eventually have to get in order to advance. Itís a lot of boring repetition that you have to deal with Ė and itís much harder to pass the license exam than it is to win a race. You also may not be into trying to work your way up to better and better bikes Ė going through the routine. I think itís one of the coolest features of the gameplay, but some people just arenít in to things like that. Itís definitely more than just unlocking new cars. The only other aspect of the game that people might consider to be a fault is the fact that ONLY Ducati bikes are featured. I think itís fine because there are so many models both modern and vintage Ė but maybe some people have a weird grudge against the company. All in all, there isnít really much to hold against it.

When people think of racing games, they generally think of excitement. There is a degree of tension to the game, but I just donít think of it as a thrill ride. Itís a game to come home to, crack open a nice cold Coca Cola, plop down in front of the couch, and play while youíre waiting for the pizza to either arrive or digest. Itís relaxing, but it isnít boring at all. I think itís fairly unique in that respect, though I donít think itís anything you need to rush out and buy.

Urban Martin

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