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MotoRacer (PC)
MSRP: $29.99
Number of Players: 1 (includes multiplayer option)
Developer: Delphine Software
Publisher: Electronic Arts

Rating:
****
out of
*****

MotoRacer was released in late 1997 and was generally regarded as the first good motorcycle racing game to be released for the PC. It aims to be a simulator with a dash of arcade-style action thrown in for good measure. It succeeds in being one of the best racing games available for any system -- console or computer.

The game initially provides the player with a selection of four tracks, half of them motocross oriented and half super-bike (or crotch rocket) style. Upon choosing a track, the game allows you to select a motorcycle, each with varying degrees of acceleration, braking ability, grip and maximum speed. Once that is completed, it's off to the starting line.

MotoRacer has three modes of play: Single Race, Championship Mode, and Practice Mode. The Single Race mode allows you to try your hand at each track while playing against computer-controlled opponents. Championship Mode allows you to do the same, but you must place in the top three to continue to the next track. Practice Mode allows you to race on each track and get a feel for it without opponents. You can also choose to play Practice Mode with a "time attack" feature turned on, which requires you to beat record times.

MotoRacer never overcomplicates things by allowing the player to buy new tires or new engines. Everything is focused on getting the player to the racing action as fast as possible. Because this is not an attempt at a serious simulation, this is a good thing. I'm not a mechanic and I don't feel I need to be when I want to play a game. MotoRacer obliges and keeps things focused on the balls-out fun.

By beating the first four tracks, additional tracks open up and each additional track is as challenging as its predecessors. MotoRacer gets a definite thumbs up for providing gamers with a challenge. Even at the easiest difficulty level, one crash may knock you out of the running for those coveted top three positions. Practice is definitely the key to getting anywhere in this game. If you manage to beat the tracks in regular mode, a reverse mode is turned on, allowing you to race each track backwards. Beat the tracks that way and a pocket bikes option is available, which provides the player with smaller, zippier bikes to race with.

The graphics in MotoRacer are top-notch. Even though this is a first-generation 3D game, the visuals stand up quite nicely to games currently being released. Each track includes a myriad of details (at the highest detail setting, of course) that really add atmosphere to the game. Most include objects moving above or around the edges of the track, including planes that buzz the racers, UFO's flying overhead, birds and more. Even with the detail level turned down, the game manages to remain fairly nice to look at, while retaining the all-important smooth frame-rate that makes a racing game fun and easy to play.

I played the game on a 2D-only 2MB S3 Trio card, with no Direct3D support, a 4MB AGP with limited Direct3D support, and with a 12 MB Voodoo 2 accelerator with full D3D support. In each case, the game remained exciting and fun, with varying degrees of detail available. Even on the 2MB Trio card, the game was relatively smooth and detailed. Of course, on the Voodoo 2, the game was a dream. However, I did have to download a patch from the Internet to get the game to run on the Voodoo 2. After doing so, there was no looking back.

The best part of the graphics (and the game, actually) is that there is a definite feeling of moving at a high rate of speed. One thing that can sabotage any racing game's excitement level is a lack of any notion that you are moving as fast as the on-screen speedometer says you are. In MotoRacer, that's not a problem at all and, once you start hitting the many jumps included on the motocross courses at top speed, the game will have you hooked.

The in-game sounds are not bad, if a little sparse. The engine noises are adequate enough, with the engine sputtering to a start and revving up in a sufficiently realistic manner. An announcer will occasionally make comments about your performance, like "You're running for a record time!" or "You have more than one gear!" His comments are never particularly insightful, but added to the graphical eye-candy, he makes for a slightly more intense gaming experience. The game's music, however, is wonderful. Ranging from synth-based mood music to guitar thrashing metal, the soundtrack is exquisite.

Controlling the game can be done through the keyboard, gamepad or via a joystick. I prefer to use a gamepad and found I could control the game more accurately by using it rather than the keyboard or analog joystick. The game is forgiving enough to remain fun and tough enough to encourage you to do better next time. You'll never blame the game for a crash and that's a sign that the designers put the game together right.

If I have a complaint about the game at all, it would have to be about the other drivers on the tracks. If you run into the back of another bike, you'll knock it forward while you slow down. The other bike never loses control or wrecks, it just flies forward. It's a minor quibble, but during a high-pressure race when only one rider remains and you're just about to overtake him, bumping into the back of his bike, sending him flying forward and slowing yourself down in the process is extremely frustrating.

Even after a year on the market, MotoRacer is still a damn fine game that allows gamers with even the most paltry of 3D capable PCs to have an exhilarating time. Well worth the price, especially now that it's been re-released as a budget title.

MotoRacer requires a Pentium 90, 16 MB RAM, DirectX 3.0 supported PCI video card with 2Mb RAM, 2X CD-ROM, and Windows 95. Recommended: Pentium 166MMX or faster, 32MB RAM, Direct3D supported PCI or AGP video card with 4Mb RAM, Four button joystick, 4X CD-ROM (8X CD-ROM if playing accompanied music).

It was reviewed on a Intel Pentium II 233, 32 MB RAM, 32X CD-ROM, Best Data Arcade FXII Voodoo 2 accelerator, AW35 PnP Soundcard, Saitek X6-32M gamepad, and Windows 98.

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