Dakar 2 - Review
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Like everything in life, reviewing games has its ups and downs. Obviously you get games for free, and probably way more than you'd usually buy. Because of this, you get to play many great games that you may have normally looked over in the store. Not only that, you also become the envy of all your friends, and suddenly bikini-clad women rock up on your doorstep, and you're suddenly the sexiest guy (or girl) alive. So if this is the case, then what are the downs? Well, sometimes you get a bad lemon to review; one of those games you see in the bargain bin at stores a week after their release... a game that you wouldn't touch with a barge-pole, let alone put inside your Playstation 2 and risk infection by playing it. While Dakar 2 won't infect your Playstation 2, and may not be in the bargain bins quite yet, it definitely falls into this category.
|Into the distance...|
Dakar 2 is based on the Paris-Dakar rally, a long and grueling rally that stretches from Paris (France) to Dakar (Senegal). With a total race length of over 6,500 miles, it is a challenge in itself to finish the race, let alone come first (in the 2003 Paris-Dakar, just under half of all entrants failed to finish). The route passes through varying terrain through Europe, and then ultimately through the harsh Sahara desert. There are also several different vehicle classes, including motorbikes, trucks and rally cars, which have their own pros and cons throughout the race.
By now it's obvious that Dakar 2 is a rally/racing game, but what makes it different from the bulk of the competition is the premise of navigational racing across different terrains. That is, instead of having a set track to follow, it is checkpoint based across wide spacious terrains, with a waypoint indicator to follow. It sounds like a good idea, and at times it is, but only half the tracks use this 'navigate-yourself' style, while the others use narrow, single-car width winding circuits, which need several laps completed to continue to the next stage.
|Yes there are motorbikes.|
I have two major concerns about Dakar 2, being the simulation/arcade style of the game, and the physics behind the controls. Dakar 2 at first glance seems like a simulation of the great rally; with officially licensed cars, sponsorship galore and semi-realistic damage to individual car components (wheels, suspension, gears and engine just to name a few). But everything else in the game implies that it is an arcade racer; the power slides, loose controls, and general 'feel' of the game. This normally wouldn't be too bad, however this then blends into the engine and physics behind the game and starts to wane at your patience: why is it that a 13,000 kg truck can perform similarly to a dirt-bike when accelerating from standstill? And then the same truck can be cruising at top speed, and is able to do a handbrake turn quite literally on the spot, and then continue driving?! Does this sound strange at all? Well, try using these physics in the game itself, and you'll enter into a bizarre realm of physics-defying races which will leave you dumbfounded and scratching your head.
So Dakar 2 is a strange arcade-simulation hybrid, but it can't get too worse, can it? Um... yes. When beginning the race, you get the choice of a vehicle to race, being one of a motorbike, truck or car. The motorbike, which one would expect to be fast, agile and able to travel on small trails with ease, is unfortunately none of the above. Controlling the motorbike is a strange fish-tail experience, and one would be easily forgiven for thinking that the game didn't have analog steering (it does, but it doesn't make any difference to the controls). The trucks are similarly confusing, and must be using some strange alien technology given that for a 13 tonne vehicle, they are the 'bounciest' vehicles in the game, with similar acceleration and handling to the motorbikes. Luckily, the cars in the game are its saving grace, and are relatively well-behaved, although there's always some moon-gravity and invisible pits on the track that will mysteriously make your car rebound into the scenery no matter how well you can master your vehicle of choice.
Dakar 2 is quite average on the visual front. The vehicles aren't very detailed at all (far from those found in recent racing games like Gran Turismo Concept or WRCII:Extreme), but car damage has been implemented surprisingly well. If you hit too many trees/cars/invisible walls you find that individual parts of your vehicle (be it the mudguard, bumper or even wheels) will shake, hang from the car or even fall off depending on the level of damage. The scenery is rather lackluster too, with low detail surroundings and tracks, especially on the desert stages. One positive note about the graphics is that there is no slowdown in the game (not including the 2-player mode), and when you manage to get a truck/car/bike going at full speed, the game actually gives a good sense of speed. A 'cockpit' viewpoint would have been a nice touch to this; however the nose-cam in the game does almost as well.
|One of the many bridges.|
The sound in the game isn't anything exciting, with a standard array of 'bump', 'klunk' and crashing sound effects to go together with the lawnmower-like engine sounds. From what I could hear there wasn't much, if any variety between engines within each vehicle class, and even when an engine was damaged, it didn't sound like it. The in-game music is a strange style, similar to Deep Forest meets house music, but suits the game well. There is also a co-driver when you are racing in a truck or car, and is clear and well spoken, but seems a little on the 'delicate' side; hit anything bigger than a speed bump and they'll scream 'aargh!' or 'watch it!'. Would they prefer you to drive slower to admire the dull scenery and let all the cars pass you by? Probably, but I know for sure that I don't.
Dakar 2 doesn't seem to have improved at all on its older brother Paris-Dakar Rally. It is a strange arcade-simulation crossbreed, with awry controls, average graphics and not much lifetime at all. You'd be hard pressed finding the effort to complete the game once let alone repeatedly, so the unlockable cars, trucks and bikes will most probably go unnoticed (there's little variation in the vehicle models, so there's no sleep to be lost here). This game is disappointing in so many crucial areas, and is best to be avoided; even if you're the world's biggest Paris-Dakar fan whose uncle wrote code for this game and needs your sales to pay the rent, and you have to have it; you'd be better waiting a little while until Dakar 2 ends up in the bargain bins. It shouldn't take long at all...
|The start finish line...|
Review By: Chris Gobbett
Talk about Dakar 2 in this forum topic now.
|GRAPHICS||Low detail levels, but with some nice damage effects.||60%|
|SOUND||Nice voiceovers and effects, music is a little midi-esque.||62%|
|GAMEPLAY||Nice idea on paper, but poor, poor physics...||45%|
|VALUE||Several game modes, but let down by the game engine.||50%|
|OVERALL||Dakar 2 is a below-par rally game with some good ideas, but poor engine and execution. No matter how much practice and effort you put in, it won't do much good at mastering the game. Hire it if you absolutely must, but if you're disappointed at spending money on this game, don't say I didn't warn you...||48%|