October 1, 2002
V8 Supercars Australia - Review
Codemasters are the developers of V8 Supercars Australia, or TOCA Race Driver as it is known as in Europe and America, and is the third game in the series after two outings on PSOne resulting in sales of over 3 million copies. This new game is the only PS2 game on the market to feature the big Australian V8 Supercars, as well as several Australian racing tracks. The TOCA racing games have always included some of the most realistic game engines and this game is no exception. But is does it have a big enough adrenaline rush?
|Collisions are spectacular.|
The first thing you will notice about this game is the variety of racing circuits and cars on offer. Although the game is called V8 Supercars Australia it still includes all the other leagues, teams and options of the European version of the game. The list of cars is impressive and includes a wide range of 42 vehicles to race throughout the 13 championships. The car list includes the Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore SS (VX) for the Australian V8 series as expected, but also cars such as the Lexus IS200, Alfa Romeo GTV, Subaru Impreza WRX Type-R Version 6, Saab 95 Aero, Lotus Sport Elise, Chevrolet Corvette Z06 for the European championships.
The track listing is equally impressive with the Australian tracks including the Adelaide Street Circuit, Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, Mt Panorama Bathurst, Eastern Creek Raceway, Oran Park Raceway, Canberra Street Circuit and Sandown International Motor Raceway. Other tracks are from countries such as the UK (Brands Hatch - Indy and GP circuits, Oulton Park, Silverstone, Donnington Park), Germany (Hockenheimring - Short and GP circuits, Norisring), America (Las Vegas, Charlotte, Bristol Speedway) Japan (Fuji, TI Circuit AIDA), and many more to bring the track count up to 38 in total.
|Losing it around the corner.|
While the number of cars and tracks are impressive the developers haven't neglected the game modes. The biggest, and most impressive of these, is the career mode. You play Ryan McKane a rookie driver who must work his way up the ranks to become the best driver in numerous racing series'. Throughout the seasons you can take up contracts with other companies, test drive for manufacturers, participate in single events and deal with companies. To progress to higher levels of racing championships you must earn enough championship points in lower leagues in order to unlock the better leagues. To polish off the game the developers have used motion capture for the numerous cut scenes, while Codemasters also employed professional scriptwriters, composers and directors to ensure the quality of the game.
Other game modes include single races where you can choose the types of cars to race, the circuit and number of laps. One thing that must be mentioned is the AI of the computer controlled cars in the career and single race modes. It's superb. Other cars will try to stop you overtaking as expected but the most impressive thing is that they aren't perfect drivers either. It's not uncommon to see other cars colliding or spinning out in front of you. It adds a lot of realism to the game. The multi-player mode will also keep yourself and a friend busy for more then a couple of days.
|The streets of Adelaide.|
The actual gameplay in this title is very rewarding. Unlike Sony's Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec there is no wreckless smashing into other cars or walls. Well, there is, but not without serious damage to you car rendering it almost useless. This damage to your car is shown with a little diagram during the races and does affect the handling of the vehicles. Speaking of handling the cars are very responsive at all times with the analogue buttons on the controller used effectively to determine how far you are putting your foot down. Different surfaces also affect the cars. Put some wheels on the grass and you'll soon start loosing control. Naturally, before each race you have the option to customise the setup of the car for optimum performance, including automatic or manual gearboxes.
Sadly, one detrimental thing about this game is that the game doesn't look as nice as the first four screenshots int this review. These are from the replays which seem to have a little more detail, and rather appropriately, nicer looking backgrounds then the game when moving. Don't get me wrong it's not like you're going back to 32-bit graphics for the in-game action, but it's certainly not as sharp as these screens. The bottom screenshot is the only in-game screen I could find for inclusion in this review, and it's a pretty good one at that. The biggest problem is the amount of pop-up in the levels. It's not uncommon to have much of the scenery pop-up only moments before reaching it. On the American speedway (oval shaped track) you can see the track ahead, and on the other side, but the furthest part of the bend isn't visible until you get very close to it, and that becomes very annoying.
|V8's on the streets of Adelaide.|
One of the reasons for these graphical deficiencies is that the game includes full damage to the cars. Codemasters were granted permission by the car manufacturers to include visible damage to the cars utilising the FEM system as used by the crash test industry. During the races the cars are deformed according to the damage received such as broken windows, dented panels, or parts ripped off. It's all visible on screen as you race and the broken parts remain on the track as obstacles to avoid the next time round.
Sound is another area where the game really excels. As well as some wonderful music during the menus and cut scenes the game is littered with some wonderful voice acting from Ryan McKane - who sounds quite stuck up and arrogant - and the numerous other characters. The most impressive sound in the game, as you would hope for, is the car engine and collision noises. The V8's rumble down the track and shake the room through a good speaker setup and while there is an option for surround sound it didn't seem to work too well through my system for some reason.
|An actual in-game screenshot.|
I have to admit that for the first couple of days I was quite disappointed with the title. The poor graphics are quite a shock to the system, and the pop-up is as bad as any other game on Playstation 2. However, the gameplay soon starts to turn you, and when it does it will have you hooked. V8 Supercars Australia is a misleading title. The Australian V8 cars, while the best in the game, are only a small part of a much larger package including many different European series'. If you like your racing games an have finished Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec then go and pick up this game, you won't be disappointed.
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|GRAPHICS||Some of the worst pop-up seen on PS2, car damage is spectacular.||71%|
|SOUND||The cars roar around the tracks, the speech is excellent and music hot.||87%|
|GAMEPLAY||Realistic collisions add a sense of danger to the frantic gameplay.||86%|
|VALUE||The game has many unlockable cars and tracks , you'll want them all.||88%|
|OVERALL||V8 Supercars Australia is an impressive game. The collisions and subsequent damage to the cars add a sense of danger to the game while the number of championships is impressive. The only downer is the graphics which fall well short of what we expect from Playstation 2. Still it's the only game with Australia's V8 cars in it, and the thrill is there. Definitely worth a look.