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  Star Wars Episode 1: Racer - Review

Racer Box

Review: Episode I Racer

Developer: Lucas Arts

Publisher: Lucas Arts

Review by: Richard Knight

Published: Jun 21, 1999


Racer Logo

"The Cure of your Need for Speed is here."

With limited information, and under mountains of NDAs, LucasArts was given a unique opportunity - design a game based on the upcoming Episode 1: The Phantom Menace movie. Even though little was known about the movie at all, the Pod Racing sequence was easy to see as a game. With plenty of memorable characters and the current popularity of the racing genre, the game is a shoe-in for success.

Although 'Racer is a bit on the slim side, its more than enough to feed fans of the genre and typical Star Wars fans alike.

 

Installation

90% - Fast and Friendly

The typical Win 9x install scenario is just as predictable as ever, with the LucasArts installation program providing a rock solid and easy installation. The game is not gorging your hard disk space, either.

As always, though, there is one catch - the game needs Direct X 6.1 to work. LucasArts provides the Direct X 6.1 installation files on CD and will prompt you to install them if it is not already on your system, however.

 

Sound & Music

75% - Suitable but overlooked

First, let me tell you I'm a big fan of Duel of the Fates - John Williams stirring theme for The Phantom Menace. The music only appears in some of the game menus, but its there in its high quality form.

Not surprisingly, the rest of the game soundtrack is fairly dull and uneventful, which gives the player all the more focus on the race. This is where the sound effects come in, and they are by far some of the best yet.

During the race, your engines will make specific and obvious noises to show the speed level they are at. When you hit boost, you get that all-too-familiar whoopee-cushion noise, and the sound of rocket thrust to boot. Explosions, burning engines, and a plethora of hilarious taunts are all very clear and amazingly well understood.

The one disappointment was engine vibrations. Unlike the movie, the distinct engine noises are only heard when another racer goes past you. Your engine keeps the same hum regardless of the vehicle. This is really disappointing considering the wide array of sound in the movie, from Sebulba's train-engines to Gasgano's insect like buzz.

 

Graphics

92% - A Visual Feast

Bucking the trend of most arcade-style PC racing titles, Episode One Racer draws little off its N64 heritage, providing colorful graphics, detailed textures, and fast frame rates. There are lens flares and light sourcing everywhere.

In the default 640x480 resolution, graphics look crisp and well done, although it suffers dithering due to LucasArts supporting 16-bit color mode only. The frame rate sticks pretty high, even on machines in the 266-300MHz plateau.

Effects Supported:

  • Particles
  • Light Sourcing / Colored Lighting
  • Engine Glow
  • Lens Flare
  • Bilinear Filtering
  • Palletized Textures

Most impressive, however, is the near total lack of pop-up. With such fast racing, I was almost positive that geometry pop-up would be an issue, but thankfully, its almost impossible to spot. Most racers will probably have far more problems dealing with the occasional dark area or the multitude of jumps.

Out of the races, the graphics still hold up well. The characters are extremely low polygonal models, but the pod racers look fairly accurate. It is interesting to see the various Star Wars characters in Watto's shop, however. R2D2, C3PO, Qui Gon Jinn, and Jar Jar all make silent appearances while you make purchases. There isn't any real indication when you actually buy something, though.

 

AI / Difficulty

78% - Easy, Difficult, Fast, Slow

The game is a bag of mixed ingredients when it comes to AI.

For the first two tournaments, the game is ridiculously easy unless you crash often, you may never see any other pods. Meanwhile, the last two tournaments prove to be backbreakingly difficult. This proves to be good for all ages in giving them a fighting chance, but also makes for a ridiculously steep learning curve midway.

LucasArts managed to pass the grade by including a track practice mode with a good amount of configurable options to choose from.

 

Game Play

90% - Fast and Fun

The key to 'Racer is the ease of play, and it works incredibly well. Most new racers don't even need to know what all of the buttons do to successfully race. When crashes come more often, the extra commands prove handy and easy to remember.

Outside of the game, things are a bit more complex. Part buying is easy enough, with handy color comparisons, but the part-health meters aren't easy to decipher without reading the manual, its not very clear when you make a purchase, nor is the use of pit droids. The mouse being inactive for some menus also proves to be a pain.

Longevity wise, the 4 tournaments provide a lot of racing, with varied tracks and some good challenge later on. Experienced gamers will feel something is missing, though - the racing is all of the game play. Without storylines or even a nice winning sequence, the game is quickly relegated to the arcade style genre - games that are great to play often, but not for long periods of time.

In the end though, those short periods of game play prove more exhilarating than long sessions with most game titles.

 

Multiplayer

50% Uh..okay

I'll leave this section short and sweet. 'Racer supports a form of multiplayer - LAN network support. But that's it. End of story.

 

Final Analysis

85% A great way to start your day

Episode One Racer has some very obvious shortcomings, but no matter how hard you try to point them out, the sheer thrill of the racing keeps you entertained. Never before has a game successfully implemented racing at such high speeds, but this time, it was done nearly perfectly.

That's enough to overlook any complaints, isn't it?

Star Wars: Episode I: Racer
LucasArts Entertainment Company (LEC): www.lucasarts.com
MSRP: $39.95 (US), $59.95 (CAN)

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Requirements

Operating System:
Windows 95 or 98

Computer:
100% Windows 95/98 DirectX compatible computer required

CPU:
166 MHz or faster CPU required.

Memory:
32MB RAM required

Video:
4MB PCI or AGP Direct 3D Graphics Accelerator Required

Sound:
16-bit sound card or better - PCI 3D sound card optional

CD/ROM:
Quad speed CD/ROM Required

Input Devices:
Joystick, Mouse, and Keyboard Required.

DirectX:
DirectX 6.1 is included on the CD and must be installed before playing


Multiplayer Support

LAN (IPX or TCP/IP):
2 - 8 Players


Four engine Racer
Quadinaros makes a tight turn in his unique four-engine racer.

Racer title screen
The Racer title screen shows a shot of Anakin and Sebulba while playing to the famous
"Duel of Fates"

Skywalker's pod racer is shown in great detail
Anakin Skywalker's pod racer is shown in great detail.

Not all levels have to be based on solid ground!
Not all levels have to be based on solid ground.

Sebulba's noteable pod racer streaks across Malastare.
Sebulba's notable pod racer streaks across Malatare.

The character selection screen.
The character selection screen shows the abilities of each racer.


"For additional information on Episode I: Racer, be sure to check out the following websites:"

LucasArts
"The first place to visit if you encounter game problems or need the latest patch."

Pod Racers
"For the latest news on Pod Racer reviews, codes, and more."


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