First look: Race of Champions

We get to see Climax and Activision's upcoming racer in action.

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Activision brought a handful of its upcoming games by our offices today for a brief demo. Among them was the PS2 version of the racing game Race of Champions, and, despite being quite early (much earlier than alpha state, according to the Activision reps present), it was running quite smoothly and stably. We weren't allowed to play it, but we were shown several of the game's tracks and were able to enjoy an amusing demo of its destructible car models.

The event on which the game is based--the Race of Champions--is an insane annual event that pits drivers from all racing disciplines--F1, Le Mans, Rally, and more--against one another in a huge race for supremacy. The winner takes home the coveted cup, as well as the title of racing champion. The final game will have 20 licensed cars, including models from Toyota, Peugeot, Saab, and Mitsubishi, among others. In today's demo, we saw the one that was furthest along: a decked-out Lancer. The poor machine was put through the ringer, as it were, all for the purpose of showing off the game's neat damage model. According to Activision, several of the cars' components can be individually damaged, depending on how players race. We saw all sorts of things getting dented and dirty and ultimately flying off entirely, parts like bumpers, hoods, doors, windows, and the like. Many of the cars' parts seem fully physically modeled as well, which made for some interesting dynamics--antennae would sway, doors would flip open and closed, and stuff like that. It was pretty interesting to see.

The game's backgrounds were pretty neat-looking as well. They've been suitably spiced up, no doubt, when compared with their real-life counterparts, but it makes for a busier-looking game. Players will see stuff like track girls, JumboTrons, and fireworks littered around tracks, and even some overeager spectators who will attempt to snap photos of players as they race by. Some special effects served to spiced things up as well--colored fog is used to simulate dirt clouds as players race over the off-road tracks, and, despite a lack of visible particle effects to accompany it, the effect was pretty neat.

The final game will have a host of gameplay modes included, though we didn't get to see anything in action. These will include rally cross (standard circuit races), hill climb (self-explanatory), checkpoint, elimination (wherein the last car in each lap will be dropped from the race), follow the leader (which presents players with a life bar that diminishes when they're not in the lead), and relay (which allows players to trade off laps with their teammates). Players will also have a co-driver who will ladle on the praise or abuse, as appropriate in regard to the player's performance.

Race of Champions--which is still known by its working title--will be fully playable at E3, presumably for all three major platforms. We'll have more for you as soon as it becomes available.

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