Hands-on: World of Outlaws - Sprint Cars

We take Infogrames' upcoming PS2 racer for a spin.

Infogrames and developer Ratbag stopped by with a build of World of Outlaws - Sprint Cars, their upcoming PS2 racer. Based on the World of Outlaws sprint-car racing circuit, the game features 12 tracks and 24 drivers from the Sprint Car Racing Association. While still a bit early, the game looks solid and appears to offer a quite a bit for racing fans to sink their teeth into.

The calm before the storm.

You'll find two gameplay modes, arcade and career. Arcade mode offers three submodes: championship, single race, and time trial. Championship offers 24 different events for you to compete in. As a bonus, you'll actually be able to play through it with a friend in two-player split-screen mode. Single race is just what it sounds like--a quick race through any available track. Time trial is equally self-explanatory, challenging you to get the best time on any available track. While arcade mode and its variations are engaging, the real meat of the game can be found in career mode. Starting you out with a basic car and a few bucks in the bank, career mode will challenge you to rise to the top of heap by honing your racing and car-tuning skills. You'll have to make the most of what you're given until you're able to earn enough cash by winning races to improve your car or buy a new one. You'll also be able to earn extra cash once you start to perform, as corporate sponsors will begin offering you deals and buckets of precious cash. An "office" in the game allows you to track your performance, choose your sponsors, pick your next race location, and marvel at all the trophies you've earned--or stare at an empty case if you suck. There's also a hall of fame option that tracks your high scores in the game.

Ouch.

Graphically, the game benefits from the two-and-a-half years Ratbag has devoted to the game's engine. Featuring crisp, detailed graphics and a frame rate that remains high even when you have 11 opponents crowding you onscreen, the game is looking good. The detailed car models are deformable, featuring breakaway parts, and they absorb damage during the races. The track detail is subtle, as Ratbag has designed the tracks so they'll progress through six surface types to reflect the changes in condition brought on by racing on it for a long period of time. In a nice touch, when dirt is kicked up on the track and partially obscures your vision, you'll be able to perform a "tear-off" to restore your view.

The game's control can be as user-friendly as you like thanks to the three levels of selectable difficulty: forgiving, standard, and outlaw. In addition to affecting the AI, the difficulty setting also determines how much assistance the game will provide you with in terms of braking and handling. So far, the game is looking promising--it's fast and fun and it looks good. Look for an in-depth preview soon. World of Outlaws - Sprint Cars is expected to ship in March 2002 for the PlayStation 2.

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