Ultim@te Race Pro Preview

If you are an action racing fan, Ultim@te Race Pro may turn out to be the game that warrants a system upgrade

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Like most gamers, the folks at Kalisto Entertainment enjoy challenging their friends to a little competitive gameplay. This is how it all began for Ultim@te Race Pro, Kalisto's upcoming foray into the racing genre. As Dan Kaufman, head of business operations at Kalisto and self-proclaimed scrub racer described it, "There's an arcade down the street from our offices in Bordeaux, France, and the design team would go down there to play Daytona against each other a lot. We always wanted to do the long race in the arcade, but it was too expensive. So we decided to make a game where you could race head-to-head for as long as you wanted without having to keep pumping quarters into a machine."

Developed by Kalisto Entertainment and distributed under the MicroProse moniker, Ultim@te Race Pro will let you sprint around four different tracks in one of 16 engine-stoked street racers. The four courses that will be included in the final version detail scenery from three distinct regions of the United States (the West Coast, the Midwest, and the Southwest) and one in Europe (Dordogne, France). The different landscapes are incredibly detailed and beautiful, and they smoothly materialize out of the fog as you scream around corners and down straightaways. Although four tracks may seem limited as compared with other racing games, Kalisto has included options for customizing each track so you can reverse the race direction, race on a mirror image of each track, or alter the time of day and weather conditions, essentially giving race fans 16 track configurations. "We thought it would be more exciting if it got dark, storms rolled in, and the weather changed... just like in real life," Dan explained. The courses themselves are not simple oval tracks as in Nascar or IndyCar Racing, but rather picturesque paths that wind through canyons, over bridges, and by ancient stone castles. "We thought people were tired of realistic sims," Dan contended. "With Ultim@te Race Pro, we were looking to make an action-oriented racing game that looked as good as arcade racers." Believe me, Kalisto has achieved this and more. The amount of terrain detail in Ultim@te Race Pro is truly incredible, and the settings are visually spectacular and extremely realistic looking.

As the name suggests, Ultim@te Race Pro will be aimed at the multiplayer racing market. Dan says that Kalisto "built Ultim@te Race Pro as a multiplayer game from day one instead of adding multiplayer options after the game engine had been built. It's really difficult to create a game and then add multiplayer options later, so we designed this as a multiplayer game from the beginning." Even in its pre-beta form, Ultim@te Race Pro is loaded with multiplayer options and, in the final version, up to 16 players will be able to participate in a road duel via LAN, modem, serial connection, or the Internet. Perhaps the coolest feature of Ultim@te Race Pro will be the multiplayer destruction derby arena, the first of its kind, which promises to provide Internet racers with a little auto devastation without increasing their insurance premiums. Dan put it best when he said, "We had a bunch of gamers come in and tell us that racing games were really fun, but we want to smash some crap in the process." Although the multiplayer options are going to be the focus of Ultim@te Race Pro, Kalisto promises to entertain even if you are a solo racer, allowing you to either race against the clock or against a slew of computer opponents.

Unlike many of the PC racing games on the market, Ultim@te Race Pro will stress action, entertainment, and beauty rather than realistic simulation. The graphics in Ultim@te Race Pro rival such arcade racers as Virtua Racing, Super GT, and Daytona USA. Those of you with a 3D accelerator card should prepare to be dazzled as Ultim@te Race Pro promises to support 3Dfx, Power VR, and Direct 3D. The design team at Kalisto boosted the visual realism by adding special graphical effects such as smoke, fog, sparks, realistic shading, lens flare, and awesome shadow details. The 3D-rendered landscapes are breathtaking and Kalisto is able to achieve very high frame rates even in the pre-beta copy. The final version of Ultim@te Race Pro promises to support up to 1024x768 resolution and 16-bit color display. For those of you who still haven't invested in a 3D accelerator card (and may I ask why not?), don't fret. Ultim@te Race Pro will also be playable without a 3D accelerator at the expense of frame rate and detail level.

Of course, all this graphical power will require a solid system to run properly. The minimum system requirements of a P133 with 16MB of RAM are quite hefty, and MicroProse even recommends a 32MB P166 with a fast 3D graphics accelerator card to achieve optimal performance. However, if you are an action racing fan, Ultim@te Race Pro may turn out to be the game that warrants a system upgrade. Expect to see Ultim@te Race Pro on the shelves worldwide by late February.

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