When Gamespot asked me if I wanted to review Big Red Racing, I laughed. "What is it,? I said, "a stock-car simulation/adventure where you have to finagle Wrigleys into sponsoring you?" Well, it's a racing game alright, but you've never seen races like these: dump trucks are pitted against bulldozers, snow plows against snowmobiles, hovercrafts against moon buggies - you get the idea. And the race locations are equally bizarre, ranging from streets, quarries, and rivers all over the globe to tracks on Venus, Mars, and the moon. With 16 vehicles and 24 tracks - plus multi-player support via split-screen and modem (two players) or network (for up to six players), Big Red Racing has a lot going for it.
But I gotta admit that the first time I took it for a spin, I couldn't find many nice things to say about it. Take the in-your-face commentary, which assaults you as soon as the game starts. I like crude, stupid humor as much as anybody, but this stuff - farts, belches, guffaws, and smart-ass remarks - was too retarded (and deliberate), even for me. And things didn't get much better once I picked a track and started a race: I found myself bouncing all over the place, just struggling to stay on the track for more time than I spent off it.
One thing I've learned reviewing games, though, is that ya gotta give 'em a second, third, fourth, or even fifth chance - after all, that's what somebody who bought the thing will do before they take the trouble to return it. So I went back to Big Red Racing, again and again and again - and about the fifth time around, the magic finally kicked in. Now I try a couple of races every day, made easier by the game's excellent performance in Windows 95. It's great to take a break from writing, fire up BRR, and run a few laps. And that commentary? I found out that you can turn it off if you don't like it.
Finding the best perspective for racing can be tricky: because the "in the driver's seat" view is almost worthless (you're bouncing around so much you can't see where you're going), you'll inevitably wind up using an external view. And I still find some of the vehicles (especially the helicopters) tough to control. The truth is, though, if you stick with it long enough, you'll find yourself winning some races - and feeling pretty damn good about it, too.
Once you get the hang of it, BRR's a real gas, especially in its multi-player mode. A racing sim it's not, but arcade fans should get a real kick out of it.