In the early days of electronic entertainment, going way back to the reign of the Atari 2600, game designers would often build games around new technology - they would simply figure out a new little trick the machine could perform and design a game to utilize it. For example, the 2600 classic Yar's Revenge was reportedly designed after the discovery that the 2600 would allow color cycling. The modern adaptation of this "new trick = new game" formula came shortly after the advent of the CD-ROM, when numerous sub-par games flooded store shelves, hyping their CD-ROM status and hoping to catch hardware pioneers unawares.
Ubi Soft's POD seems to have been the brainchild of the same mentality: Take a brand-new technology (this time MMX), and throw a simple game around it. The game in this case is a simple arcade racing game - and despite a few design problems, it's pretty fun, as far as simple arcade racing games go.
Visually, POD is often incredible. The frame rate with an MMX processor (which is recommended, though the game will run on a Pentium-120) is great, and with a 3Dfx compatible card, it's even better. The only noticeable hitch is some slight horizon warping when turning too quickly. But there are some visual inconsistencies that run throughout - resulting in some confusing tracks. Each track was seemingly designed with a limited color palette, leading to some serious inconsistencies in quality. Some will make your jaw drop with their beauty (such as the deep blue sky and ominous gray briars found in Hq), while others are truly difficult to look at (such as the puce-magenta swirled track of Nuke). A more serious problem associated with this inconsistency is that maneuvering the tracks can be a perplexing ordeal. You'll barrel around a turn and everything onscreen will blend together, making it hard to discern exactly where the track is going.
The tracks themselves are inventive - filled with innovative little twists that keep the action interesting. Some have you switching back along the same stretch of road, constantly avoiding head-on collisions with your opponents. Others send you over jump after jump and turn after turn like an out-of-control roller coaster. And, to their credit, the designers never seem to get too content with one style; each track throws some new environmental challenge your way.
The control is extremely different between exterior and interior views - the latter is excellent, the former is laughable. And during a championship, you can only save after every fourth race (though you're never told this, so it appears as if there's just this big, useless "Save Game" button taunting you after every race, and the lack of any documentation only makes things more confusing). POD is pretty fun once you learn to cope with its quirks, and it's a great value, with new tracks and cars being uploaded to Ubi Soft's web site on a regular basis. It's simple to an extreme, but there's at least one amazing moment in each track that will keep your engine revving to the next.