Xtreme Air Racing is an innovative and exciting cross-genre game that should keep computer-game pilots and racers busy for a good long while.
Typically, games that use the once-trendy term "extreme" (or its misspelled variant "xtreme") in their titles are memorable only for their distressingly poor quality. But Xtreme Air Racing is the polar opposite of practically every extreme game that came before it. A tribute to the winged hot rods and daredevil pilots that compete every year in Nevada's Reno Air Races, Xtreme Air Racing is one of the most innovative and entertaining flight simulations to take flight since the turn of the new millennium.
Unlike traditional flight sims, which for the most part deal with the complexities of a quasi-realistic physics model, instrument panel, radio communications setup, and take-off and landing routines, Xtreme Air Racing adds a compelling element of danger: high-speed wing-to-wing competition. In this way, the game feels like an airborne adaptation of Papyrus' NASCAR Racing. And this enjoyable game should prove equally appealing to hard-core simulation aficionados, reflex-crazed air combat fans, and yes, even automobile race junkies.
Certainly those who enjoy the nuts and bolts of real aircraft should not take Xtreme Air Racing as lightly as its name might suggest. For starters, the game features virtual representations of many of the most important real-life aircraft and personalities that actually compete every September at Reno. Veteran pilot Skip Holm flies his restored 1944 P51D Mustang, "Dago Red," which is the very same plane that has dominated the unlimited class for the last half-decade. Tom Dwell flies the recently revamped 1953 Hawker Sea Fury "Critical Mass," and Lyle Shelton pilots the multiple championship winner, the 1946 Grumman F8F Bearcat "Rare Bear." Developer Victory Simulations has constructed numerous fictional airplanes to fill out the roster and has even resurrected the F4U Super Corsair of Fighter Rebuilders, which was destroyed at Phoenix in 1994.
Not only can you fly all these vintage, tricked-out aircraft, but you can modify them too. Indeed, if you expect to progress beyond the introductory levels, you must learn how to effectively make some adjustments. The Xtreme Air Racing hangar (essentially a racing-game garage), is a complicated place that lets you exchange a Rolls Royce engine for a Pratt & Whitney R-2800-32W, increase and decrease your propeller diameter or reduction gearing, vary your wing dimensions, and decide on an appropriate fuel and radiator coolant load. You may even want to augment your nitrous oxide supply for that extra boost during longer races.
What you do is entirely up to you, but rest assured that each tweak really does make a difference. Of course, the only way you'll know if you've assembled a faster, more agile, and more capable machine is to take it for a test spin. The game really excels when you're in the air, where you'll find yourself coming to grips with its impressively deep flight model amid real-world conditions such as wake turbulence (produced by your competitors) and visual G-force effects such as redouts and blackouts.
In fact, simply keeping your craft off the ground, within the ceiling restrictions, and tight to the pylons that define the course is a continuing challenge that's sure to keep you fixed on the screen at all times. Victory Simulations has fashioned a machine that echoes most every trait found in the real world, thereby rewarding careful planning and a deft, subtle touch. If you do happen to venture too wide on a given turn, you certainly can't yank and crank your aircraft back into proper position without also experiencing numerous realistic and oftentimes violent reactions. In short, you will most often feel as if you're flying a real airplane.
And then there are your fellow racers, who zip around the courses like a flock of angry bees, bobbing and weaving into better position while doing their best to avoid smacking each other--or you. Although the game's AI crash-avoidance system is extremely good, the possibility of unexpected and unwanted collisions does exist. And if your faulty driving skills don't get you, your own neglect or forgetfulness might. Your engine temperature may rise, in which case you must trigger your spraybar to cool the radiator. You may find yourself lagging behind and therefore compelled to hit the nitrous--but not so much as to overheat again. In Xtreme Air Racing, when you're not busy doing something, you're busy pondering your next move.