Drivers Wanted

Activision stopped by and showed its latest rev of a game it hopes will be the "perfect driving game" for the PlayStation.

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The title is Grand Tour Racing '98 (or Total Drivin', if you reside outside the United States) and, to begin with, it features dynamics drawn from the world of physics allowing real-life response to braking and turns (including sparks shooting off the tires, a brand-new feature unveiled at E3).

The game has no pop-up but does have round wheels, which makes the experience that much more realistic; and whether in single- or double-player mode (split-screen, linked split-screen, head-to-head, or time attack), players will compete against seven opponents, each from a different international team.

Unlike an endless, oval track - which means players do laps instead of actually getting anywhere - the battlegrounds consist of Easter Island with a dirt road and live volcanoes, an Egyptian desert surrounded by ancient architecture and loads of dusty terrain, the streets of Moscow, the Scottish Highlands, Hong Kong, and even the Swiss Alps.

Regarding environments (back to that "no pop-up" comment), developers have "buried" these digital blitzes by incorporating turns and concealing the horizon as much as possible. The result is smooth scenery and challenging driving.

With 3-D environments and terrain as ambitious as mountain ranges and erupting volcanoes, you've got to have a vehicle that can support that challenge. And anyone who's been behind the wheel, either virtually or actually, knows that sports cars can't handle snow and dune buggies are no damn fun on the streets of Hong Kong. Keeping this in mind, developer Eutechnyx provides players with 40 different vehicles, each having manual and automatic transmission to choose from. And most importantly, players will have five classes of vehicle: Buggy (off-road), Rally, Indy, Dakar Rally, and Sports, so players actually get the most out of the selected course depending on which auto they choose. In fact, since the courses are each entirely rendered, off-roading and exploring is encouraged; after all, how else could you see water splashes when driving through puddles (yet another feature unveiled at E3)?

Experience, however, will get you nowhere because another feature of GTR '98 is the ever dreaded, often boasted about AI. For example, just when players think they've mastered the curves of Easter Island, the volcanoes throw another "curve" their way. And once they think they've figured out how to handle the Highlands, the bridges might send them to new lows. And still worse, they'll have rain, snow, sandstorms, and tornadoes to contend with. And having so much to look out for, they'll appreciate the different racing views (overhead, trailing from behind, and inside the car) when trying different maneuvers such as jumping over ravines and navigating mountainous roads.

One of the more promising looking racers among many, GTR '98 is expected for the PlayStation in September. In the meantime, check out the following screenshots and movie of the game.

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