E3 2001 Hands-onLe Mans 24 Hours

Infogrames has the PS2 version of Le Mans at E3, and it's not just a direct port of the Dreamcast version.

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Infogrames has been hard at work on the PlayStation 2 version of Le Mans 24 Hours. Seeing it in motion and playing it here at E3, it's apparent that the game isn't simply a direct port of the Dreamcast version. In fact, in every way possible, the game has been improved and refined. We already have plenty of preview information on the game, which is due out in late June, so here are some hands-on impressions.

Right out of the gate, it's clear that Infogrames Melbourne House has approached the PS2 version of Le Mans with graphical evolution in mind. The brief fly-in from the Dreamcast version is lengthier in the PS2 port and shows off a plethora of added lighting features, such as overlapping course lamp beams, criss-crossing shadows, and loads of windshield glare.

Moments after the fly-in, the race begins, and the familiar feeling of the Dreamcast original comes washing back. When taking the first turn, however, two more improvements became apparent. First, the shadows and reflections on all the cars are dynamic and take into account the entire surrounding environment--not just clouds and the roadside. Second, the handling in this version of Le Mans is a little more user-friendly than that of the Dreamcast release. The game still stresses controlled braking and pinpoint speed control, but spinouts aren't as easy to induce during the course of normal driving. If you hated going into a 360-degree spin at 45mph on the Dreamcast, you'll be glad to know that it's impossible in the PS2 version.

For the most part, the word "more" exactly sums up this version of Le Mans. More cars, more tracks, more detail, and way more polygons are the order of the day. From the gleam of the morning sun off a fender to the fully legible sponsor logos dotting the courses, Le Mans 24 Hours for the PlayStation 2 is gorgeous. Thanks to a few gameplay tweaks, it's also more fun to play.

For those concerned about the changes that have been made to the game's handling, fret not--they're not terribly major. Furthermore, there's a comprehensive list of car modifications that can be performed, and the pit crew can be adjusted for all sorts of in-game maintenance goals. In truth, the game is nowhere near as complex or polished as Sony's Gran Turismo 3. It is, however, already looking like a close second.

We'll have more on this game when it's released in a couple of months. So far, though, the news is good for Le Mans fans.

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