Hands-on: Vanishing Point

We deliver impressions along with some new screens of Acclaim's new racing title for the PlayStation and Dreamcast.

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Acclaim has partnered with former Lemmings 3D and Rush Hour coders Clockwork Games to bring you a promising new road-racing game called Vanishing Point. First announced at the ECTS '99 in London late last year, Vanishing Point has been in the works for the last 18 months, and all development (with only eight people) on the title was self-funded until Acclaim decided to license this unique title. Vanishing Point is unique because the game engine was designed to extend out to the "vanishing point" on the horizon with absolutely no polygon pop-up.

Although the game is only in an early alpha development stage, it already runs fast, with great-looking car models that feature realistic specular highlighting. There is a selection of cars that, while not as extensive as the selection in Gran Turismo, features a wide array of manufacturers ranging from TVR, Aston-Martin, and BMW, to Dodge Viper and Shelby Cobra, and there are even oil tankers and European minicoupes. Heck, you can even drive a flatbed truck if you want. It's this strange array of vehicles that will keep more than just racing fiends occupied.

The game features a complex physics engine that took three physics experts more than a year to develop, and Clockwork hopes that its racing game offers the most realistic racing action yet. Clockwork Games director Neil Casini says, "We feel that Sega's racers traditionally offer the best racing games bar none. I still play the original Sega Rally for the Saturn quite a bit and we're hoping to model our game after games like Scud Racer (Scud Racer was Super GT in the US) and Daytona. Those games offered great control and were never bettered by the likes of Ridge Racer or Gran Turismo. If we can do an approximation of a Sega racer on the PlayStation, then we'll have achieved our goal."

Casini says that Acclaim has not only picked up the distribution rights to the PlayStation version, but that his team has already gotten a Dreamcast version running at 60 frames per second. According to Casini, the current version his company has running is a PlayStation port for demo purposes only, but when full development starts on the Dreamcast version, that game will feature a brand-new engine built from the ground up. "We're going straight to the hardware and bypassing Window's altogether," Neal says. "It's the only way to program for the Dreamcast. It's an awesome machine and it's nice to finally have some power to work with when designing games."

As it stands, the PlayStation version is currently 50 percent complete with basic track structures and vehicles implemented, although final licensing details and performance data have yet to make it to the developers' hands. When the final car roster is complete, Clockwork will add physics to the already impressive car models and will fine-tune the stunt track, which functions like Gran Turismo's garage mode. You're able to tune your cars for maximum performance, and Clockwork hopes to create a racer that, no matter what your skill level, will always give you someone to race against.

On a side note, the opening CG sequence is one of the most impressive FMVs we've ever seen. If you thought the opening movie to Ridge Racer Type 4 was incredible, Vanishing Point's is even better. The most amazing part is that it was done entirely by one man, much like Silent Hill's FMV was a one-man creation. Hopefully, Vanishing Point's gameplay will emulate the white-knuckle nature of the intro. Acclaim hopes to release a great PlayStation racer that isn't built by Sony, EA, or Namco. We'll have a full preview coming soon, but for now, take a look at the cars in action.

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