Hands-onUltimate Ride

Hang on to your seat in this upcoming 3D coaster sim game.

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At E3, we visited with Disney Interactive to see its upcoming game Ultimate Ride in action. Ultimate Ride is a simulation game that lets players build their own virtual roller coasters. In many ways, it's similar to the extremely popular and best-selling RollerCoaster Tycoon and its expansions. But in Ultimate Ride, the goal and scope are different in that players don't construct an entire roller coaster amusement park to oversee. Also different is the graphical representation--in Ultimate Ride, players build and customize rides in real-time 3D, which greatly adds to the experience of taking roller coasters for a test drive.

Ultimate Ride offers three different types of gameplay modes. In mission mode, the game sets up a variety of challenges that players must solve. For example, players might have to construct a coaster that meets certain requirements such as four loops, a minimum G-force rating of three, and a ride rating of 10. As players complete each challenge successfully, their reputation as a roller coaster designer increases, and they'll eventually advance to the goal of creating the ultimate roller coaster and becoming a "rollergod." In free-form mode, players have the freedom to configure their roller coasters as they see fit, but while the game adheres to the laws of Newtonian physics, players can also build rides that no one could ride or construct in real life. Also while in free-form mode, players can customize the theme of their parks with different backgrounds, characters, and props. Some of the environments include mountains and outer space; themes include Jules Verne, dragon's realm, and space; and there are three types of coasters: steel, wooden, and hanging. Testing mode, which lets players ride their roller coasters from one of five perspectives, including first-person, gives specific clues about problem areas on tracks and how tracks can be readjusted to make the rides more realistic. Finally, once the roller coaster is finished, the game lets players e-mail it as a file to friends so they can experience it for themselves. The game will also let players post tracks on Ultimateridegame.com to compete with other players for "rollergod" status.

During the brief demonstration at the Disney Interactive booth, we got to see Ultimate Ride being tested by a few players. The game lets players set up coasters quite easily in free-form mode, and the testing mode was pretty interesting, as the game actually shows the train enter a loop and struggle to complete it against the pull of gravity. If gravity wins, the train falls back down, rolling backward then forward again repeatedly until its momentum eventually fades. The game also lets players change the camera's angle to actually pan 360 degrees around an amusement park while the coaster is making its way over hills and through loops. From this perspective, players can also admire all the colorful decorations of each unique theme, including large dragon-head statues that breathe fire. The animation is quite smooth, and the motion of fast-moving carts is very convincing. The game looked great on the large plasma displays we were looking at, but it should look just as colorful on computer monitors. Another good thing about Ultimate Ride is that it's intended for just about anyone over 9 years old, and as such, it's completely nonviolent and encourages experimentation. Ultimate Ride is scheduled for release this fall.

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