World of Outlaws: Sprint Cars PC impressions

Infogrames announces that its sprint car racing simulation has shipped to retail. New screens inside.


World of Outlaws: Sprint Cars

Infogrames announced today that the PC port of World of Outlaws: Sprint Cars has shipped to retail outlets. Originally released on the PlayStation 2, World of Outlaws is an officially licensed sprint car simulation featuring 12 real-world tracks and 24 real-life drivers. The PC version of World of Outlaws features online multiplayer racing, in addition to the single race, championship, and career modes found in the original PS2 game.

The game focuses on sprint car racing, which is easily recognizable by the giant wing on top of the cars. When you're racing in excess of 170mph on slippery dirt tracks, the large wing and oversized right rear tire help the sprint car keep its traction and prevent it from flipping over.

We received a retail build of World of Outlaws today and took it for a brief spin. We found that the game is a meticulous simulation of what it's like to be a sprint car driver on the World of Outlaws circuit. The career mode features numerous options, allowing you to buy cars with varying capabilities as far as handling, speed, and power. You'll be able to pick your own number and choose from more than 30 different paint-job designs to customize your sprint car. The money you earn from racing in various events allows you to buy upgrades for your car, including fuel injectors, shocks, engines, and weight reductions. You'll also need to spend money to make repairs to your car from any damage you sustain at the track. Racing isn't the only way to earn money--as you win you'll gain the attention of various companies who will offer sponsorship deals that pay you over time.

Not all the tracks are immediately available to you in the career mode. You'll first need to prove yourself in the local races before you can afford to travel farther away from home and join the World of Outlaws tour. Once in a while, a national event will happen to pass through your home area; the game allows new drivers the choice to compete in any race they can afford, but of course the competition will be a lot stiffer at nationally recognized World of Outlaws races than at the local events.

World of Outlaws features some very realistic physics. You'll need a good deal of concentration to keep the powerful sprint cars from spinning out on the dirt tracks, particularly if you try to take a turn too quickly. If you tailgate another driver too closely, dirt and mud get kicked up into the viewscreen, partially obscuring the action. This effect occurs even if you are not using the first-person or cockpit points of view. If an excessive amount of mud builds up on your screen, you can tear off one of the limited number of plastic sheets covering your simulated helmet.

The game features two levels of damage modeling, arcade and realistic, although you have to play with realistic damage in the career mode. Collide with other cars, hit walls, or flip over, and the car will sustain visible damage. The rear wing may get bent or folded out of shape, the engine might lose power, or the front spoiler could get knocked off. The effect isn't just cosmetic; the damage sustained has a noticeable effect on the car's handling. For example, with the front spoiler broken off, it becomes extremely difficult to maintain control in the corners and keep the front of the car from losing traction.

Advanced players will be able to adjust the positioning of the wing during the race for added control. You can also tune other aspects of your car before the race starts--shock stiffness, ride height, wing pitch, and more--in order to suit the specific characteristics of each track. The tracks included in the game are modeled closely to the layout and characteristics of their real-world counterparts. Positioning of grandstands, the angle of the banked turns, and even the presence of neighboring structures are all taken into account and re-created in the tracks of World of Outlaws. Fly off the track at the Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico, California, and you may end up parked next to a Costco warehouse store that borders the track.

The attention to detail given to the physics in World of Outlaws extends to its production values as well. You can watch optional replays of the race using a VCR-like interface with various third-person camera angles. The 24 included World of Outlaws drivers, all playable from arcade mode, each come with a brief video interview where they talk about their racing strategies, their philosophies, and how they got into sprint car racing. Also, the developers have included three fantasy tracks in addition to the 12 official tracks. These unlockable fantasy tracks include left and right turns (official World of Outlaws tracks are just ovals, always raced counterclockwise) and have more scenic settings.

With its numerous game modes, crisp graphics, and strong attention to detail, World of Outlaws: Sprint Cars is a game that should appeal to hard-core fans of sprint car racing or racing in general. We'll have a full review of the game soon.

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