Automobili Lamborghini strips racing down to its most essential element: speed. No adjustable downforce or oversteering, no crazy tracks, no famous real-life drivers, no wild collisions. Just beautiful, exhilarating speed, as well as some of the most solid polygonal cars in console racing. Were it not for a few frustrating flaws, this would be the definitive arcade racer for the N64.
At first glance, this could be the N64's best-looking racer. The cars are exceptionally solid. The roads and scenery are beautifully rendered and blur by so fast. It's quite an assault to your equilibrium. The illusion of g-forces is undeniable, as is the sensation of just soaring over the track. Unfortunately, there is a fair amount of slowdown when multiple cars are onscreen. This is almost forgivable, given the otherwise impeccable graphics, but this is a racing game, after all, and slowing down is the last thing you want to do.
Control is tight and a cinch to learn. A "semi-analog" control option makes it even easier, as the default setting is almost too responsive. Optional turn-advisory arrows - red, yellow, or green depending on the sharpness of the approaching curve - make things easier still. Though this isn't the most realistic racing game out there, the physics model is certainly adequate. The feel is definitely there. Collision detection is tight, but the game is quite forgiving. Most collisions only result in loss of velocity - there are no flips, double-gainers, or straight-up exploding cars.
In fact, the only wear and tear you'll suffer in the game is tire damage and fuel loss. No chassis damage, lost tires, or other immediate catastrophes. Just a gradual loss of responsiveness in the steering. When this gets bad enough, or when fuel gets low, you are prompted to make pit stops. These are essentially little (10- to 20-second) subgames where you move the analog stick around as fast as you can to try to get out of the pits with minimal time loss. A novel idea but also very distracting from the immediate task at hand.
Of the four modes of play, single race mode (you guessed it: one race) and time trial mode (just you and the track, as many times as you want, with prompts of your personal best, last lap time, etc.) are the most straightforward. Championship mode is essentially an entire racing season, with separate customization options - including turning off pit stops and damage - for each individual race. Arcade mode uses the standard race-against-the-clock scenario: 45 seconds to go, with checkpoints that extend your time - make it to the next checkpoint or the end of the race before your time runs out, and you win and go on to the next race. Arcade mode also offers the dubious possibility of being in first place with one lap to go and losing because you ran out of time. It just doesn't make sense. Does that mean that all six drivers lost the race? This isn't the only game that allows for that bonehead possibility, but it's annoying nonetheless.
Automobili Lamborghini is not without a few special features. There are secret, faster cars to unlock. The split-screen multiplayer mode allows for multiple human and AI players in the same race. There are no secret tracks, but you can unlock the option of racing each of the tracks in the reverse direction. Again, this is racing at its most simple. The game is by no means perfect. It's so straightforward and easy that some people may get sick of it in a hurry. However, with the exception of slowdown problems, the graphics and control make for one of the most thrilling rides on any console system.