A surprising release in Japan shortly after the Dreamcast launch (considering C.A.R.T. racing is much more popular in America), Sega's CART Flag to Flag attempts to deliver the hands-on thrills of the sport in 128-bit power. While it's a quality effort, some glaring shortcomings and an overall lack of "oomph" relegate this game to "could've been better" status. Let us dissect.Developed by Zoom - those wacky guys responsible for the Zero Divide series and the obscure import fighter Rurouni Kenshin - Flag to Flag is more of a filler title for the Dreamcast's American launch than anything else. This becomes even more obvious with games like Scud Racer and Daytona 2 brewing on the horizon. As far as value is concerned, Flag to Flag certainly fulfills its responsibilities by providing 19 tracks to race on (Gold Coast, Laguna Seca, Rio De Janeiro, Gateway International, etc.), all the professional teams you could want to play as (Al Unser Jr.'s team, Bobby Rahal's, and so on), and arcade and championship modes. Arcade mode obviously brings a simple "slam the gas and pass" mentality to the game, while championship mode offers a more in-depth approach to C.A.R.T. racing. In championship mode, you can use a practice round to familiarize yourself with the upcoming track, tweak your car settings, participate in a qualifying session, and finally enter the race itself. Car settings let you manipulate things like tire compounds, aerodynamics, fuel, suspension, gear ratio, and the transmission. Other options include weather settings, race length, car damage, corner signs, and full-course caution signs. Otherwise, everything here is basically straightforward. This is, after all, a racing game.CART Flag to Flag's visuals are of consistently high quality, with two attractive "in-cockpit" perspectives to really give you the feeling of having your butt eight inches over the tarmac. In fact, one of those views even causes the "driver" to wipe the dirt from his visor on occasion. Track elements like dirt or sand will appear on your tires should you hit a shoulder or trackside, and the side-mounted rearview mirrors offer realistic reflections of the racers behind you. Unfortunately, of the 19 available tracks, none seems particularly different from each other, and everything seems to have a hazy, overcast feel to it. Some dramatic light sourcing could have helped matters, but everything seems a bit pale in general. The game runs at a smooth 30fps, which isn't bad considering the far line of sight you get with little draw-in and the large number of racers on track. The sounds seem to have been recorded from actual vehicles to enhance authenticity. Each car gives off a different rumble, and they all have a different feel when you are driving them. The game is also compatible with Sega's racing wheel accessory, so armchair racers can really get into it. The problem, however, is the intrinsic nature of CART racing itself, which is mainly to drive around a large oval. Sure, tracks like Laguna Seca and Cleveland offer nasty corners and twists, but more often than not, it's big ovals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Set the game to a high number of laps and you may dive off the track in your sleep. If it weren't for the convincing sense of speed and the great in-cockpit view, this game might just be one of the blandest racing "experiences" of the generation. The Dreamcast equivalent of Sega's F1 Challenge for the Saturn, Flag to Flag fulfills all its obligations, yet never really goes beyond them. Aimed mainly at the C.A.R.T. fan, other Dreamcast owners waiting for a great racer would be better advised to look into Sega Rally 2.
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CART Flag to Flag
First Released Sep 8, 1999
Aimed mainly at the C.A.R.T. fan, other Dreamcast owners waiting for a great racer would be better advised to look into Sega Rally 2.
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