Knight Rider might not seem like the most obvious licensed property to base a game on. When you get right down to it, the original 1980s television show was about a talking, crime-fighting car that could do tricks. The car in question was KITT (the Knight Industries Two Thousand), and it could get up on two wheels, jump over things, and perform other ridiculous feats that were usually specific to the plot of any given episode. And developer Davilex has tried to implement these car tricks in Knight Rider for the PC, making for a strange game that's almost like a cross between a traditional racer and a platform-jumping action game.
Knight Rider has two types of missions: those that require you to race, and those that require you to explore. In this respect, it is similar to SCi's violent car-combat game Carmageddon 3. It is also similar to Carmageddon 3 in that the racing sections are fun, but the exploration sections are tedious. Unfortunately, you often have to do both in any given mission. Knight Rider isn't a bad game--it's just too short and too repetitive. Most missions will require you to chase a helicopter or another car, drive around a compound and scan buildings, or both. The game is full of time limits, requiring you to "Stop that helicopter!" or "Get to the transmission station!" in some short period of time. It's usually not very difficult--in fact, for some reason, the time limits are really only a factor in the training missions. The "hard" difficulty setting makes things a little more challenging, but on the easy or normal settings, you can finish all the game's missions in one or two tries.
Often, the only challenge in the game comes from figuring out exactly where you're supposed to go. This is because Knight Rider, especially in the latter half of the game, expects you to use strange routes to access its many areas. You'll occasionally need to jump over some crates, enter "ski-mode" (the official name for KITT's ability to drive on two wheels) to drive across a beam, and then jump from roof to roof just to access a target area. It's ridiculous, because KITT's "turbo boost" (the official name for jumping) allows it to jump high in the air from a dead stop, as if the top-secret car were equipped with the latest in cutting-edge lowrider technology. In these cases, KITT seems less like an automobile and more like a certain famous Italian plumber.
The game's racing sections are better, as the roads you'll drive along are set up like stunt tracks. You'll need to jump dozens of broken bridges and obstacles while simultaneously avoiding land mines and civilian vehicles. Strangely, the roads in Knight Rider are strewn with land mines, and in many of the racing missions, buildings and mountains will just explode for no apparent reason. One mission requires you to follow a helicopter through a desert valley, and huge boulders and mesas will tumble and crumble around you, though nothing is causing them to do so.
Perhaps the worst thing about Knight Rider is the fact that, for such a simple game, it is fairly difficult to get started. KITT handles decently enough, but actually learning to control it is more difficult, as the tutorial doesn't actually tell you how to activate any of the car's features, and the manual doesn't list every control option (and some of the options listed in the manual are incorrect). Even stranger is the inclusion of KITT's night-vision mode, which you won't actually need to use during the course of the game.
Fans of the show will appreciate that you play as Michael Knight, and that the major supporting staff makes appearances. The original actors don't provide the voices, but the replacements are competent. There aren't always voices--the cutscenes have voice-overs, but the mission briefings are just pictures of the characters with text dialogue. The game uses music from the series, including the Giorgio Moroder damaged-electro-disco theme song. It's hard not to succumb to a bout of nostalgia as the music kicks in and you see the opening scene, with KITT flying across the desert. And anyone who remembers the show will be glad to know that the game follows the only storyline they're likely to remember, featuring Michael's evil twin Garth and his semi truck of death and destruction, Goliath.
When you first start playing the game, you might think that you've somehow booted it up on a Sony PlayStation. The default graphics settings ensure that everything looks jagged and blurry. At higher resolutions and with all the detail settings at their highest, the game looks considerably better, and KITT's wax job reflects everything in sight. Unfortunately, setting the game to a higher resolution doesn't affect the prerendered cutscenes, which look awful no matter what graphics settings you choose.
But Knight Rider isn't all bad--the game's missions can be enjoyable, even if they're repetitive. However, not only are the mission goals fairly similar from mission to mission, but the game's locations are also recycled over and over again. To top it off, Knight Rider is extremely short and shouldn't take you more than four or five hours to complete. Fans of the TV series will likely get a kick out of the game for purely nostalgic reasons, and the game's combination of racing and jumping puzzles might be an interesting novelty for fans of arcade racing games. But underneath KITT's shiny chassis is a fairly humdrum racing game that sails by in no time flat.