Chances are, everyone's wanted a remote control car at some point in his life. But it's also just as likely that you've had the chance to take one out for a test drive, found how quickly the little machine gets stuck under a desk or behind a doorway, and then, the glamour having faded, moved past the need to own one. That said, Acclaim has created a video-game version of R/C car racing that reenacts reality all too well.
The cars in Re-Volt vary in three main areas: acceleration, top speed, and weight. (Front, rear, and 4-wheel drive are also options.) Weight is the most important because the lighter the car, the more likely it'll flip over or spin around. So the heavier the car, the more in control you are. The physics are ruthless even on the basic setting; on simulation, they're hell. On arcade? They're reasonable, but still tough.
The gamut of power-ups gives the game a Mario Kart-like quality, where you'll constantly be diving for a new weapon with which to blast the leading cars. A respectable variety of items is available, from oil slicks to homing bottle rockets to electro pulses that cut your opponent's power and an item that turns your car into a bomb (yes, your antennae becomes a fuse), a fate you can only defer by smacking into another car.
Beyond the expected tournament modes, there's also a stunt arena, a track editor, multiplayer races, and a multiplayer battle-tag mode (essentially tag). The multiplayer race keeps a fast frame rate, the perspective provides a good view of your surroundings, and you have computer-controlled racers as competition, but the battle tag is silly, the stunt area is pretty worthless, and the track editor is as basic and clunky as that of Jeremy McGrath Supercross '99 for the PlayStation.
The poor performance of most of the extras doesn't detract much from the game. The basic game elements do that just fine. There are just too many things to vex you in Re-Volt, from a basic corner turn that forces you to spin out completely to a leap off a curb that causes you to flip over. From sustaining constant enemy fire to getting stuck on a wall at the absolutely worst time. Instances where you'll get knocked back from first place to last place with the finish line in site are common. Cases where you simply lose valuable seconds are even more common. This is a game that will at times tempt you to destroy both controller and TV. There are simply too many things that can go wrong and do go wrong, either in order or concurrently. Think back to the original Wipeout, where you were slowed to a crawl whenever you touched the wall. Magnify that by ten, and you have an idea of what Re-Volt is like. It's a shame, because all the elements are in place for a great racing game, but they end up ganging up on you instead of setting up the sort of intriguing challenge you'd expect.
Re-Volt on the Dreamcast is clearly the best version of the three home editions. The soundtrack is very solid, with an array of clubby techno tunes; the graphics are as sharp as they were on the PC; and the control even feels a little better than on the PlayStation and Nintendo 64. That said, it still remains an evilly unforgiving game.