There's been an explosion of racing games on the PC of late, many of them amounting to me-too copycat games based on Saturn and PlayStation titles. But this new racing sim from Interplay sets itself apart from the pack with tracks that hearken back to slot-car racing, featuring highly adept opponents, and competitive multi-player action. Even so, the PC has a long way to go in the way of high-speed polygon pushing.
Whiplash does its best to simulate the action of an arcade or next-generation video game system title, but the PC's hodge-podge of parts just can't come up with enough dedicated processing power to smoothly render a game this complex. In VGA mode, the game looks blocky but runs smoothly, but in SVGA even a 100Mhz machine starts leaving out frames when running through Windows 95. There are special startup files made specifically for Windows 95 users, but if you choose these options, your sound setup vanishes.
You have eight cars at your disposal, each rated for abilities including acceleration, top speed, braking, turning, traction, durability and weight. Each of the 16 tracks has a personality which is best suited to a particular car, but any of the car models can win a race on any track. Corkscrews, aerial maneuvers, and full-blown loops are just a sampling of the obstacles you'll encounter on these tracks. While these initially keep the racing interesting, they lose their "wow" value after the third lap or so.
My Virtual Pilot Pro flight yoke controller worked great for steering, but I was forced to use the wheel's buttons or the keyboard for acceleration and braking, rather than the wheel's sliding throttle controller. The game would have been more entertaining if Interplay/Gremlin fully supported the few steering wheels/flight yokes that are on the market. Driving via the keyboard does, after all, take most of the realism out of a car sim.
Whiplash's motion and physics are right on the money. Even when it's skipping frames or running in lower resolution, the game delivers the sensation of driving at high speeds. Excellent sound effects keep you aware of approaching cars and help you know when you're turning too suddenly.
What keeps this game going is the near-flawless racing techniques of the computer-controlled competitors. On the medium skill-level setting you'll rarely finish higher than 13th place. For added strategy, you can race in teams of two, and you can send messages to your computer-controlled or real-life partner such as "Take out other drivers."
Whiplash presents an action/racing game with plenty of choices, opting for fantastical tracks over realism. Smart AI and multi-player capabilities are enough to keep this game afloat for now, but with the proliferation of 3-D accelerator boards, this game will soon be overshadowed by faster-moving, higher-resolution racers.