Little Big Racing
Believe it or not, racing these scale models is actually a real sport, and Big Scale sets out to recreate that on the PC. Many of the courses included in the game are based on real world circuits or designed by model race club experts, and the resulting races can end up looking like a shrunken TOCA event, with eight brightly coloured cars going wheel to wheel around twisty tracks, hopping over the kerbs and spinning off into the grass.
Like any good motor racing game, Big Scale features a range of modes and options to keep you occupied, from quick races and training sessions in which you race against a ghost car to the traditional championship mode. Actually, this is something of a misnomer - the game includes no less than eleven championships for you to work your way through, with a top three finish in one opening your way to the next.
As you rise through the ranks of radio control enthusiasts you'll get your hands on ever lighter and more powerful vehicles, starting out with relatively sluggish Standard Class cars and gradually working yourself up to the amusingly named Hopped Class. These really come into their own in the Open Championship, where drivers are free to race with any car they choose.
Our demonstrator helpfully started us out in the lowest levels of the game to lull us into a false sense of security, before notching us up to the top class for our second race. The result was predictably embarrassing, with our car slithering all over the course, missing corners and spinning off at the slightest encouragement. The difference between classes is very noticeable, with speed, acceleration and handling all changing radically as you move between tiers of car.
You'll also have to watch out for rival "drivers", as Big Scale Racing features some 240 AI characters, each with their own unique attributes and aggression levels. Quite how marked these differences will be in practice was hard to judge from such a short time with the game, but the competition was certainly fairly fierce, and some cars weren't above nudging their way past us given the opportunity.
On the graphics front, cars and circuits alike are nicely detailed, with plenty of track-side clutter and advertising. The game also sports a variety of attractive weather and lighting conditions to add some spice to your races, forcing you to deal with slippery rain-sodden tracks and less than ideal lighting. The only real disappointment is the group of spectators found on some tracks, which looks like a line of flat cardboard cut-outs and seems pretty goofy propped up next to such a lovely looking piece of tarmac.
Big Scale Racing might be a fairly serious simulation of RC racing, but it's also a lot of fun and perfectly playable even on a keyboard. The variety of cars and championships should keep you busy for some time, and we can imagine the eight player LAN support proving a hit as well. Best of all, the game should only cost around Ł20 when it arrives in the UK at the end of September. At that price you'd be daft not to give it a try.