HoveRace

Preview - another futuristic motor racing game takes to the track

Fans of the futuristic racing genre have been deluged with games over the last year, taking in everything from the hypersonic tubes of Ballistics on the PC and the twisting tracks of Wipeout Fusion on the PS2 to the cross-platform cityscapes of New York Race. But although the flood has only just begun to subside, another game has popped up on the horizon - HoveRace.

We Are The Champions

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Hey good looking

As the title suggests, HoveRace features an array of hover vehicles for you to pilot around a high speed circuit at a couple of hundred miles an hour. Choices range from fast moving bikes and scout ships to heavier police and military craft with more scope for adding extra armour and weapons. As you might expect, most of these are initially unavailable to players, and must be unlocked via the ubiquitous Championship mode. This carries you through four multi-race tournaments, with another tier of new vehicles, equipment and tracks opened up to you once you've achieved a top three finish in the competition. Prize money from the races can also be used to replace or upgrade your vehicle. Several optional extras are available at each tech level, ranging from enhanced engines and shield generators to a turbo boost accelerator which gives you a short burst of speed. This being a no-holds-barred futuristic racing championship, HoveRace also allows you to pack your vehicle with weapons such as lasers, machineguns, rockets, cannons and homing missiles. And if you need something to even up the odds a little, power-ups can be found strewn across the track, allowing you to cloak yourself to avoid attack, increase the damage your own weapons cause, boost your speed, or gain temporary invulnerability. In the demo we played the combat was a little over-the-top, with your ship often exploding without warning three or four times a lap, but hopefully the final release version will be better balanced.

From Russia With Love

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Combat still needs a little work

All of this action takes place on a selection of eighteen maps split across four settings, including everything from lush wooded hills to barren ice valleys and industrial wastelands. The settings are quietly impressive and well animated, with moving machinery by the track side and monorail trains passing overhead. The scenery isn't just there to look pretty either. Unlike most sci-fi racers, HoveRace allows you to go for a little cross-country excursion. Your ship will slow down a bit once you get off the track and you might miss a checkpoint if you're not careful, but you can often find shortcuts which you can use to get ahead of the competition. Some of the track-side clutter is also destructible, and thanks to some clever scripting you can sometimes use this to your advantage. For example, if you knock out one of the supports of a bridge over the track, with a bit of luck it will crash down on the drivers in front of you. Once you've unlocked these tracks in the Championship you can race on them in the game's other single player modes as well. In addition to the typical quick race options, driving freely or against the clock, there are a couple of more unusual choices available. Last Man Standing eliminates the last place car at the end of each lap, giving you a little extra incentive to stay at the sharp end of the field, while Energy Cell places a generator on the track which the drivers must fight over. Bonus points are then awarded for carrying the generator through the track's checkpoints and intercepting it by nudging your vehicle into the current holder. HoveRace might not be particularly groundbreaking, but with a little more work on the combat system it could prove to be one of the better examples of the genre on the PC. Developed by GSC Game World, the Ukrainian company behind Cossacks and Codename Outbreak, HoveRace should be hitting a shelf near you later this summer courtesy of Russian publisher Russobit-M.

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