R/C racing title reviewed
Graphically Re-Volt is very impressive. I played the PC version to death last year and the Dreamcast is a wonderfully complete conversion. The sense of scale is very precise and your surroundings feel as though they are the right shape and size. Unlike other titles of its ilk, the cars don't look out of place due to their size imbalance. You couldn't mistake them for real cars, they're definitely R/C. The radio aerial flaps in the wind and they zoom around with the remarkable acceleration found in real R/C engines. As the cars swish and swoosh through the various environments, they reflect perfectly on the buffed up wooden floor and project slight shadows on the way. The lighting is pre-rendered, and the graphics are hardly Soul Calibur, but Re-Volt is still one of the better looking Dreamcast titles.
Controlling Re-Volt is an uphill battle at first. The cars accelerate to full speed very quickly and make it hard to get ahold of. After a while you get used to the movement and steering, which is very tight. If you turn to the left slightly, it turns you on a sixpence very quickly. You have to get used to the eccentuated steering in order to play Re-Volt with any flare. It becomes very clear that the game's controls are deliberately so, in order to accurately simulate R/C racing. So you can forgive the learning curve, and besides, once you've overcome the initial confusion at the tight steering and acceleration, you're right at home. You can control your little cars with either the Analog or D-Pad. While the Analog gives more precise turning control, the D-Pad is just as good and you don't have a propensity to accidentally lurch in the wrong direction. The B button on the pad flicks between the three different views, X flips your car over should you find yourself upside down, and the Y button puts you back in the right direction should you find yourself off the course or unable to right yourself. All the cars have slightly different driving characteristics. Some are 4-Wheel-Drive, some front, some rear. They all handle with minute differences, so it pays to pick a single car and learn it first, then gradually move yourself onto the more advanced vehicles as you progress. Collisions stop your car dead, but the acceleration prevents it from becoming too much of a hassle. Jumps and landings are handled very well and the cars bounce and move with speed and physics that feel appropriate to R/C cars. That's another thing - the physics are dead on. If you jump off a ramp, you arch and fall in a realistic manner.
Tough to Beat
There are several elements of Re-Volt that make it hard to win at. Firstly the controls, as I've explained, but also the AI. The cars don't race a perfect race, which is often a problem in games of this sort, but beating them consistently is still no mean feat. You'll never pull away so far that you can't be caught up and overthrown easily. The game balances this out though, because even if you make plenty of mistakes, you can still win a race through clever use of the power ups that litter the track. Yes! Power-ups! The saving grace of so many a title. Re-Volt has more than its fair share of power-ups, and unlike Rollcage, these are more fairly balanced. Water-bombs, fireworks and the like can be employed to beat off the computer-controlled racers and hold them up for a few seconds. Even the weapons are appropriate to the setting - you don't fire machine guns and bazookas at your opponents, you use basketballs and water-bombs! The only unusual aspects of your arsenal are the nitro-boost power-up that propells you forward at breakneck speeds and the "Tag your it!" power-up, which places a fuse ticking down upon you - in order to avoid it blowing you up and slowing you down, you have to pass it on to someone else, by making contact with their ride.
A Game of Four Quarters
The single player game features single race, championship, time trial and practice modes. Single race allows you to race any car that you've uncovered on any track that you've raced on. Championship allows you to race in any of four cup competitions; bronze, silver, gold and platinum, to uncover more tracks and cars. Time trial allows you to try and set high scores and practice allows you to... practice. Another enjoyable option is the Stunt Arena. It's a big, well, arena with jumps and tricks to complete, and 20 stars to uncover. Some stars can't be uncovered without the use of more advanced vehicles and you'll need to learn some new tricks in order to finish up the rest. This certainly adds something to the game and it will keep you occupied for hours and hours. The satisfaction you get from reaching some of the more advanced stars is immeasurable. For multiplayer the game offers up to four-player action in battle tag and racing modes. The frame rate stays remarkably constant, although in four-player mode there is a fair bit of pop-up, although that's somewhat understandable.
Re-Volt boasts a lot of replay value. I spent inumerable hours completing the PC version and felt right at home again on the Dreamcast. With 5 different single play modes, including 4 cups and the stunt arena, the game is full of action. There's even a track editor to create and save your own arenas to the memory cards. This has to be a first for console games - I can't remember the last time that a console game included its own level editing facilities. Interface-wise, the game is second to none. The menus are viewed from within a toy shop, with car selection taking place by literally choosing cars out of boxes. The tracks are viewed on an Overhead Projector-like setup and selected via the gamepad. As with so much in life, there are flaws. There's a steep learning curve to contend with, and the frame rate can often drop to unacceptable levels. The usually rock-hard AI is useless on user-created tracks, because the AI is specially routed for each original track. If you make extra tracks, you'd best save them for multiplayer games with your pals.
Crazy Taxi is out now, with and Grand Theft Auto 2 is on the horizon, the Dreamcast will soon be swimming in gimmick-racers. Luckily for you, the buyer, Re-Volt is unique in its appeal and surprisingly addictive, and doesn't simply trade off a gimmick. If you like the idea of R/C racing and don't mind a bit of unrealism, take a look, you won't regret it!
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