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A lot of the problems i've seen people having with these driving sequences seems to come from people using 3rd party control pads. Infact I remember one person having a problem using a DS2 with a PS2 to usb converter. We estimated that the DS2 and usb converter combo was only outputting around 75% of the range when the shoulder buttons were fully pressed. This thus resulted un the player being unable to keep up with the AI partner in the snowmobile sections and thus died repeatedly.
As for people having problems using Dual Shock 3s, I can't explain, I can't remember having any problems with the driving sections at all (as a result of not being able to keep up) but then again I don't know what other peoples' experience of driving games is like.
You don't have to floor it the entire time, you know.
That's the crucial part that NOBODY understands, yet they all wonder why they crash so much.
The vehicle segments DO suck, they just suck a whole lot less when you apply a little restraint and don't try to lead-foot it through the whole thing.
I actually liked the vehicle sections myself with the exception of Jakes motorcycle chase as Jake (it's much more fun as sherry)
That said you are very much correct regards to lead footing it. Light braking and accelerating at the apex of a corner is very effective for the tighter corners. and not firing that turbo just as you're about to enter a corner works wonders too.