Review by QXZ

"World Driver is approaching the checkered flag..."

''Gentlemen, start your engines!''

These four simple, yet important words would seem like the most appropriate intro for my review of Midway and Boss Studios' World Driver Championship. Another Midway racing game. And the goal it tries to complete is simple: It's time to grab the wheel and become World Driver champion! But does WDC? Almost....

3...

Your progress comes in the form of a career; Each race gains ''experience points''. Better performance rewards more cars, but you literally have to race and race and race to the point of near-perfection to get the most out of it. Progressing the ranks will improve your car selection, but only for races where you finish anything higher than last.

Against seven drone cars you race. Don't expect an easy battle. Like you, they also want the road to themselves, as well as that luxurious golden cup that signifies victory.

2...

WDC's career mode breaks down into several circuits, each with a selection of a few races. Qualifying for a respectable position in each race is optional, but an excruciatingly important option at that. Qualifying fast enough for that supreme pole position is oft a pain in the ass. Ample practice may be the key, but I still found it pretty damned difficult, though not entirely impossible. (Within the two rental periods I have played this game, I have attempted nearly 200 qualification laps. I only made pole position three times.) Of course, you don't need to participate in the qualifying lap, but are you really willing to start in last? Nope, not me (that's if I can actually finish within three seconds behind); And earning the pole position will help you in your career.

1...

Car selection is far more necessary than the qualifying lap. And, if you don't already know, Einstein, you obviously need a car in order to participate. Your selection can reach up to around thirty, but you only start with a fraction of that total. The cars themselves are nice-lookin' speed demons; In order to gain more, you need to race with what you have, and the more races you win, the sooner you can unlock the vehicles. The cars are given in accordance to your ranking in the championship.

(Earning all the cars isn't a task that can be done overnight, unless you cheat. The inexperienced will have to re-race almost every circuit many times over in order to acquire all possible cars. The higher ranks will progressively award cars, but this does turn the replay value from natural to just simply being shoved down the throat.)

GO!

Mastering the cars, though, is not easy. Far from it! They all behave like real cars should-- accel, brake, shift, etc.-- taking control is a bit more difficult. Patience, practice, and, maybe, a few veins popping out of your forehead. I mean, it's gonna take plenty of tries to get the mechanics of acceleration and shifting in check (I've been using a manual tranny), with even more patience in order to keep your car from losing control in a heartbeat. Having a good knowledge of the tracks is a plus, but the knowledge of when to steer and adjusting the gears so you don't spin out. Effective power sliding is a hefty task, and I don't believe I have ever completed one successfully. Perfecting a power slide takes time and, above all, patience, since there is a great deal of timing required to get it down.

Just jumping in between the cars is an exactly similar concept. Getting acquainted with one make of car makes comfortable conditions, but trying to get into another make will take some extra time to get acquainted with.

Gameplay in all other areas, though, is a bit of a conundrum and will take time to acquire a taste for. Physics in WDC are respectable, but cannot be called realistic.

{A yellow flag appears...}

After potentially deadly crashes, it's a bit shameful to discover that you have never taken a dent, nor a scratch. Although a scratched-up car is not appealing to me (it can be revolting), it really would have been an improvement. Isn't one broken headlight, a banged-up fender, or a dented door too much to ask? Hmm?

Other physics, too, are also a bit inconsistent and imprecise. On the plus side, certain aspects are actually believable-- such as side-swiping, rear-ending, and clipping the front car's rear end, for instance. On the minus, if you run into another car, head-on, there is the act of having your own car spinning out, doing 540°s and 720°s instead of getting a bent-up fender, having both cars at a dead stop; At certain other times, when you had originally been facing the wrong way, you'll be knocked in the correct direction. So I'll admit that getting knocked into the right direction is a cheap way to advance, the game's so challenging.

I also would have liked a bit less leniency in the AI. Receiving a good position is reliant more on your skill on the given track than the programmed drones. Wiping out early in the race actually gives the player a much better chance of finishing on top (or in the top half of the grid) than a wipe out on the last. Well, don't ALL racing games prove that point?

(Ultimately, it's all about the race, baby!)

{Green flag}

Gameplay aside, the tracks span ten locals worldwide. Including: Kyoto has hints of Japanese pagodas and neon billboards with kanji on it; Polish capital Lisbon has working windmills and a nicely recreated sunrise; Rome is full of the ancient... things, like the Colosseum; The Las Vegas track even mocks the city's famous hotels, like the ''Road Rock'' and ''WGW [Bland]'' hotels. None of the tracks have 3D roads slapped on 2D backgrounds, as all are complete 3D. Having animated background items-- windmills, airplanes, et. al.-- as well as very good lighting effects are additional pluses. No doubts, WDC has some of the nicest graphics to ever get smacked into a cart for the 64. Using hi-rez in the game does look better, but the scrunched view just doesn't do the full-screen beauty justice and hinders the overall view. The only other downside is that the graphics fade in, polygon by polygon.

{White flag}

But these tracks are not just looks. Looking at them, forgetting you're racing to win, is a mistake. Each track is complete with some tricky twists and turns. The tracks are also divided into six routes, er, three road settings, set each in the normal direction and reverse. I thought mastering a track in the forward direction was enough to master them going backwards. I was proven wrong, since racing backwards is never the same as racing in the normal direction (and those arrows can get confusing when racing the ''wrong way''). Would you like to challenge this theory? No? I though you wouldn't. You have to adjust your strategy accordingly.

(Again, opening all the tracks is nothing that can be done in one sitting. And, again, that's if you don't cheat. It's another thing that shoves replay value down the throat.)

The music, too, is good. It's nothing more than guitar music, yet, none of the music ever got on my nerves. The music is tolerable, but there are a couple of tunes that I would like to have recorded for my personal use.

{Checkered flag}

OK. So, what I really can say about World Driver is that it's a solid racing game that doesn't quite take the checkered flag, but has a respectable finish. It's not a completely realistic racing game (but it does better than other titles I have played), but comes close enough. World Driver is a good bet if you want a good racer that emulate reality, but those who don't have the patience to practice might very well keep clear of this game. If you would rather take the time to learn this game, or have prior experience with Gran Turismo-like games, then it'll be a good title to acquire.

Just rent it first to see if you would be willing to buy a copy. I would.

MY SCORE: 8.0


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 03/11/01, Updated 10/26/01


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