World of Outlaws: Sprint Cars 2002
Welcome to "the most lucrative dirt track motor sport in U.S."!
I bet that most of you don't know exactly what a Sprint Car is. Well, a Sprint Car is probably the fastest vehicle on dirt: it's a small, light-weighted, winged car able to run at 170mph, with a power-to-weight ratio worth of a Formula One car. To be honest, I didn't know anything about these cars until I found a copy of World Of Outlaws on my desk.
Published by Infogrames, the game has been developed by Ratbag, an Australian game developer famous for many excellent arcade racers, first of all Powerslide, and for the graphic engine developed for their games, the Ratbag Difference Engine.
Like Nascar Racing, Sprint Cars racing take place on oval circuits, but here all the tracks are covered with dirt. The DVD features a rich selection of movies, which narrate the history of Sprint Cars racing from the beginning of the century to the creation of the Pennzoil World Of Outlaws series, and which introduce the 24 Outlaw drivers and the tracks featured in the game. So, if you don't know much about sprint cars, take your time, and look at these movies.
And that's not of secondary importance. In fact, Ratbag's game is a simulation that does everything - and something more - to recreate this sport on the TV screen. The game features all the modes that a fan of the racing genre could want to play. The Arcade Mode offers the usual pick-n-play gaming experience: you can choose to play a Single Race, try to race against the clock in Time Trial Mode or start a full Championship in the World Of Outlaws series.
The true core of this game, just like it happens in all the good racing titles, is the Career Mode.
Here you start the game with just enough money to get yourself a basic car and then you have to choose one of the events available. What's interesting is that the game recreates all the aspects of managing a racing team. At first, because of your very limited budget, you have to stick on the local series. Winning more events, you'll earn more money, and sponsors will start noticing you. With the money, you can buy and sell cars, modify them, afford to race in tracks that are far from your home, and first of all, repair your cars. Ratbag gives the player a possibility to create their own path to become one of the drivers of the World Of Outlaws series, "the most lucrative dirt track motor sport in U.S.". The Career Mode really is a compelling in-depth simulation that's as well developed as the one featured in Gran Turismo.
The biggest weakness of World Of Outlaws could have been the very nature of Sprint Cars racing. It's undeniable that racing on oval circuits can become easily boring when it comes to video games,
and in fact this game can't offer the astounding variety and the replay value of Gran Turismo.
But it's also true that Ratbag's game offers a gaming experience that remains fresh even after you've played the game for hours and hours. That's mainly due to three factors: perfect A.I., impressive real world physics, damage modelling and overall, an attention to details that's just surprising.
Just like most of you, I've never been into a real Sprint Car, but I can say that the cars react to the terrain in a very believable way. Since World Of Outlaws races are divided in a number of stages that start in the afternoon and finish in the evening, the track dries out as more laps are run. As a result, it's more difficult to have a good handling of your car in the last race of the day, and proceeding in the race you actually sense - also thanks to a very good use of the vibration function - the car skidding on the terrain. Besides, the oval circuits, while at a first glance may look identical in shape, vary in width, length, terrain, and banking. On a note, in the movies included in the DVD, a commentary will introduce you to each of the tracks featured in the game. Car collisions, also thanks to real-time damages that appear on the bodies, look perfect.
And collissions are an important part of the game; because World Of Outlaws features the most aggressive A.I. I've ever tested in a racing game. Forget the "stupid" cars of Gran Turismo that follow always the same line on the track. Here all of your opponents are aggressive in their own way; they seem to have their own unpredictable strategy, and if you hit them, they can become vindictive or they may simply ignore you, at least for the following two or three laps.
Controlling the Sprint Cars is not easy at first; you have to race at high speed on dirt tracks, at the same time trying to find a way through at least 12 aggressive opponents. I suggest you to start playing the game in the Arcade Mode, where you can get used to the controls driving the best cars available. In fact, in the career mode, you'll be able to afford only basic cars at first, and they completely lack the handling, the power, and the speed of better ones. Besides, before each race you can tune your car, and the game has a series of tuning options that you'll master with great difficulty, especially if you are not a long time fan of Sprint Cars. To find some help, I strongly suggest giving a read at the manual before starting the game.