Powerslide Review  1999-03-03 05:36:00 - boon kiat

Introduction & Rant
I am about to start off this review with a rant. I donít normally do this, so if you wish to skip all the ramblings, just proceed to the next section on gameplay.

How do I start? I always thought reviewers had it easy. I mean, how else could you get loads and loads of games and hardware to play around with, for FREE? "No purchase required". Unfortunately, the old adage, "There is no free lunch" is true.

"... I felt I owed it to the reader to be as honest as I could be. This is especially so if you live in a country like mine, where there are no such things as a return policy on software or hardware sold."


I am not sure if you have read my past reviews, but I usually reviewed software or hardware that I had purchased. I could be as harsh as I liked in my review, since it was my very own hard-earned cash that parted to get me my new toy, and I owed no one any obligations.

This review has to be one of the hardest I had ever written.

Donít get me wrong. This review wasnít thrust upon me. I took it up willingly, mainly because I myself had read great reviews on the game, and all raved about how good it was.



I had found it so hard to like the demo of Powerslide (weighing in at 5.75MB) I painstakingly downloaded on my puny 56k modem (at 4K/s). But I thought I could give the game another chance since this was a retail box and the programmers might have tweaked the game engine since the release of the demo.

But, unfortunately, this was not to be. And yet, I found myself obligated to say something nice about the game because it was, after all, loaned to me for reviewing, free of charge.

In the end, I felt I owed it to the reader to be as honest as I could be. This is especially so if you live in a country like mine, where there are no such things as a return policy on software or hardware sold.

"The programmers obviously spent a lot of time fine-tuning the physics models used in the game and this clearly shows. The carsí suspension system react realistically as you turn sharp corners or bounce across the desert landscape. But the end result is something quite unplayable."


What I fail to comprehend was how those umpteen other reviews could have been so blind as to award this game top marks?

Does anyone else remember the Trespasser fiasco? I am sure you must have seen the mind-blowing screenshots of "software-rendered" scenes of the game, and how the previewers raved about how realistic the dinosaurs were. I even geared up to get myself a Pentium II processor just for that ONE game, having been a huge dino-fan (no.. not the Flintstonesí pet). I canít help but wonder if there were some obligations tied to being given an exclusive preview of Trespasser in its early stages of the gameís development.

Interestingly enough, Tomís (of Tomís Hardware) latest Monday Rant (28 Feb) was about how some websites had some exclusive deals with 3Dfx to help promote the product.

OK... end of rant. Letís get on with the review, shall we?

Sponsored and exclusively distributed by
New Era Interactive Software Pte Ltd
For more information, call New Era hotline at (65) 275 2338



Gameplay
In case you are wondering, Powerslide is basically an arcade driving game set in the post-apocalyptic future (imagine Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdrome, and you are half-way there).

"... the gameplay is ultimately what counts. If it doesnít deliver, no amount of graphics pizzazz or physics realism (again, see Trespasser) or great storyline is going to save a game from oblivion."


A pretty good (if hackneyed) story about how Earth is plunged into a eco-disaster and how the "haves" have retreated to living underground to shield themselves from the sun and radiation on the surface. Left on the surface, the "have-nots" begin scavenging the remnants of technology left behind. Since life is cheap, the "have-nots" begin to compete in races, in an effort to gain some highly valuable (and limited) resources.

Great story, so far, isnít it?

BUT I feel, at the end of the day, the gameplay is ultimately what counts. If it doesnít deliver, no amount of graphics pizzazz or physics realism (again, see Trespasser) or great storyline is going to save a game from oblivion.



This is my personal philosophy. I am a proud owner of the Sega Saturn game console and despite the incredible graphics found on the Playstation, always find myself going back to the "graphically inferior" Saturn for games. Yes, Virtua Fighter 2 was nowhere near arcade perfect, graphics-wise, but the gameplay from the arcade (which was great) remained intact in the conversion to the Saturn. (For the ardent Playstation supporters - Yes, I have a Playstation too, and yes, I agree Tekken 3 offers as much depth and gameplay as VF2, but this tirade is directed against those who slag VF2 on the Saturn just because the graphics werenít as good as Tekken 3ís)

And therein lies the problem with Powerslide: what gameplay?

The programmers obviously spent a lot of time fine-tuning the physics models used in the game and this clearly shows. The carsí suspension system react realistically as you turn sharp corners or bounce across the desert landscape. But the end result is something quite unplayable.

You bounce around crazily (enough to give me, a fairly seasoned -albeit still crap- Quake II fragger, motion sickness), and have very little control of where your car goes. The controls are just too damned frustrating to be any fun.

Now, if this game were meant to be a realistic racing simulation, I wouldnít have any problem with the realism... but it wasnít. I wouldnít have agreed to review it otherwise. I have very little interest in realistic driving games. Give me an arcade racer like Scud Race in the arcades any day.

Before I start getting emails of how crap I am, let me qualify that I do pretty well in other arcade driving games such as Ultimate Race Pro (PC), Need for Speed III (PC), Sega Rally (Saturn), Daytona USA (Arcade, PC and Saturn) and even the Ridge/Rage Racer Series (Playstation).

The nirvana of all arcade driving games is to be fun to drive, and on that score, Powerslide just doesnít deliver.

Again, donít blame my choice of controllers used. I tested Powerslide with the following:
  • Joystick (Microsoft Force Feedback Pro)
  • Gamepad (Creative Cobra and Microsoft Precision Pro in digital mode)
  • Analog (the Precision Pro in analog mode)
  • Steering wheel (Logitech Wingman Formula Force)

It was slightly more controllable with the digital gamepads but not enough.


Sound
The sound engine used in Powerslide isnít exactly one of its strengths. The sound of the carsí engines awfully weak, and switching from interior to exterior views did not yield any appreciable differences.

Powerslide also allegedly ships with both 4 speaker and EAX support, both of which were virtually indiscernible to me. I use a Live (full version) with a Desktop Theater 5.1 in 4 speaker mode.

To be fair, 4 speaker audio is especially hard to detect in most racing games (including the recently patched Ultimate Race Pro and Need for Speed III).

EAX support is a little more audible, but it is nowhere near the impression achieved by First Person Shooters like Half-Life (EAX patch not applied)

The only racing game where EAX and 4 speaker support is readily apparent is Moto Racer 2 (with the latest patch). With the new patch, I could easily sense an incoming competitor, and even whether he was going to overtake me from the left or from the right.

Graphics
Besides the physics engine, the other saving grace of this game was its excellent use of Glide. I understand it was written to take advantage of the special features of the Voodoo chipset and it clearly shows.



I was able to run the game in 1024x768 with at least 60fps on my machine (Celeron 450MHz with Voodoo2 SLI), with all the effects turned on to maximum. Admittedly, the cars are pretty detailed (and I have read elsewhere that there are many more polygons used per car in Powerslide than in other driving games)

"Besides the physics engine, the other saving grace of this game was its excellent use of Glide."


But is this enough to save the game? Not in my book. But if you want a good demo showcase to test drive your Voodoo2 cards, you canít go wrong with this game (Hey! Itís your money!)

Conclusion
In summary, the pluses and the minuses:
Plus
  • Great physics engine (Iíll concede that)
  • Great graphics engine (even that too)

Minus
  • Whereís the gameplay?
  • Unimpressive sound engine

If you are contemplating a futuristic arcade racing game, may I offer the following advice?

Download the demos of Powerslide, Dethkarz and Rollcage (or get them from some magazineís bonus CDROM), and compare them all, then decide which one to get.

My vote would go to Dethkarz. The graphics are IMHO even better than Powerslide and the cars are inherently much more controllable than in Powerslide. Rollcage runs a close second.

Sponsored and exclusively distributed by
New Era Interactive Software Pte Ltd
For more information, call New Era hotline at (65) 275 2338




Review taken from Hardware One (c)
http://www.hardware-one.com/reviews.asp?aid=124&page=1
No part of this review may be reproduced without written permission.