In a style defined by earlier Ratbag releases like Dirt Track Racing and Dirt Track Racing: Sprint Cars, Leadfoot provides off-road racing in more than 180 events, with stadium-lite and 4x4 modified machines. With full control including head-up displays, cockpit jitters, tire wear, handling options, and a choice of automatic or manual transmissions, you'll slide, twist, jump, and jar your way through 15 series races against computer-controlled opponents in single-player mode, or against up to ten humans via a LAN or the Internet.
Gameplay modes include a fully configurable Quick Race with selections for track, number and AI rating of opponents, and vehicle. In Career mode, you begin as an amateur driver with designs on being world champion by earning and using prize money to continually upgrade your vehicle as you work through various events. Realism settings, sponsorships, practice, income, damage, repairs, and tuning (wheels, camber, tires, braking, steering, suspension, drive train, and more) all play a part in Career mode.
Two replay features (single-player only) that offer chances to learn tracks and study techniques include a limited instant replay during the race and a full saved replay after the fact. Standard VCR replay options include reverse, pause, advance frame, slow motion, fast forward, jump to start or end, and play. A high-score section keeps track of season earnings by vehicle class, as well as fastest lap times.
So we face the latest in Ratbag's series of racing games. After Powerslide, which really left a good impression, Ratbags seem to have wanted to stick to the style and playability and engine, so what we've got here is a bunch of very similar Dirt Track Racing games. Oh, sorry, the Dirt Track Racing pinball, was a bit different...
The only big novelty in Stadium Offroad Racing is the fact that the old monotonous tracks had been replaced with tracks resembling those in Motocross Madness. This might sound interesting, but you'll still have the feeling you are playing just another DTR add-on pack. You'll get to drive an offroad car and race on muddy, indoor tracks with a lot of bends, bumps and puddles... supercross on four wheels.
You will have a chance to prove your driving skills in two types of cars: Super lights and Sports Trucks, each of which features several different models. The first group consists of light buggy/kart vehicles, which have lower maximum speed, different handling and acceleration than the pick-ups from the second class.
Of course, if you decide to build your career step by step and work your way through the championships, you'll have to start off with the weakest buggy and hope you're your good driving skills will earn you some money. The money you earn will be spent on repairs and purchasing better machines. Sponsors like K&N Filters, Kirkey Seats, Mopar or Fibertec may occasionally offer you some money to advertise them, but you have to be really good to make some money that way. This isn't as easy as it seems, as your opponents drive pretty well. The control system is fairly simple and comes down to using the cursor keys, but if you want to achieve a good position, you will really have to know your car, the track and concentrate heavily on each bend... I didn't take time to test the easiest skill level, but I can tell you that the opponents can be rather troublesome on the medium setting. The game also features settings for vehicle handling verisimilitude, and you can also tweak up a bunch of other little things in the garage.
Leadfoot uses the Difference Engine II, which had also been used for all other Ratbag games. I have to say that this was one of my favorite 3D engines ever as it smoothly rendered detailed scenes even on the weakest of machines and used very little memory to do it (as far as I can remember, no Ratbag game demo had more than 10MB which is really commendable)... Now, the only problem is that some things changed in the meantime, which is more than could be said for the engine, rendering it somehow outdated. Even though Leadfoot looks pretty good at first sight, you will soon begin to spot small flaws. At first, I was surprised not to find any support for 32-bit rendering in video settings. Then, I started looking more closely to things that generally improved in games in the last couple of years, like textures, for instance. They seemed a bit too blurry, and some of them (especially ground textures) look really monotonous and tiring. The surrounding objects look somewhat better, but I guess that ground and road textures should have gotten higher priority as players look at them directly most of the time. I found the people standing by the track a bit bothersome. There is a tendency to use least possible polygons to represent the people in the audience in driving games, and it is all usually done with textures. Well, here it looks really ugly, as all of those people look like paper dolls. Wherever you stand they will always be turned towards you.
Collision detection has also been done poorly. Hitting other cars and ground is more or less OK, but when you run into any of the side objects, you will first dive into it, and then stop or bounce off. As for the cars, they seemed a bit crude. The way they move will give you an impression that they are moving on absolutely flat concrete surfaces rather than of bumpy dirt-roads. The undercarriage seems harder than it should. The damage model isn't too obvious, and you'll have to crash really hard several times before you notice any changes on your vehicle.
Apart from the available tracks, quick race and career mode, the game features a multiplayer mode with LAN and Internet support. It is a real shame they didn't include any more mods or a level editor. Still, the gamers who wish to leave their mark on the game will have to make do with making custom skins for cars like in Dirt Track Racing: Sprint Cars.
Let me conclude: even though I cannot say it hadn't been fun plying Leadfoot, Ratbag games could really have introduced something new in its gaming clich'. What scares me most is that the story probably isn't over yet and that we will soon have a chance to see some more DTR or Leadfoot expansion packs... I wouldn't mind a slight change... and I'm not referring to Leadfoot Pinball...
People who downloaded Leadfoot: Stadium Off Road Racing have also downloaded:
Dirt Track Racing: Sprint Cars, Dirt Track Racing, Le Mans 24 Hours (a.k.a. Test Drive Le Mans), Le Mans 24 Hours, Larry Ragland's 4x4 Challenge, Master Rallye, NASCAR Racing 2003 Season, Hot Rod: Garage to Glory
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