PC racing games often focus on reality-based simulators or stock car racing, sometimes at the cost of pure entertainment value. Death Track Racing, the sequel to Rollcage, reverses the trend with increased action, stunts, weapons and pure fun by pushing realism aside.
Modes are organized in such a way as to offer instant variety. Total Racing mode is the most fun, as everything you do counts for points and placing first isn't the main goal. Since this title concentrates more on arcade-style racing, the Classic Racing mode almost seems unnecessary due to the requirement to win each race. Playing with the split screen option is enjoyable, but requires concentration to avoid distractions caused by the other player.
Death Track Racing is instantly appealing, if for no other reason than its introduction of upside down driving. Weapons only serve to increase the fun, while you try and figure out how to keep your eyes on the road when you're on the ceiling. Your car moves very fast with extremely smooth graphics, assuming your accelerator card is capable of handling them. Unfortunately, some accelerator cards require download of a patch from the Internet prior to playing. While initially annoying, once patched by the relatively small download, the game works seamlessly.
By placing first in a race, you gain access to new cars with faster speeds and better performance ratings. New weapons become available, but are randomly generated when you grab power-ups in any race, thus you might get anything from super speed to a number 1 missile. The newer cars are always faster, often a crucial factor in the later levels. Some tracks feature more turns than straight stretches, and require a car with high acceleration. Other tracks may require a car with a high top speed or a balance of all the skills. Once you get the newer cars, though, it's unlikely you'll ever want to use the first level vehicles again.
One minor irritation is the in-race switch of camera angles to a rear camera view from your car. In most racing games, you have the choice to switch to the rear camera view to see cars behind you, but in Death Track Racing the function is done automatically. While usually only a quick look, it's enough to throw you off track. Fortunately, after playing for an extended period of time, the view changes become hardly noticeable.
The controller of choice is a game pad or joystick for Death Track Racing. The keyboard controls just aren't easy to master given the difficult turns and crazy speed of the game. It's hard enough to keep your car on the track when you're using the joystick, thus using the keyboard only complicates matters. By using a game pad, you can control everything in the game, including the main menu.
In many racing games, weapons are effective only against the opponents' vehicles ahead of you on track, but in Total Racing mode, Death Track Racing lets you knock down buildings and other structures for extra points. Hitting anything from objects on the ceiling to blasting cars off the track will increase your score. If you approach a highlighted destructible object and fire a projectile, the hit is automatic -- no aiming required, an important aspect since just keeping your car moving in a straight line can be tough enough.
When first playing Death Track Racing, most gamers will find it difficult to get a handle on the controls. At first, cars move easily enough at slow speed, but even a slight turn becomes very sharp when you gain speed. It's also very easy to spin the car and head the wrong way, and hitting the right button (dependent upon your setup) to reorient the car can take up valuable race time. Still, it's faster than driving the wrong way as you try and get turned around. The problem with the constant switching back-camera view can make control more difficult, especially when you lose orientation.
Death Track Racing is a good arcade-style racing game, with aspects that won't likely appeal too much to purists who want racing realism. But, if you're looking for instant fun without a lot of car tuning and setups, it's worth a look. The changes in levels are good, with enough content and modes to keep one busy for quite a while. Good hand-to-eye coordination is mandatory since gameplay is challenging, and a game pad or joystick controller is highly recommended to get the most from the game.
Graphics: An accelerator card and, in many cases, a downloadable patch from the Internet is required to get the full effect of the graphics. Once the setup is right, the graphics are smooth and with very vivid colors. When you fall off the side of the track, you can actually feel like you're falling.
Sound: A techno soundtrack repeats throughout the game, but isn't bad. All of the other sounds are not very noticeable, except for the explosions when you blow up a giant building or sign.
Enjoyment: Once you master control your car, the game is a lot of fun. It's fast paced and you get points for taking people out...can't complain about that. The two-player mode is enjoyable due to the weapons and pace of the game.
Replay Value: With the many tracks and modes available, such as Total Racing, Classic Racing, and Scramble, the game offers quite an extended replay package. Beating all the venues will take some time. Boredom shouldn't be a factor.
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