Who in their right mind would willingly make a game about Alfa Romeos? Games being fun and all, and Alfas being a stain on roads the world over. Who would want to inflict that on people? (The answer is "Milestone" and "Black Bean Games," for those who can't be bothered glancing to the right) This game manages to live up to the legacy of the cars themselves in being utterly pointless and devoid of any redeeming features.
Good points: It looks okay, but not great. Don't even try and compare it to Gran Turismo 4. That would be the ramblings of the madfolk; the physics and handling seem real enough, though this does actually belong in both the good and bad points, as Alfas would appear to handle like tanks - even the racing models; it has some nice ideas. In theory. But then, so did Communism.
Onto the bad, abandoning the semi-colon list format and adopting a more lengthy, essay-style. It is, quite simply, one of the dullest racing experiences known to man. This, quite possibly, has something to do with the fact that it's a game based around Alfa Romeos, but it could also be down to the fact that any essence of fun has been sucked out, leaving a soulless husk printed on a DVD for all to "enjoy." Races are chores. Rewards don't feel rewarding. The whole package will make you wish you had gone and done something productive with your time - it made me not want to play games. For a while, at least. A game that makes me wish I wasn't playing games anymore is, quite frankly, not good.
The damage system should be something that people get in a frenzy about - while bumpers hang off nicely from scrapes and bashes, lights pop and windscreens shatter, everything falls foul of an energy bar system. Now - I'm not whining because after a few severe prangs you are automatically retired. Oh no. I'm whining about the fact that Alfa Romeos do not seem to be able to negotiate grass or pavements without the engine exploding. And judging by this performance the grass/pavement-induced explosion would probably kill 30 people in the area. Though, that is, of course, mere speculation. Is it not a bad advert for the car when it can't handle terrain other than asphalt without the engine committing hari-kari? It would seem not, at least not in the view of whichever Romeo bod oversaw this bad boy.
Now let us speak of the 'innovative' aspects of the game - the parts that seemingly warrant the title of 'CarPG', as sick and dirty as it makes me feel to type that. We have a system based more on the driver than the car - all cars in a race are the same model, meaning performance is down to an individual rather than an engine. Fair enough - not a bad idea. Not great though. An idea that manages to squeeze even more excitement out of the package, as in, squeezes it out of the package and into a small box, which is then sealed and hidden in a large warehouse ala Raiders of the Lost Ark. The whole system smacks of annoyance - I, for one, have worked on my videogame driving skills for a long time, and though they aren't on par with the masters, they are pretty decent. I can take a corner, for one. But SCAR, being of the traditional RPG format, starts you off low and works from there. As in, at the start of the game your ability to take corners at anything resembling speed is non-existent. This isn't an 'innovative' feature. This is an 'insulting' feature. It's nice that something different was tried, but this is a driving game, and not an RPG. It isn't about driver stats - it's about driver skills. Can someone name me a recent game that hit this feature dead-on? Anyone? Is that a hand up? Did you say "Forza"? Well done. Have a banana sandwich. The 'Drivatar' feature on MS' offering outclasses this whole 'CarPG' (ugh...) thing easily.
Another element of 'innovation' comes in the form of an intimidation gauge - a green bar that reduces as you badger an opponent by staying on his rear. Again - sounds good on paper. Doesn't work very well though, seeing as when the bar is depleted the AI drivers seem to swerve a little before regaining full control. In a test situation I psyched out 30 AI drivers, and only five times did they catastrophically mess up. What is the point of this feature then, other than to annoy the player when he gets 'intimidated'?
Now we can introduce a new word to the class: "shoehorned." A word that I intend to use very much in the following paragraph, possibly accompanied by the word "crowbarred." Isn't learning fun?
Time reversal. Get that?
Time reversal in what is apparently a 'simulation' racing game. See, that's just wrong. It really does stink of something that's been needlessly shoehorned into a game to try and stay up to date with whatever the latest trends are. See - in Prince of Persia you can accept it. In the next-gen Full Auto I think it will fit the bill, what with things being blown up and the generally over-the-top action that takes place. But in an apparent 'simulation' - one that features Alfa Romeos as a main selling point, no less - featuring time reversal is not a good thing. It is needless, unnecessary, shoehorned, crowbarred and whatever else. (See - I can crowbar things into reviews needlessly, just like that last use of 'crowbarred' and 'shoehorned'. And this bracketed section. Damn I'm good...)
This game is not good. It does not deserve a namby-pamby "oh you'll like it if you like blah" part at the end. I'm not even going to shoehorn (ha!) in my usual "pick it up in the bargain bucket" line - do not buy this game. It will sap your will to live; it will kill off any enthusiasm you have for gaming and it will probably leave lasting SCARs.
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