Ignition is an action packed racing game viewed from above and slightly behind the player. The cars on offer range from police car and VW Beetle to school bus and truck, each of which has its own strengths and weaknesses - trying to win with the bus, which involves blocking everyone behind the hideously slow vehicle for 3 laps, is perhaps the ultimate challenge.
Initially there are 5 tracks available, with practice and single race modes as well as full championship at 3 levels - winning each of the first 2 levels unlocks an extra track. They all have hazards running through them, and sections where you must make a split-second choice between the safer route and the risky but potentially rewarding one. Multiplayer can be done via network or by split-screen - in a break with convention the screen is split vertically rather than horizontally.
Let me start off by stating an axiom everyone should be aware of - everyone loves Ignition. And in case you are wondering what an axiom is, its a fact so basic that it needs no proof. It has to be the most loveable game I've ever played. Now that I got this shameless personal impression of the game off my chest, I'll try to write an objective review.
Ignition was developed by a small Swedish company called UDS (Unique Development Studios) and distributed by Virgin. Unfortunately, UDS is closed today, probably because of quite a few unsuccessful titles they launched after Ignition. However, you are probably wondering why Ignition received all the hype and praise. First of all, its concept was simple - it had to look great, feel great and constantly keep you wanting more and more. It succeeded flawlessly in all of those segments, but most of all, its fun factor was off the scale.
There are quite a few modes of play. The single player mode features championship, single race, time trial and pursue races. In championship, you race all available tracks and earn points. If you collect most points through all races, a new track and car get unlocked. Once you complete a championship, the game difficulty will automatically increase from novice to amateur. Of course, you can return it to novice, but in order to unlock new tracks and cars, you will also have to win championships in amateur and professional difficulty levels. Single race mode is just that - a single race with a car and track of your choice. Pursuit is similar, but with a slight twist - each time a lap is completed, the last car is destroyed, and thus kicked out of the race. This goes on until there is just one car left - the winner of course. Last but not least is the time trial mode in which you can race against the ghost car which shows how you drove when the track record was made. This is great for practicing. Single player mode is just the tip of the iceberg though. Multiplayer offers two more modes - splitscreen and network.
Graphics, level design and sounds are also a story for itself. The perspective moves about as you storm through twisty roads, bridge passes, cliffs serpents and canyons. Calling it bird perspective would be an insult since the game offers a full-blown 3D engine that looks and performs amazing. The DOS mode will limit you to 320x240 resolution, but you can enjoy the stunning look in 800x600 when playing under Windows. There are 10 levels in total, and some will complain about this, but the level design is so diverse and beautiful, you won't be bored even after driving around for countless number of laps. Every track features special jumps, twists and shortcuts that can be passed in an infinite number of ways. Basically, every lap is an unique experience. Also, every car has a set of characteristics that determine how fast it goes, how well it handles and how quickly the turbo charges. The turbo? Yes, every car has a regenerating turbo that will give you a speed burst for a short amount of fun. Using those in the right moment is critical for winning races. Also, each car produces a special sound when using the turbo. For example, when driving the police car, its sirenes will light up and sound the alarm, in school bus you will hear children screaming and cheering etc.
If you were wondering what the point of this game was, I will have to dissapoint you by telling you there is just one - to win the race and laugh at your looser opponents / friends. At a first glance it might seem a bit daft, but actually its more fun and addictive than you could ever imagine. Now would be a good time to conclude this review since only the most persistant of you actually read all the way until here :) There is just one more thing to say - this game is absolutely magnificent so go get it right away!! A straight 5, no thinking necessary.
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