Just look at the cover of this game and it will make you want to play it: ten cars cruising through a double upside-down loop, one of the cars smashing into the wall and bursting into flames, two more careening off into space ... will this be the killer car game -- a great race game with arcade action and maybe a few lethal devices attached to the front bumpers? Well, no, it won't, but the folks at Gremlin Interactive are getting closer than most have.
As we've all seen, the last year has brought forth a half-dozen new race games, from the hard sims like NASCAR and Indycar, to the soft sims such as Screamer and The Need for Speed, to the mayhem-filled Zone Raiders and Destruction Derby...but not one of them pulled everything together, and it looked like Whiplash just might, so I was a bit disappointed when, like Destruction Derby, Whiplash fell short of what it might have achieved with a little more attention to the PC platform's capabilities and limitations.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
This is Hot Wheels in real-time: 8 fast little cars and some wild, wild tracks, including the aforementioned double-loop, a draw bridge, a corkscrew spiral, jumps that leave you with a good 3-4 seconds of hang time, and several innovative cross over/under tracks that allow for more than one route on a given lap.
Each of the eight cars has a series of attributes -- acceleration, cornering, braking, top speed, etc. that are well-balanced so that every car presents a challenge and a unique strength.
Likewise, each of the eight tracks has at least one devilish twist, turn, or obstacle that makes for some great smash-ups and fast decision making.
The box says that you get 16 cars and 16 tracks, but the 2nd set of cars and tracks can only be accessed once you have won the tournament on the first 8 tracks. Now, I'm the first to say that a good game player should get a reward for achieving whatever the hardest task is in a given game, but here's a point where Whiplash really falls down: on the easiest setting, the computer opponents can easily crush you on at least half the tracks, thus thwarting your ability to get to the second set of tracks.
As for the tracks, these are clearly the highlight of the game, as much work has been put into making asphalt twist and dive like a roller coaster. The programmers at Gremlin have also managed to construct a fairly realistic physics model for the tracks and cars, which leads to some frustrating results as well as some brilliant ones -- there is a corkscrew track which is very nearly impossible to drive through without ending up on your back, but there is also the drawbridge track that lets you pick from one of two lanes just as you approach the jump -- a touch that allows you to subtly alter your car's path at the last moment and send an opponent careening off into space with a mere nudge.
As your car takes more and more damage, first smoke, and then flames start to leap from under your hood, partially obscuring the road if you're in really bad shape. Take too much damage and your car explodes. Lose 3 cars and you lose the race. However, you have the opportunity to make a pit stop each time you cross the start/finish line, but trying this against the computer players will simply net you a 15th or 16th place finish most every time...however, against other human opponents, I suspect this would be a very strong feature of the game...unfortunately, the modem-play feature of this game was a complete disaster to get working. We tried unsuccessfully for several hours to run Whiplash head-to-head. The farthest we got was two machines connected, but never able to synch gameplay.
If you want a wild, fast-action arcade racer, Whiplash might just fit the bill.
People who downloaded Fatal Racing (a.k.a. Whiplash) have also downloaded:
Driver (a.k.a. Driver: You Are the Wheelman), CART Precision Racing, Carmageddon 2: Carpocalypse Now, Daytona USA: Deluxe, Firestorm: Thunderhawk 2, Autobahn Racing, Andretti Racing '98, F1 2000
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