Star Wars: Episode I: Racer for Windows is essentially a straight port of the Nintendo 64 version, and I'd have to say it doesn't handle nearly as well as its home videogame system cousin. Of course, this isn't a game which I've really enjoyed on either platform, so it might just be me.
There's just something about those Pods that I don't like. First, there's no way you can really simulate going 450 miles per hour in a videogame; none of us will ever drive a vehicle which can go that fast, and even if the game could actually give us the same experience which Anakin felt in the film, how could any of us be successful at it? I can't imagine there are too many gamers out there who could handle such a quickly moving vehicle; the fastest most of us have jetted around a raceway ranges between 150 and 200 miles per hour while playing games with stock or Indy cars.
Second, the very nature of the Pods makes handling them different from anything you've ever driven in a game. With those two engines out front and the Pod in the back, it's not the same as driving something all in one piece, the way I prefer my racing games.
The game also handles sluggishly, even when you try to play with the bare minimum of visuals to keep system overload down. (For the record, I had 32 MB of RAM when 64 is considered optimal, but I was up to par in every other area of the specs.) It's not nearly as smooth as it should be, which makes it frustrating when you're trying to react to an obstacle directly in your path. It may run better on a higher-end system, but who's going to upgrade just to play a game? Of all the games I've played on my PC, this one handles the worst (even Star Wars: Rogue Squadron 3D wasn't this bad). I would recommend playing this one on a Nintendo 64 if you can.
My gripes aside, you can't argue with the visual and aural beauty of Racer. LucasArts has created a game that looks and sounds like the Podracing sequence from the movie, from John Williams' excellent score to the wealth of detail in the Pods, their drivers and the landscape. The variety of planets closely resembles Rogue Squadron, which had everything from a gas giant to one covered with sheets of ice. This game also has that and, although the environment doesn't play a lot of havoc with the handling of the Pods since they don't touch the ground, it's fun to race in different places. The first race is on Tatooine, so you can visit a familiar locale from the film. You also get to take a trip to Malastare, and find out exactly what Qui-Gon Jinn was talking about when he referred to it as a dangerous place.
Unless your PC exceeds the power of your typical early 1999 issue, though, I would advise taking the trip on a home video system platform.
Graphics: Excellent. If you have a high-end system, you'll be able to see reflections in water and smoke and dust billowing from the racers' engines.
Sound: Very close to the sound of the Podrace in The Phantom Menace.
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