Radio-controlled racing roars onto the PC screen with one-fifth scaled cars (approximately 35 inches long) available in standard and "hopped up" categories. Ten individually tuned car set-ups are featured in five classes, Junior, Skilled, Trained, Expert, and Pro, with the standard setup providing heavier cars that are easy to drive, but slower than the "hopped up" versions. Each of the five classes features specific parameters in terms of weight, suspension, tires, torque, RPM, and realism, with designs ranging from 4x4s (Junior) to 100% rear-wheel drive (Pro).
Five of the six tracks are based on real life existing circuits, all located in the Netherlands, and range in length from 138 to 260 meters. Two dozen computer-controlled opponents are provided for each of the ten set-ups, providing a total of 240 drivers individually rated in experience, speed, aggression, and style. Drivers are further organized into 12 teams with unique logos, names, and color schemes.
Races consist of eight cars each, with points awarded for positional finishes (10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1), from first to last respectively, with the exception of Quick Race mode. Championship, Cup Championship, and Open Championship modes are increasingly difficult stages of racing offered by Big Scale Racing, and a practice mode lets you build skills using any car you choose, with the help of a ghost car to point out how to gain speed and time on all tracks.
Multiplayer options include up to eight players via LAN, or split screen two-player action. Race duration can be set in multiplayer mode Quick Races, from one-minute (sprint) to 20 minutes (full endurance), with championship races fixed at two or three minutes, depending on the track. Other features include changing conditions that reflect Holland's unpredictable weather (sunny, fog, rain, and thunder) and a multifaceted HUD display.
Big Scale Racing is a game that does so many things well, yet in the end, fails to take advantage of its many assets. So, while Big Scale is a fun game for racing enthusiasts, it quickly loses its charm due to its limited scope.
The game is based on the sport / hobby of 1:5 scale racing. Don't confuse this with the rinky-dink remote control cars you can buy in Radio Shack for ten bucks -- these mini-monsters are fairly accurate representations of the real thing. The people involved in this pastime take it very seriously, too. (If you ever get a chance to attend one of these races in person, don't hesitate, as they're just as tense and exciting as any trip to the local speedway.)
For a while, Big Scale Racing proves to be a pretty compelling game for racing fans. The look is pleasing, the physics model is superb, and the racing is fun. After you complete the first few series of races, though, you'll start to realize that the there's not much more meat on this bone, other than unlocking new cars that get increasingly harder to control.
The six tracks are based on real designs used by 1:5 scale racers. One of the tracks is a speed oval, while the rest have a good variety of long straightaways and tight turns. Unfortunately, these are the only tracks you get to race on; there's not even an option to race them backwards or reversed. Big Scale cries out for a diverse set of tracks, and even a simple track design feature would have given this game a lot more legs. As it stands, you'll grow very weary of the circuits long before you get through the ten divisions of cars.
What's here is very well done. The graphics are crisp and clear (albeit limited to a 1024x768 resolution), and the textures have a nice realistic look. One complaint is in the quality of the background graphics, namely the viewing audience. The 2D cardboard-cutout people surrounding the tracks look ridiculous and should have been dropped -- their inclusion does nothing to convey the sense of a real crowd, and their presence only serves to distract you from how nice the rest of the game looks.
The car models, however, are excellent, and the sense of speed is appropriately conveyed, especially when you're controlling one of the more powerful cars that behave like a jackrabbit on amphetamines. The audio consists of three different background tunes, the whirring noise of the engines, and an announcer that lets you know how much time is left in a race and when the last lap is being run. It gets the job done, but that's the extent of it.
Big Scale's best quality is its uncanny physics modeling. I've actually had the pleasure to control one of these cars (albeit briefly ... the guy whose car it was got more nervous by the millisecond), and the feel is extremely accurate. Handling characteristics are affected by the horsepower of the engine and whether the car has front- or rear-wheel drive. Hitting the rumble strip on a turn at too high a speed will get you airborne, and jostling for position with your opponents is a perfectly valid way to overtake and put them out of the race with a perfectly placed nudge to the their rear quarter panel. Essentially, the cars perform exactly as you would expect them to, and the racing becomes very intuitive in a short period of time.
The artificial intelligence of the computer vehicles is hard to peg. Early on, they don't seem very capable, allowing you to get the lead early and doing little to challenge you through the race. Later, you'll be spending all your time concentrating on keeping your car on the track rather than worrying about what the other drivers are doing. To Big Scale's credit, the CPU drivers make mistakes and will fight for position amongst themselves, and that's always welcome; too many racing games have opponents that turn perfect laps and have no sense of other drivers.
In the end, though, Big Scale lacks the features that would put it on the must-buy list. There is no way to tune the cars at all (a major gaffe, as this is as much a part of the hobby as the actual racing), the tracks get boring after a while, and there's no real incentive to continue through the different levels of competition. One nice touch is that you will advance to the next division by either finishing high in the point totals or by competing and failing in the current division through three sets of races, so at least you won't be stuck at the same level for too long.
If an expansion pack were to be released that added a track making feature and Internet play (only LAN and split-screen are options now), I might be compelled to return to the charms of Big Scale. As it stands, I've had my fill, and while I enjoyed the time I spent with the game it just doesn't have the depth of its competitors and wears out its welcome a little too quickly.
People who downloaded Big Scale Racing have also downloaded:
Beetle Crazy Cup (a.k.a. Beetle Buggin), Autobahn Racing, CART Precision Racing, City Racer, Battle of Britain (from TalonSoft), Cabela's 4x4 Off-Road Adventure 3, Colin McRae Rally 2, Ballistics
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