Featuring five game modes, hefty minimum system requirements, and a dozen realistically rendered circuits, Le Mans 24 Hours lets you strap in behind the wheel of 200+ mph racecars while competing in one of the most coveted race events in the world. More than 70 real-life cars can be fine-tuned in three separate performance categories (GT, Open Prototype or Closed Prototype) with adjustments to fuel capacity, down force (ailerons), tires (soft, hard or intermediate), gearbox (automatic or manual), gear ratio (acceleration, top speed or balance), and engine (endurance, sprint or balance).
The annual event began in 1923 as the "Grand Prix of Endurance" and has endured to become one of the crown jewels of racing venues in motor sports history. Just as in real-life, you'll encounter day and night driving, changing weather conditions, variable track textures, fatigue and more as you work your way through the preeminent Le Mans mode, unlocking new cars. To unlock all cars used in the 2000 Le Mans, you must win both the Petit Le Mans-Road Atlanta race as well as the Le Mans 2000 races. Winning requires completing more laps than your opponents within 24- or 10-hour setups, or races lasting 100, 30 or 10 minutes.
Additional game modes include Quick Race to open up additional tracks (for use in time trial mode), Championship (includes eight races that must be won in linear order to open the next), multiplayer (two player), and Time Trials. Quick Race initially offers four circuits, while Championship mode begins with the Rookie GT category, and advances through Pro GT, GT Enduro, Open Prototype, Closed Prototype, Prototype Enduro, Super Enduro, and Winter Challenge races.
Having the lowest household recognition of almost all of the racing series doesn't necessarily mean that a game based on that series will be poor. This was proven on the Dreamcast a few years ago when Test Drive: Le Mans was released for the console by Infogrames. Now, comes this year's installment of Infogrames Le Mans series game following 2000's Test Drive: Le Mans for the PC. With the same formula that made the previous game a simple joy to play, Le Mans 24 Hours is a little too close to its previous installment to earn top marks, but still offers enough to be worth a recommendation for those unfamiliar with the Infogrames Le Mans line of games.
What makes Le Mans so fun to play is the simplicity of the racing experience. This will no doubt cause the game to lose favor from serious racing sim fans, but I found the level of difficulty perfect. At an intermediate level with some traction control, racing was extremely satisfying with only my performance hampering my total domination of the AI drivers. There is an easy, intermediate, and advanced level of difficulty, with each corresponding to having an assist on or off. The assists are auto braking, and driving aids.
There are a few modes of gameplay including Time Trial, Quick Race, Multiplayer (2 player split screen), Le Mans and Championship. The meat of the game is in the Championship mode as it is there that new cars and tracks will be unlocked when you win the series. Unlocked cars can then be used in the other modes including the Le Mans mode. It is here that you can simulate a real Le Mans endurance race with time scaled anywhere from 10 minutes to 10 hours on the Road Atlanta track, and anywhere from 10 minutes to 24 hours on the Le Mans track.
During long races, you will be exposed to changing weather and lighting which adds a nice dynamic to the race. Unfortunately, it is here that the dated graphics are really exposed. It doesn't seem as if Infogrames has made any improvements to the graphics within the last two years. The graphics although serviceable, are quite bland and don't offer any eye-popping eye-candy.
For those of you unfamiliar with the American Le Mans Racing Series, it is an endurance racing series. This means that the winner of the race is not the first one to complete a certain number of laps, but rather the first one to complete the most laps in a given period of time. This makes the proper car setup integral in winning races, as pit strategy comes into play especially in the longer races. Before races, cars can be set up for each track and race condition for a greater chance of winning. These include tire compound, downforce, gear ratio, engine setup, and fuel level.
Where the game truly shines is in the gameplay. With a near perfect level of difficulty at the intermediate level, you don't have to worry too much about spinning out with fresh tires, and this leaves you with only the AI drivers and your own ability to battle with. The sense of speed in the game is very well done with curb markers, and static items scattered along the track.
Although I enjoyed the simple level of racing and the speed depicted in the game, the rules of the race model leave much to be desired. Taking shortcuts across long turns, and ramming cars off the track are not punished as there is an almost non-existent damage model. Also, barring car damage, there is no time or disqualification punishment for using such tactics. Although it didn't bother me in the slightest, there is no online racing mode which is sure to miff a lot of gamers.
Le Mans 24 Hours will never be a classic but it is a solid racing game for casual fans of racing games who are big fans of the ALMS racing series. Therefore, it is unlikely to appeal to a lot of people, making it pretty much just like its real life counterpart.
People who downloaded Le Mans 24 Hours have also downloaded:
Le Mans 24 Hours (a.k.a. Test Drive Le Mans), IndyCar Series, Grand Prix 4, Grand Prix Legends, Leadfoot: Stadium Off Road Racing, Sega Rally 2 Championship, NASCAR Racing 2003 Season, Grand Prix 3
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