One of the racing-sim world's best-kept secrets has just rolled off the trailer, and the PC driving game genre may never be the same. Live for Speed is a remarkable new racing simulator that's been lovingly pieced together by UK-based programming gurus Scawen Roberts, Eric Bailey, and Victor van Vlaardingen without a publisher - or a budget. You may not see any expensive car or track licenses in this game, but you will encounter some of the finest vehicle dynamics your force-feedback steering wheel has ever shaken hands with.
A production-car racer à la Gran Turismo, Live for Speed definitely isn't for the ham-fisted gamepad crowd. It features seven closed-wheel machines - a modest FWD sedan and a brace of progressively more powerful sports and GT cars - and each demands a feather-light touch if you hope to keep it on the black stuff.
Only two cars are available at the outset, but you can earn the rest pretty quickly by accumulating the required points. Though its cars aren't as diabolically touchy as the machines in Grand Prix Legends, LFS is nevertheless an unapologetically sophisticated driving simulator that'll thoroughly test your understanding of the relationship between tire and tarmac.
Some of the finest force-feedback effects ever coded for a racing title help out tremendously. So does a comprehensive car-tweaking menu, in which even the handbrake can be adjusted. You get only three tracks, two road courses, and a through-the-streets city venue, but each offers a wide assortment of configurations (including six rallycross layouts). And when you toss in the game's drag strip and skidpad, serious racers will have enough to keep them speeding for months.
Imaginatively designed and beautifully rendered, these fictional courses easily measure up with anything currently offered by the "big" publishers. An AWOL damage component is the only really significant omission, but with two more scheduled release modules in the works, that component is on its way.
Designed as both an on- and offline simulator, Live for Speed performs like a champ in either setting. The remarkably well-crafted single-player game pits you against a collection of highly adaptable AI drivers who exhibit an uncanny level of situational awareness as they battle tooth and nail for every position. Alternatively, the game's dedicated TCP/IP Internet component - accessible from the main menu with just a few mouse-clicks - delivers frenzied online action (and near hiccup-free performance) with scores of enthusiastic LFS opponents from around the world. Twelve car fields are the maximum in both disciplines, but the game's quality-over-quantity credo is the touchstone here, so a few missing cars are immediately forgotten once the green lights come on.
I despair for the competition once Live for Speed really begins to open up the throttle in the months ahead. This home-built simulation is already in a league of its own, and it's only going to get better.
People who downloaded Live for Speed have also downloaded:
London Racer: World Challenge, Le Mans 24 Hours, Leadfoot: Stadium Off Road Racing, L. A. Rush, Le Mans 24 Hours (a.k.a. Test Drive Le Mans), Rally Championship 2000, Richard Burns Rally, Need for Speed Underground 2
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