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World Driver Championship

Rated E for Everyone

Platform:

Nintendo 64 (N64)

Publisher:

Midway

Developer:

Boss Game Studios

Released:

June 1999

ROM Size:

128 megabits

Players:

One to Two Simultaneous

Genre:

Racing/Driving

Save:

Controller Pak (11 pages)

Optional:

Rumble Pak

 

 

> Final Rating: 4.2 out of 5.0

Introduction

For a system that has a glut of racing titles, it's shocking that realistic racing games—other than NASCAR or Formula 1—are rare on the Nintendo 64. With the incredible reception given to Gran Turismo on the PlayStation, however, realistic driving simulations are about to be given their due. But let's get this out of the way now: World Driver Championship is no Gran Turismo. Nevertheless, World Driver Championship has carved its own niche and turned out to be a very good racing simulation in the process.

 

World Driver Championship comes from the coding wizards at Boss Game Studios. Previously, the company developed Top Gear Rally and Twisted Edge Snowboarding on the platform. Once again, Midway has picked up the publishing rights. Just like the Boss Game's previous efforts, World Driver Championship is a seriously realistic game, which looks beautiful but requires patience since it starts off slow.

Gameplay & Control

Racing comes in multiple varieties in World Driver Championship. From the main menu, you will choose from Quick Race, Championship, 2P Versus, Training, and Options.

 

The single-player Quick Race mode is a little deceiving, as you must make a few more choices before racing. As expected, you have to choose your car and a track. Beyond that, you have to choose between Practice, Arcade, and Time Attack. Practice lets you race as many laps as you want by yourself. Arcade enables you to race any track against seven other computer opponents. Time Attack is the game's time trial mode. In the Time Attack mode, you also can race against a saved ghost of your race, or you even can choose from ghost drivers built into the Game Pak.

 

The Championship mode offers the ability to race over an entire career. This is a great feature of the game. You start by choosing between two teams. Take each team's car for a test drive to see which one you like better. As you gain "career points" from finishing races and cups in esteemed positions, your world ranking will rise, and you'll get new offers. You can accept or decline offers. Sometimes an offer will come from your existing team to drive a better car. Other times the offer will be to join a different team. There is no penalty for switching teams, but loyalty is a factor some teams consider.

 

You start your career racing GT2 cars. You're competing against seven other drivers on every track. The GT2 league consists of 10 different events that range from two laps on two tracks to five laps on four tracks. Before each race in an event, you can practice as much as you want and then must take the one-lap qualifying run. As you start winning (or placing high in) races, you'll gain "career points." As you gain more experience, usually by getting a gold cup in an event, you'll gain access to other cups. Eventually, if you get the gold in GT2's Invitational Event, then you'll enter the GT1 racing league, which is even more fast and difficult.

 

World Driver Championship contains an average 2P Versus mode. It's more than an afterthought, because the developers were able to add two AI opponents to the mix for a total four vehicles on the track. Unfortunately, graphical detail had to be reduced noticeably. Overall, the mode just isn't very exciting.

 

The Training mode in World Driver Championship is intriguing, but it's far too limited. You're put behind the wheel of Kohr's Rage 512 C on the Rome A track. As you're traveling along the track, a suggested speed indicator appears to show you the optimal speed for that section. Unfortunately, that's all you can do in this mode. That's the only car and track you can pick. A driving school would have been more useful.

 

Nothing revolutionary can be changed in the Options screen. You can change the music and sound effect volumes. You can toggle the speed units between MPH and KPH. You can switch between a normal, full-screen view, and a high-resolution letterbox view—without needing the Expansion Pak! You can change your transmission type. You can switch the game's default car view. You even can add gamma correction if the game is too dark on your TV. Furthermore, you can view a saved replay, you can look at and save records, and you can see the credits for the game.

 

As expected, the control in World Driver Championship is standard. You must use the Control Stick to steer. The A button is used for gas, the B button is used for brake, and the Z and R buttons are used to shift manually. Within the C group, Top C changes the view and Bottom C looks back. The L button cycles in-game displays off and on. Finally, the Control Pad is used during replays to decrease, increase, freeze, and unfreeze the playback.

 

With the background information out of the way, let's talk about the gameplay. First of all, it should be said that if you're not a patient gamer, you're not going to like this game. Here are a few examples why.

 

World Driver Championship, much like Boss Game's Top Gear Rally, starts off on the slow side. As you drive along on the first track, you'll notice that the scenery seems to move along slowly. The sense of speed just isn't high. The game does get faster as you gain each new car, though. Moreover, the control might be troublesome for some players. Compared to the extremely loose control in Top Gear Rally, the control in World Driver Championship is very tight. All cars have a feeling of heaviness to them—kind of like the Need for Speed series on the PlayStation. It's tough to keep the vehicles on the track unless you practice.

 

Neither problem is as severe as in Top Gear Rally, though, which was supposed to be an arcade-like racing game, anyway. Make no mistake about it: World Driver Championship was designed to be realistic and rewarding from the get-go.

 

Besides the great team concept of the Championship mode, World Driver Championship scores points in the areas of physics, artificial intelligence, and track design.

 

World Driver Championship's fictitious cars don't show real-time damage, but that doesn't mean you can play bumper cars. Some might contest the complete legitimacy of the game's physics engine, but what's here is very solid. For instance, depending on the angle you smack into a car, either you'll be spun out or the other car will spin out. Another example is that if you go through sand or dirt at high rates of speed, then you might go out of control. You'll also have the ability to hug the road around bends and powerslide through them, too. Once you get used to the "heavy" feeling with the control, you'll be immersed into a world in which you feel like you have complete control over a piece of ton machinery.

 

Artificial intelligence is another of the game's strong suits, which helps the realism factor. The first few cups start out easy enough for the average gamer. The competition isn't very threatening early. But you'll quickly find out just how much practice and patience are needed for this game. The game doesn't "cheat" like other racing games on the system. If you race superbly, you will win. If you don't, though, the computer will be ready to capitalize. In fact, sometimes it comes down to a simple fact that you slowed down too much at certain points. The entire field of computer cars comes into play, too. If you start behind, you'll have to battle through bends against three or four other cars simultaneously.

 

Excellent track design is a major advantage of World Driver Championship. Ten distinct tracks—such as Rome, Hawaii, Kyoto, New Zealand, and Las Vegas—have been included, and two or three variations of each track exist. The difference between Hawaii B and Hawaii C, for example, might be that you have to take a different part of the track for one section, but the rest of the track is the same. An average lap will take 1 minute and 30 seconds to 2 minutes 30 seconds.

 

Each track appears very much like you would expect in real life. On the Rome track, you'll ride in the open country and through small towns. Huge building structures are mixed with a country background. The incredible Kyoto track is run during a gloomy night, as you race from outside the city, through tunnels, and into downtown.

 

Each track features a nice mixture of straightaways and bends. Unlike rally racing, where a big indicator flashes on the screen and you're told when a bend is coming, it's solely up to you to race the tracks here. Sometimes bends are hidden by the shadows of trees and can be confused with the nighttime sky. The white line, you'll quickly learn, is your friend in this game. You'll also have opportunity to catch up by racing down a hill faster or by turning through a bend tighter. Multiple types of terrains are around, too, which require you to handle your vehicle differently.

Graphics & Sound

Visually, it will be difficult for another racing game on the system to equal World Driver Championship, and it doesn't even use the Expansion Pak! The cars are modeled realistically, so you'll get a good idea that you're driving a Porsche or Lamborghini, even though they're not licensed. You'll notice the little touches that go with them, like working headlights and lighting changes on top of the car. Furthermore, seven other beautiful, intelligent cars are on the track right there with you. Frame rate problems? That's not a consideration here. Now factor in some gorgeous looking tracks with proper shadows and lighting, with enormous polygon-based structures on the side, with animation in the background, and with other special effects (such as everyone's favorite, the lens flare) abound. The game looks incredible.

 

Aurally, World Driver Championship doesn't falter, either. Each car has its own distinct engine sound, and it will be music to some people's ears as one listens to the purr of all eight cars on the track while racing. The music is pretty good, too, and gains bonus points for not being repetitive techno beats. The stereo MIDI-based music features the hard rock sound that was dominant in the 1980s. So you'll hear wailing electric guitars and fast-paced drumbeats complete with guitar solos and lots of cymbal crashing. But you'll also know it's composed with the MIDI interface and wasn't recorded live in any studio.

Conclusion

With the two Ps, patience and practice, World Driver Championship becomes an engrossing gameplay experience unlike any other on the system. Realistic driving simulations are a world unto their own. If you become immersed, you'll find yourself completely focused and dedicated. You'll practice a track many times before racing it, even though you already know it. You'll become obsessed with faster and faster machines. You'll start to see white lines in your sleep. You'll examine each race with the game's incredible instant replay mode to see what you can improve. World Driver Championship might not have the depth or authenticity of Gran Turismo, but the rewarding learning curve and challenge level put the game into the big boy's league.

 

Graphics:

4.7

Sound:

4.2

Control:

3.7

Gameplay:

4.3

Lastability

4.1

OVERALL:

4.2

 

DOWN THE ROAD

Not available.

 

Review by: Scott McCall

First Reviewed: May 18, 2000

Appendix Added: N/A

 

 

 

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