Game Over Online ~ Dethkarz

GameOver Game Reviews - Dethkarz (c) Beam International, Reviewed by - umax / prolix /

Game & Publisher Dethkarz (c) Beam International
System Requirements P200 16mb RAM Glide/D3D 3D Accelerator
Overall Rating 90%
Date Published Sunday, November 8th, 1998 at 03:45 PM

Divider Left By: umax Divider Right

Not too long ago, there were a batch of upcoming games that I was very interested in. They caught my eye because of their originality, their eyecandy type graphics, and their system requirements. :) Well, now these games have arrived. One of the ones way up on my old list of "I want to see it now!" was DethKarz. When I first saw the name of this game on the release list we post, I laughed thinking it has to be a knock off of Death Rally or something similar. I did go and check out the website and was I ever shocked. This game has been a long time coming for those who have been following development, and its great to see that it made it through to the shelves.

This game looks very similar in many ways to many other games of the fantasy racing genre. I have seen comparisons of it made to the likes of WipeoutXL: 2097 and Motorhead. One shocking comparison was that of it to MegaRace, an old racing game that was one of the very first to make it to CD-Rom only. (Remember? Back in the day when there were those who would rather shoot their foot then buy a CD-Rom?) However visually similar this game appears from screenshots to these venerable titles of the genre, it is not.

There isn't much of a plot behind DethKarz, really only that you are in a league in the future and you can chose between four different teams: Anassi, BlitzWagen, Hyperon and Astor. In each of these teams there are 3 different classes of cars; from lowest to highest: Platinum, Iridium and Titanium. When you start out the game, you can only drive the Platinum level cars. You obtain access to the higher level cars by completing 3 seasons on each of 4 different tracks. Actually, these 'seasons' are just different lengths of the track. Season 1 is the shortest race on each track with road blocks in place to limit your lap distance. Season 2 removes some of these roadblocks and makes you race a bit longer on each track, and season 3 removes all the roadblocks and you must race the longest distance on each track to succeed. After completing each of season on the 12 different tracks while staying in the top 3 rank, you will move from Platinum to Iridium level. The Iridium cars are, obviously, faster and handle better then the Platinum level ones. You continue this way with the Iridium cars until you gain access to the Titanium level cars, which are the ultimate. The gameplay is very structured as a result of this racing ladder system. If you don't want this level of gameplay, you can select Arcade mode instead of Championship, and race a single track with any team you want. Your car can be customized, to a degree. You can have it either automatic or manual transmission, and chose your primary weapon. I thought they could have included more to chose from, because the two you get to chose from, pulse cannon and laser, are very similar. However, they make up for this with the powerups strewn around the track. These come in the form of little blocks that are laid on the track. They do different things such as give you a sudden burst of speed with an afterburner, give your car a limited supply of force fields which do different things, or give the car a single shot of a type of offensive weapon or missile. You cannot pick up another powerup until you use the one you currently have, so this involves strategy and conservation. The enemy cars are very craft, in all levels of difficulty. Even when I tested the game in easy mode, they were trying to push me and bump me off the road. The enemy cars can also pick up the powerups, and you sometimes have to straight out drag race another car down a straightaway to get to the powerup you need before it does! The cars handle very interestingly. They run on four wheels, unlike Wipeout, so they had to include some skidding and over/understeer which they have done very well. If you don't learn to manage your speed going into and coming out of corners you'll end up spinning out your rear tires, or worse; flying over the edge of the track.

All of this is great, but what really caught my eye before I could play the game were the screenshots. This game has unbelievable graphics. One has to keep in mind this is not a racing simulation and these cars are made up, so the programmers have lots of freedom to make the game as visually impressive as they want. Afterall, EA could hardly have put lasers and afterburners on the Maranello, could they? This is something the programmers and artists over at Melbourne House have done astonishingly well. The game has supperb support for the Voodoo and Voodoo2 chipsets, and is definitely optimized exclusively for them. The special effects in the game like explosions and flames are beautiful. There are sparks and electric shocks flying left right and center and even with a screen filled with 10 other exploding/shooting/smoking cars there was no lag in framerate. Other effects like skid marks and smoke were brilliantly done, and looked very realistic. Other effects they used I have not seen done in many other games before. Effects like having full motion 26fps video projected onto giant billboards during the race, and multi-texturing/chroming techniques that make NFS3 cry. Dispite its out of this world theme, DethKarz is visually very convincing, and also very imaginative.

Sound in DethKarz is crystal clear. There is speech throughout the game. The racing sounds were very good on the whole, but the engine sound itself for the cars was less then awe inspiring. It didn't sound weak, but it lacked that 'world is coming to an end' feeling that the engine should have given. Afterall, these cars do 0-200mph in about 16seconds. Another little quandry about the engines was that some of the cars appear to have jet engines, yet they had piston engine sounds. Oh well, guess that one goes unanswered. Weapons and explosions are all superb, and could only be enhanced really with 3D Positional audio or some other depth enhancer. The music is very technoish and has a good beat which carries you, but isn't as distracting as it was in WipeoutXL.

Overall DethKarz is probably the best arcade racer on the PC right now. Nothing can even come close for pure visuals, and control and gameplay which is addictive only adds to this amazing game. I think anyone who likes racing games or arcade style gameplay would love DethKarz, and it is easy to get into. The reward based gameplay system keeps the player coming back, while the enemy AI is just hard enough to tick you off and keep you coming back to blow them up some more. The only problem with this game would have to be the terrible multiplayer. I tried numerous setups for TCP/IP multiplayer and all of them were terribly lagged. Modem->Cable, Cable->Cable, Cable->T1 and LAN were all very choppy, which leads me to believe there will very quickly be a patch available. This however wasn't enough to hamper the game's great performance, and single player is challenging enough anyways.

Highs: Unbelievable Graphics, great sound, challenging and imaginative gameplay and cars and tracks, variety of weapons, non repetitive gameplay

Lows: Relatively high system requirements, bad TCP/IP multiplayer

System Requirements (manufacturer's):

(3D accelerated version)
Pentium 166MHz CPU
16meg RAM 40meg HD space
4meg Direct3D compliant 3D accelerator
DirectX compliant digital sound card
DirectX 5+

(non 3D accelerated version)
Pentium 200MHz MMX CPU
16meg RAM
Glide compatible 3D graphics accelerator. (Voodoo, Voodoo2, Voodoo Banshee.)
DirectX compatible digital sound card
DirectX 6+


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Divider Left By: prolix Divider Right

Strapped into my titanium anassi racing car, I embrace for the inevitable, destruction. I rage across the red planet taking hairpin corners at 190mph while being shot at by laser cannons. I see the number one racer, I load a rocket and let him have it, at last I have destroyed the bastard, victory is mine! Welcome to the futuristic racing world of Deth Karz. Take control of 12 cars with individual options, pickup 11 unique power-ups, and watch those pretty graphics fly on your 3d card.

-Graphics: One word sums up the 3d accelerated graphics, astonishing. Only one other game has impressed me this much graphically and that's Unreal. Every car is beautifully rendered and is extremely polished. Even the track backgrounds are perfect, they set the mood flawlessly. I saw no graphical errors such as white lines popping up. One of my favorite effects was a certain powerup that changed your car to a transparent green, it's amazing. You won't hear any complaints from me in the graphics department.

-Sound & Control: My gravis gamepad steered me through each lethal curve flawlessly. Some people might complain the control is unsound and needs work, but you just have to master breaking and accelerating techniques. The sound is relatively impeccable, every sound effect suits the game perfectly. My only complaints would be the lack of a loud engine roaring and more distinctive crashing noises.

-Gameplay & Fun Factor: The main goal of the game is to come in first obviously, but you can achieve it by killing your opponents, which adds a new twist. There are several offensive powerups, like rockets and land mines along with defensive repair kits and shields. At first I was having problems controlling my car, I kept falling off the side and spinning out, after I mastered breaking and accelerating the game was easy. As far as actual gameplay goes I can't complain about a thing. I have several complaints related to the fun factor however, one being the lack of tracks. There is only four tracks included in the game, but after you beat championship mode you enable different length tracks on the same courses. In my personal opinion, if your going to make a racing game, load it with as many unique tracks as you possibly can. Second, why must I go through winning the championship just to enable the cars made of better metals.

-Multiplayer: Every connection type is supported and even TCP/IP is here. I played this game with a cable host and four other friends and we suffered some lag, which occasionally interfered with our game. However, I had an absolute blast destroying my friends in head to head racing when there was no lag.

-Overall Opinion: I would love to give this game a ninety or better, but one problem annoys me. Yep, its the lack of different tracks! Anyone who enjoys a good intense race and doesn't mind being shot at while trying to win will get a real kick out of this game. For those of you who are serious nascar boy's, avoid Deth Karz, its pure 100% arcade action.


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