Game Over Online ~ Mercedes Benz Truck Racing

GameOver Game Reviews - Mercedes Benz Truck Racing (c) Synetic, Reviewed by - Pseudo Nim

Game & Publisher Mercedes Benz Truck Racing (c) Synetic
System Requirements Windows, Pentium 200, 32MB Ram, 300MB HDD, 3D Accelerator, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 89%
Date Published Thursday, December 28th, 2000 at 10:10 AM

Divider Left By: Pseudo Nim Divider Right

Racing games are fairly frequent nowadays, and, to be perfectly honest, they're rarely any good. Some are plain trash (like most F1 sims - fortunately, the flood seems to have stopped lately); some are almost good (like Colin McRae 2); but almost none are excellent. As well, notice how car racing is the most frequently abused genre: we rarely see motorbikes, boats, and all the other things that go fast. MBTR is a new entrant into the scene, and it doesn't use the cliché car theme - it's all about trucks, baby.

The first thing that you will notice (okay, perhaps not the FIRST first, but you'll see it soon enough) are the graphics. They are absolutely stunning. I must repeat that. The graphics in this game kick some major booty. Very, very sweet. Unfortunately, this comes at a price - don't expect to turn on "True Colour Textures" if you don't have a GeForce 2 Ultra, and don't expect to turn all the settings on if you have anything less than a GeForce 2 on a P3-600 or so. Having played it on a P3-450 with a GF2 at 1024x768@32bit, I must say I could have used a higher framerate.

The second thing you will notice is that you can't drive. At all. You will notice that your truck understeers, wipes out, does 180 degree turns and completely fails to obey polite requests to powerslide. However, this is no fault of the game: it is, indeed, purely none but your own. The game goes to great pains to accurately model the handling, performance and other characteristics of these 5 tonne, 1360 horsepower road kings. There is a pretty nice intro to truck racing in the game (which I rather wish were displayed as text, and not simply read aloud), which will give you a rough idea why they are so hard to handle.

But once you understand how the truck works and how to handle it more or less properly, you will find a wealth of options to help you fine-tune it. Everything is flexible in the game: suspension, tyre pressure, anti-roll bars, shocks, springs, gear ratios, even the amount of diesel to load in the truck, for maximum enjoyment. Another aspect that is customizable is the opponent difficulty, though I'm not quite certain what that changed when I moved it from 80% to 1% - I was still getting slaughtered by the opponents, and I still had virtually no hope of catching up. Most strange. There is much you can change in the options menu, too - up till the regulatory 160 km/h speed limit (you can take it off, and watch yourself hit a wall at 240 km/h instead of 160).

One more grudge that I have about the game pertains to the menu. Quite frankly, I think it's completely unusable (albeit very nice). It's not always clear which menu you are located in (some menus are usually greyed out, others are not, with no apparent pattern), and choices aren't obvious. Moreover, if you go into a submenu somewhere, you have to actually look and read the menu options before clicking something - your first guess will be to click the "Start Menu", but that's the wrong one - that brings you to the main menu (why not call it Main Menu instead?).

There are several modes of play (to which we're generally quite used to, so little needs to be said about it). There is the championship, single race, practise and multiplayer. There are close to a dozen tracks, some of which you may even recognise from other racing games (like the Nürnburgring and Donnington Park). This will also make you realise that you've driven around those tracks before, but in cars that can actually handle; as well, you will also likely realise that every turn feels like a hairpin. But enough rambling about my incompetence at driving a 5-tonne truck. There are things to enjoy, like, for instance, the replay mode. While it lacks some fundamental features (like free camera rotation and zooming), it's fairly decent, and definitely adds to the enjoyment of watching your own race (if you're into that sort of thing). What turned me off, though (and what ultimately resulted in my never watching another replay), is that the replay ignores car damage: so if you execute that head-on collision perfectly and try to watch it in replay, you won't see much. Incidentally, while on the subject of collisions, I must praise the damage model of the game. Most damages are accurately modeled and executed, and allow for great fun at smashing cars up. Unfortunately, the more serious collisions wind up overloading the algorithms, and result in very strange things happening, like trucks flying very high up in the air, or executing other acrobatic manoeuvres.

So can I recommend this game to anybody? Most definitely so. This is a new take on the racing genre, and lends itself to a great deal of enjoyment. However, I hesitate to recommend this to everybody: the learning curve is probably vertical, and mastering the handling of the trucks will be very difficult. I recommend turning on ABS (though do not turn on brake help - that's just plain useless), as it helps somewhat in the learning stage. The graphics are absolutely stunning, and the game displays a great degree of polished, skilful implementation of the Mercedes license. Try the demo first, and see if it floats your boat. But I can see this as being just a niche game (though an extremely good one at that).


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