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Game Over Online ~ Paris-Dakar Rally

GameOver Game Reviews - Paris-Dakar Rally (c) Acclaim, Reviewed by - Fwiffo

Game & Publisher Paris-Dakar Rally (c) Acclaim
System Requirements Windows, Pentium II-450, 64MB RAM, 350MB HDD, 3D Accelerator
Overall Rating 60%
Date Published Sunday, September 30th, 2001 at 05:20 PM

Divider Left By: Fwiffo Divider Right

Being a complete outsider to any racing events, I have to confess, I didn't know the premise behind Paris-Dakar Rally (PDR) even existed. Everyone is probably familiar with the concept of the iron man races, where you must exert different abilities in order to make it across various terrains. PDR is based on this same concept, except you will use a number of vehicles and even a motorbike to scale landscapes that normally would be considered off-road.

This title was simultaneously released on both the PS2 and the PC platforms. As such, there are a few quirky things about it and above all, it seems to suffer from the constraints of a console. The accompanying documentation claims that this game supports Windows 2000. However, I had a host of problems getting it to run and finally had to resort to Windows Me. Of which case, I should note that there are various driver (namely DirectX certified drivers) requirements for nearly all manufacturers. Luckily, the developers have opted to include those on the CD itself, although for me, the initial setup was harsh.

After all that technical work, I think the vast majority will be shocked to find that the game only ran in resolutions up to 640 x 480, at least, that is all that I could get the game engine to do for me. Nevertheless, the visuals are as detailed as dirt roads and barren land can look. Don't expect anything like racing beside giant pyramids or through interesting architectural sites. Rather, the whole environment of North Africa is comprised of mostly dirt/sand, sparse areas of jungle and rocks. It certainly gives me a good idea why the Romans fled North Africa shortly after the desertification of the continent began. I liked the fact that you could switch between perspectives throughout the vehicles. The vehicles themselves are often colorful and vibrant. Despite the low visual resolution though, it is recommended that you have a modern graphics card to actually play this game. As with all computer specifications, it's better to go with the recommended values as a base or even double it to get appreciable performance.

One of the primary strengths of a console machine is its simplistic control structure. Using peripherals like the gamepad, sophisticated games can easily be grasped by non-technical consumers. For some reason though, when console-control style logic is ported over to the PC, the control scheme almost always fails to make a smooth transition. Take for example, Final Fantasy VII. I'm not one to usually complain that controls are too sensitive or insensitive but my experience with the controls in PDR was rather poor. There were many times, what I wanted to do, did not reflect accurately on the screen. Perhaps it is a due to a compromise to get this title on the PS2 or perhaps it is not.

PDR offers the traditional slew of Time Attacks, Arcade and Tournament (or Campaign within the game itself) style racing. Notably missing is a multiplayer component. PDR is really a different kind of racer though. You have to think to tackle the race tracks because sometimes, choosing one vehicle may get you over say a bunch of rocks, but choosing an alternate route in a faster but less rugged vehicle might actually be a better way. Like the aforementioned iron man races, you have to balance between food and water as well, refuelling when necessary at various service stations.

I'm not too sure how buggies and off-road vehicles sound in real life. However, PDR supports 3D sound and the audio effects are technically well done. There is more I can say for the soundtrack. It claims to be not the usual off the wall electric guitar or techno music. However, the synthesized ambient music, while fitting for the race, is not particularly moving in and of itself.

PDR is a good example of how hard it is for developers to simultaneously release a product for consumer-based console devices and the PC. If it is true that these two versions were developed in tandem, the PC's quality certainly has been the version that had to be compromised. Control issues and graphics are probably the top culprits. Still, PDR is enjoyable for the thoughtful racing fan. But I have to wonder whether these people exist. Certainly in North America, these types of endurance races do not carry a lot of fanfare. Many people here don't even have enough patience for a single NASCAR or Indy race, much less an endurance race that may last for days. Notice that The Fast and the Furious was the number one box office movie, not the flawed, but in my opinion, more interesting, Driven. Until PDR can offer something beyond its unique niche, I can only think that this will appeal to racers who appreciate a sense of strategy in lengthy and enduring race venues.


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