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
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.