||Cart - Flag to Flag
"Powerslides? Not in my neighbourhood!" - Review By Ares
Ah, race cars. Thousands of pounds of steel, moulded and aerodynamically shaped, housing an engine that would make an airplane proud, driven by mere men at hundreds of kilometres per hour within inches of each other as they fight the forces of gravity. And the sounds they make: the roar of the engine as it comes to life, expressing the sheer power of these beasts on four wheels. Oh, to be a race car driverů
In what is now standard for pretty much all sports games these days, Flag to Flag has an official CART license, including all the teams and drivers as well as all 19 circuits. For each team, you get a little background information for the team and driver, regarding their statistics and records, but the track design is what stands out the most. Each circuit is perfectly detailed, down to every turn and elevation change, as well as all the proper advertising. While I'm sure every track is meticulously crafted, I can speak from real-life experience by driving around my home Vancouver track. I can point out the North Shore Mountains, the Sky Train overpasses, various buildings and the major sports arenas, BC Place Stadium and GM Place. Without that kind of detail, the game would fall flat on its face, so kudos to Sega for doing an excellent job.
All tracks are accurately modeled, right down to the advertisements.
Flag to Flag has a number of different view modes available including 3rd and 1st person. The best way to play the game is from the 1st person view, however. In this view, you can see that Sega did a great job modelling the inside of a CART race car: the dashboard instruments are true to life and react according to what you're doing, including seeing your driver's hands and arms turn the wheel and change gears. The game also has a few nice touches such as dirt that accumulates on your visor when in the 1st person view to grass that clings to your tires when you drive off the course. To top it off, pit stops are handled nicely with an animated pit crew that visibly change your tires and refill your gas tank.
The game itself is split into two halves. There's an arcade mode, where you can play with one or two players, as well as a single player Championship simulation mode. The arcade mode lets you pick whatever team and track you want as well as variables such as race length and weather, and off you go. In the Championship mode, you get to choose the same race options as arcade mode, but this time you're in it for the long haul in order to accumulate the most points. You have the garage that lets you tweak your car in any way you choose, including changing tires, suspension, and steering, according to each track you're on. Before each race, you have the option of running a few practice laps to familiarize yourself with the track before you run your qualifying laps to see what position you begin the race in. The actual races are what you'd expect. Control is tight and responsive and the analog triggers for gas and break come in handy. You'll want to make sure you learn every turn on each track if you want to succeed, knowing what gear to be in and when to break. Depending on what place you finish the race in, you get a certain number of points that add up to determine the championship winner at the end of the season.
The first-person view is the best way to play Flag to Flag, and pretty darn realistic too.
The audio is a mixed bag but at the same time, there's really not a lot you can do in a game like this. The menu music has a nice upbeat tempo and the sound effects of selecting menu options sound very much like that of an arcade game or a Las Vegas casino's slot machine. Inside the cockpit, the cars sound just like their real-life counterparts including the high pitched whine so familiar, the changing of your gears, and any skidding or bumping into walls that you do. It's simple, but at 300 kilometres and hour, you wouldn't hear more than that anyway. Aside from engine sounds, a nice touch is the communication that you have with your pit crew. Upon bumping into something or when you're on the verge of an empty fuel tank, you'll hear your pit crew over the microphone asking if you're okay or telling you how many laps are left and when you need to make a pit stop. This is the first racing game I've played that does that and it's a very welcome addition.
I still can't figure this one out. I manipulated all the different settings available, but could not get any kind of damage to occur aside from driving into a wall but even that isn't represented visually. Other than that, you can drive head on into other cars and not a single thing will happen. This comes as a huge surprise considering that CART racing has a pit area to repair your car and in a game like this, it's a huge oversight. On top of that, whenever you drive off the track and come in contact with grass or sand, your car can go from 200 kilometres and hour down to about 50 in half a second. For whatever reason, grass and sand in Flag to Flag brings your car to a halt like hitting a brick wall and doesn't allow for the wild accidents we see in real races. To top off the list of oversights, you cannot manually change the car's gears. Even on the hardest difficulty level, the car changes gears automatically. For a game that touts itself, and comes through in most cases, as a simulation, these things really devalue the title.
If you like CART racing, you'll like Flag to Flag. Otherwise...
It's unfortunate that this is the way it has to be, but to make any progress within the game; you'll have to decrease the amount of laps per race unless you have lots of time and patience. Because normal CART races take place over sometimes hundreds of laps and a good percentage of the tracks being ovals, if you left the race length on the 100% setting, you'd find yourself monotonously driving in circles for hours. So unless you have the inclination to do this, you're going to have to sacrifice a little realism for gameplay.
In the end, I keep coming back to saying, "Good, but not great." If you're a fan of the CART series or are just looking for a fairly realistic racing experience, Flag to Flag delivers. If you've never watched a CART or F1 race in you're life, you'll have more fun with a game like Tokyo Xtreme Racer or Sega Rally 2.
The Final Word
CART Flag to Flag does everything you'd expect it to, but not a single thing more. For fans of the genre only.
Highs: Perfectly modeled tracks, nice graphical and aural touches, just like real CART racing.
Lows: No damage, grass acts like a brick wall, just like real CART racing.
Other: 1-2 players, VMU (for saving data), Race Controller Compatible.
(out of a possible 10)
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