Racing action in a convenient take-home size - Review By Fragmaster
When I was a wee bit younger, one of my favorite games for the NES was R/C Pro-Am. It combined the 80's cheesiness of radio-controlled cars with tight control, good track design, and best of all, weapons. Launching missiles at other cars to knock them out of contention always brought an impish grin to my dorky little face.
Re-Volt is probably best described as R/C Pro-Am 2000. The story behind the game goes a little something like this: Toy-Volt is a hugely successful toy company, a company whose products seem to have a "magical" sort of property that make all of their creations incredibly popular. However, it seems as if they've used a little too much of that magic on their newest product, as their line of radio-controlled cars seem to have a mind of their own. They've escaped from the toy store shelves and now race around various real world locations for fun.
First of all, Re-Volt's graphics are superb. The sense of scale works incredibly well, as it really seems like you're a tiny R/C car racing through real-world places. The special effects, textures, environments, and cars are beautifully rendered. It doesn't have the graphical flair of say, Soul Calibur, but it's still one of the better-looking games on the Dreamcast.
Re-Volt's graphics are very well done, this is as close to R/C racing as you'll get.
Re-Volt's controls are perfect. While each of the 28 or so cars handle differently due to their transmission (4WD, front, or rear) speed, acceleration, and weight ratings, control is tight and precise across the board. Getting used to controlling different cars can be difficult, but this also allows you to choose a car best suited to your particular racing style. The physics engine is very well done. Collisions, jumps, and falls are handled about as realistically as you could expect. You can use the D-Pad or the analog pad to steer, personally, I prefer the D-Pad. The B button toggles the three different camera views (first person, follow, and chase), the X button flips your car, and the Y button magically repositions it.
Part of what makes Re-Volt a fairly difficult game is the AI. Unlike Hydro Thunder's, it doesn't race perfectly, but it's not exactly
easy to beat either. You'll never win by a huge margin. If you race almost perfectly, you'll win every time, but you can still mess up a lot and win through clever use of pick ups (power ups) and by catching a few lucky breaks. The pick ups really help to balance out Re-Volt's gameplay (although you can turn them off if they annoy the hell out of you). There are eleven in all, including fireworks, electro pulses, bombs, oil slicks, water balloons, ball bearings, and turbo batteries. Using these at opportune times is a great way to temporarily disorient or disable an opponent, giving you an opportunity to catch up. This, combined with the great sense of speed you'll feel, allows for some frenzied racing action.
The interactive features, such as this moving train, actually have an impact on gameplay.
The tracks are varied and imaginative, full of nice little interactive features and secrets to discover. There are about thirteen in all, but each can eventually be raced mirrored, reversed, and reversed-mirrored. Some of the locations include a museum, a suburban neighborhood (Toys in The Hood), a supermarket, a ship, and a ghost town. Each of the different environments are convincingly rendered to a realistic scale, and feature track design that is consistent with it surroundings.
Most of Re-Volt's content is hidden or "locked" initially, but this helps to keep the game fresh.
There are five main single player gameplay modes, those being single race, championship, time trial, championship, and practice. All of these are pretty self-explanatory. In championship mode, you attempt to win the bronze, silver, gold, and platinum cups. You must win each cup in order to progress to the next one. Within each championship, you have three extra tries to win the races if you don't finish high enough. There's also a stunt arena, where you attempt to collect all twenty stars in the arena by pulling off huge jumps and other tricks. Many of the stars are unreachable with the lower-level cars, but once you collect them all you'll be treated to a secret. You start out the game with only a couple tracks and a few cars, but once you win championships, races, time trials, and find stars you'll unlock more stuff. It won't take you long to unlock new stuff, either, but it will take you awhile to unlock everything since there's so much. This gives the game a lot more depth, since you're always finding new stuff and can play the hell out of the game for a long time before seeing everything.
Multiplayer Re-Volt is pretty darn fun. The game supports up to four players via splitscreens in either battle tag or racing modes. The graphics, not surprisingly, feature some noticeable pop-in during multiplayer, but the frame rate is smooth.
The track editor is relatively easy to use and an unusual addition to a console game.
Re-Volt's sounds as good as it looks, thanks to realistic sound effects and a great collection of thumping techno tracks. To help make the music seem less repetitive, the selection of tunes rotates so that even if you play the same level over and over again, the music will be different.
Re-Volt's interface is really well thought-out. The menus are intuitive and easy to navigate, and the in-game interface displays all the pertinent information you'd ever need without cluttering up the
Somewhat surprisingly, the track editor that was included in the PC version has survived the transition to the Dreamcast. Sure, while it may take you a little while to figure out how to use it and you aren't able to build anything as complex as the tracks included in the actual game, it's pretty easy to use once you read the instructions, and a nice little extra to fool around with. All the tracks you create can be saved to VMU and shared with your friends. Nifty.
Since Re-Volt is a fairly difficult game, you would think there would be some way to dumb it down for the uncoordinated or younger player, but there isn't. There are arcade and simulation modes, but the default is arcade, and simulation mode is probably harder yet. This makes the game frustrating at times.
Collecting stars in stunt arena isn't easy, as you'll quickly discover.
The frame rate sometimes drops a little when all of the cars are on the screen and careening through a large open area, and there are a couple of places in a few maps that are a wee bit too dark, but this is almost a nitpick since it doesn't really effect the game too much.
Computer controlled cars are really easy to beat on user-created tracks, probably because the AI is racing on unfamiliar territory. Also, the multiplayer interface lacks an easy way to start a new race after your current race ends, making multiple races a bit more difficult
than they should be.
The Final Word
Sure, the Dreamcast already has a bunch of racing games, but Re-Volt is unquestionably unique. The difficulty level and somewhat spotty frame rate are really the only significant flaws. It's a solid game with a lot to offer, both in single and multiplayer modes, and in some ways is even better than real R/C racing. Check it out!
Highs: Great graphics, control, and track design. Lots of stuff.
Lows: Difficult, some frame rate issues.
Other: 1-4 players, VMU Compatible (saved games require 22 blocks).
(out of a possible 10)
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