||TNN Motorsports: Hardcore Heat
Hardcore Heat = Not so hot - Review By Fragmaster
Released in Japan as Buggy Heat and then slapped up with a TNN license and some enhancements for the American incarnation, TNN Motorsports: Hardcore Heat claims to put you behind the wheel of a "mud slinging, air catching, jaw breaking, stomach turning, rock pulverizing, squirrel flattening, gnat smashing, forest creature terrorizing, out of my way, eat my dust, stick it in your ear, this road ain't big enough for the both of us, all-terrain, off road, stump jumping, big bad boy vehicle." Uh huh.
Hardcore Heat's controls are fairly realistic. You can't go whizzing around the tracks at top speed, because taking a tight turn in sand at 80MPH just won't work. This is nice because it prevents the game from turning into a game of "hold down the accelerator and turn left," and forces you to change gear, shift, and use your breaks. There are still some issues with the control that aren't necessarily good things, but we'll get to that in a minute.
Hardcore Heat's controls and physics try to be more realistic than your typical racer.
The graphics are nothing to drool over, but they'll do. They're kind of like the graphics you would expect in a really good Playstation game or your typical PC racer. You can see the action from four views: rear, driver, front, and motion. Rear is the most useful of the views (isn't it always?), and there's not much difference between driver and front (they're both first-person views). The view that stands out here is motion view, which allows you to see your driver drive the car, shift gears, and steer in the bottom left hand corner of the screen. This view is completely pointless and blocks your view a little bit, but it doesn't really hurt anything by being there. It's easy to change the view from within the race.
The tracks are straightforward (there are no shortcuts or secrets), but each course is peppered with a variety of obstacles and terrain changes to prevent them from getting too mundane. There are eight drivers to choose from and each one has their own car, ranging from buggies to trucks.
The interface is easy to use and nice-looking, and there are lots of options to play with. In the garage you can customize your car's appearance and fiddle with the front and back suspension, tire grip, brakes, and gear. You can also turn off sounds that annoy you and change the appearance of the in-game view by disabling or enabling features that you don't use. In the library you can look at replays of past victories, records, and read up on profiles of the drivers (yes, you can even find out their blood type!) and their respective cars. I'm a little weirded out by fact you can learn about the drivers' "growth measure" and "basic technique," but I'll let that slide.
Two-player mode is split screen, and works fine. It's easy to get a race going, set the number of laps, and start racing.
While the controls and physics try to be somewhat realistic, they're really a hindrance: especially at first. Even if you master the art of driving your car properly, shifting gears when necessary, breaking, and anticipating turns, you'll still get frustrated. It's very easy to jostle against another car or take a turn too fast and spin out of control. The cars handle differently on different surfaces, which makes keeping control of your car an adventure on some tracks. One minute, a gentle nudge of your stick will guide your car through a turn and then the next you'll be cursing the inability of your car to turn at all.
While somewhat realistic, the controls can be very frustrating and erratic at times.
There are five modes of play: championship, time attack, vs. mode, level checker, and practice. Practice is pretty much useless, and takes place on an endless course with a ramp, some water, some hills, and a couple of obstacles. Wahoo. Time attack is a race against the clock, and level checker is just plain dumb: you can build your own AI driver and run him \ her through tests and then save him \ her to VMU to race against friends. Huh? Why spend time "training" a computer driver when you could be racing yourself? Maybe this would appeal to you if you're a Pokemon fan that also digs off-road racing, but otherwise this feature will be completely ignored.
Championship mode is the "heart" of the game, which isn't saying much. There are three modes: Normal, Hard, and Expert. You can advance from level to level by becoming third in the standings. The game uses a point-based system, like NASCAR. As a result, even players who can't play too well (probably due to the controls) can bumble their way to expert level and see everything the game has to offer. There are only six tracks, and none of them are particularly remarkable. You can race on them during different times of day or in rain, but the "weather" doesn't effect gameplay. You'll see everything this game has to offer really quickly.
There are some graphical issues, but nothing major. You can clip through the walls in certain areas of the tracks and there's some bad use of fogging as well. You'll also run across an occasional awful texture, a couple of which are particularly distracting.
Replay mode looks pretty cool, and it's easy to change camera angles or save to VMU.
The music and sound are sub-par. The music is generic mish-mash that loops endlessly, and the sounds are weak. The voices of the characters are particularly horrible and annoying… once you hear "Bye now!" the hundredth time, you'll want to hurt your driver very badly. Fortunately you can turn them off.
And despite what the marketing copy says, you can't flatten squirrels. Doh!
The Final Word
TNN Motorsports: Hardcore Heat does a pretty good job in capturing the feel of off-road racing, but the controls and physics ultimately take a lot of enjoyment out of the game. I'm not sure if Hardcore Heat is supposed to be a simulation or an arcade racer, but either way it just doesn't work. There's not enough depth to satisfy most simulation junkies and there's not enough interesting features to make the game appeal to your average gamer. To top it all off, there just isn't much game here and you'll see and do everything in the game with just a couple of hours of play. Hardcore Heat is not a terrible game by any means; it's just a very mediocre one and probably not worth your time.
Publisher: ASC Games
Highs: Good graphics, interface, tracks.
Lows: Control can be difficult to learn and annoying, sub-par sound, lack of tracks, depth, and replay value.
Other: 1-2 Players, VMU Compatible (for saving scores, drivers, and replays).
(out of a possible 10)
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