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   PlanetDreamcast | Games | Reviews | Roadsters
This is one racer that should be junked - Review By Jetzep

Roadsters LogoDriving games became quite numerous with the original Playstation, and it seems that trend is continuing on the Dreamcast. Why is this? Perhaps it's because they're easy to slap together, and require less time investment to develop than other major 3D genres. Whatever the reason, there are just too many racing games on the Dreamcast. It's showing, and never more so than with Roadsters, the first Dreamcast offering from Titus.

  • The Good

    A few of the environments are colorful, but are hurt by bad slowdown.
    The game sports redesigned race type, character, car, and track menus that take advantage of Dreamcast's ability to push more polygons and lots more textures. The character select screens show good design sense and use of color. The character's voice samples are longer and richer than in the N64 version of the game.

    For the most part, the showroom where you select your car looks pretty spiffy. The cars revolve around a central hub, rotating into a central selection spot. Each car is carefully modeled and attractively rendered; paint jobs and reflections are pretty.

    While track selection takes a step down, it is still quite adequate. Little track dioramas rotate around to show the general track layout. Nothing dramatic, but good enough.

    There are times where the game slows and you get the distinct feeling that the game might crash. This is good! After a few minutes playing this game you really come to wish it would suffer a catastrophic meltdown. But -- drat! -- Player 1, the developers, seem to have eliminated all the "A" level crash bugs.

  • The Bad

    The camera likes to do intimate internal shots of the cars.
    Roadsters for N64 was a pretty fair game. It was a colorful arcade racing romp that added quite a lot to a platform which was fairly devoid of good racers (and still is, even with the addition of Roadsters and Ridge Racer 64). I can't say what Roadsters for PSX is like, since I haven't played it, but it seems to me that the folks at Player 1 stuck pretty much with PSX level artwork, coding, and innovation when they ported Roadsters over to the Dreamcast. After such an indictment as this, it may be redundant to say that this is like putting a new dress on a pig (but I'll say it anyway).

    Even though the car selection screens have been dolled up for the Dreamcast, they're still not top of the line. The cars do look good, but the showroom is the most basic of constructs. The central hub of the rotating car selection array has no texturing, so even though it's a 3D construct, it appears to have all the personality of a huge, gray square. The other pedestals are similarly unfinished. Perhaps Titus/Player 1 wanted the cars to take center stage, but it seems a little silly for the showroom to upstage the cars because of how bad it looks.

    But wait, there's more! Most auto selection showrooms in video games are boring places. Roadsters DC takes a different approach. About 25 percent of the time they start the sequence by placing the camera within the center of a rotating roadster. The camera is then quite literally jerked through the layers making up the car into a position where the entire exterior can be seen. Exhilarating! One wonders why this technique isn't adopted by more racing games, as it highlights from the inside out the 3D construction techniques of numerous low poly software artists (who really don't get enough credit in the industry, anyway, don'tcha know).

    You'll be seeing this a lot.
    Loading screens, long a bugaboo of even major developers, are no different in Roadsters DC. An undulating flag texture is inserted into the background of the loading screen. It stays in place when the load has been accomplished. The problem is that during the load, the animation plays at the uneven level dictated by the reading of the files from the CD. Only when the load is finished is the animation smooth and pleasing (as pleasing as a 20-state looping undulating flag background texture can be, anyway).

    Also, the pros at Player 1 decided to use a rotating Dreamcast-colored CD to help players gauge the passing of time. If the load times for Roadsters DC were actually acceptably low (which they aren't), this visual gimmick looks about as "au courant" as the original shining CD displayed for first generation PSX titles (ooh, there I go bringing up PSX again in a Dreamcast review. Bad form, I know.).

    Moving on to the actual game graphics, the track assets -- buildings and other structures, non-playable vehicles, fences, trees, and hedges -- are all very low poly in design and execution. Texture memory, which is one of the Dreamcast's strengths, seems to be vastly underutilized by the very basic texture applications. Suzuki Allstare Racing, which was vilified for similar reasons by numerous reviewers, looks like a wing of the Louvre when compared to Roadsters DC. The level of detail in the tracks makes Ubisoft's "Speed Devils" and Infogrames' "Test Drive 6" look positively polished! There is no evidence the team tried to employ any of Dreamcast's particle technology to generate smoke and dust trails behind the cars. My bad. I forgot. Why should they when you've got those lovely semi-transparent layered sprites that look so good during replays?

    While the sound effects and character voices are better than the game's N64 counterpart, the same two samples are used again and again during game play for each character. For example, my female character said, "No fair!" when being passed, and "Is that the best you can do?" after moving up a spot. After just a few minutes of gameplay I fought down the urge to drive a nail through the CD and instead went into the options menu to disconnect the voices.

    Hmmm... PSX-style artwork, basic textures, and an extremely limited selection of sounds and speech. What's on the rest of the Dreamcast CD? An encyclopedia and a full color cook book?

    To sum, play Roadsters DC and you will quickly realize that its technology degrades the Dreamcast's capabilities and performance almost to the point of indecency (how do you get frame rate slowdowns on a PSX game that's running on a Dreamcast, anyway?). You'll realize that its control is lacking and collision handling is woefully inadequate. And you'll realize that its physics stretch the meaning of "arcade" nearly to the outer limits.

  • The Final Word
    Roadsters DC has the look and feel of a game that was rushed to market before it was truly ready. Did the marketers get to it? To paraphrase HG Wells' "War of the Worlds, "... intellects vast. cool and unsympathetic, regarded this game with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against it." But how did Titus bamboozle Sega of America, which recently changed its name to Sega of America Dreamcast to reflect its commitment to quality, into approving for distribution a game that resembles "Road Apples" more than "Roadsters"? Perhaps we'll never know. And perhaps it's better that way.

    Developer: Player 1
    Publisher: Titus
    Genre: Driving

    Highs: There are a lot of cars and a lot of tracks; it'll probably get marked down quickly.

    Lows: Low-tech graphics and frame rates, grating voice effects, bad controls, minimal use of Dreamcast's capabilities.

    Other: 1 - 4 Players, VMU Compatible, Jump Pack Compatible.

    Final Score:

    (out of a possible 10)

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