Friday, October 29, 2010

Review: Superstars V8 Racing

Platform: PS3 (via PSN)

Developer: Milestone

Publisher: O-Games

# of Players: 1 (online 1 - 8)

ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)

Official Site

Score: B

At a mere twenty bucks, the PSN download-only Superstars V8 Racing offers up a fast and fun chunk of quality racing at an excellent price. While comparing it directly to Sony's upcoming Gran Turismo 5 point by point is a bit of a stretch, the game is certainly worth picking up for its selection of V8-powered European cars, fun to drive real-world tracks and the handling model which balances simulation and arcade elements without going overboard on either. Like other Milestone-developed racers, there are a few menu and GUI quirks that make jumping into races take a bit longer than it should. Nevertheless, you're certainly going to be getting more than enough serious mileage out of the game that you'll be back for more for as long as it's on your hard drive.

US gamers not familiar with V8 racing (or more used to NASCAR or other non road-racing events) the TOCA series or other varied motor sports events might wonder what the appeal is in hitting the road in big-engined powerful European coupes and how Superstars compares to their favorite racers. Well, one race around any course in this game should do a great job of convincing any skepticism right out of you that this qualifies as a pretty serious (albeit arcade-like) racing experience. If you're new to a Milestone-developed racer, you won't simply blow the doors off the competition right away until you get a feel for each car's handling model and each track's twists and turns. Power-sliding constantly is a no-no, as you'll find yourself passed by the AI that simply loves to drive the courses as they should be driven.

Each of the real-world cars and tracks are modeled nicely and while not as cutting edge as a few other racers out there, the sense of realism is solid and believable. This isn't a Burnout, Need For Speed, Split Second or any other racer that boosts up colors and speed intentionally to add a Hollywood-like appeal to the racing action. Nevertheless, the dry presentation works if you love racing as a sport and can see what the developer has intended. Milestone's racers are fun to play because they show a developer that loves a specific type of auto racing and knows how to streamline the experience down so that it's accessible to any and all that want to hit the track without being completely dumbed down. You can turn off the assists and turn on the penalties for a more realistic experience, but expect to be flagged off the track if you try to play bumper cars...

The solid visuals and matter of fact presentation works perfectly if you happen to watch V8 racing or any other actual racing event where substance outpaces style. In reality, many road course-based racetracks are pretty plain-looking even with cars blazing around them and Milestone has done yet another fine programming job here. Having played a few of their other Superstars racers as well as their SBK motorcycle games, I'm used to the straightforward driving model and the tons of car adjustments that can be made pre-race. Sure, you can go with the default settings and still take home a win or three. But tweaking your spoiler, driving aids and other options pre-race and seeing better results for it is just a lot more satisfying.

Granted, there are a wee too many menus and brief load screens when going into a race (and post race when auto-saving), but in this age of impatience, sometimes it's just good to slow down and be able to get a breath in before the big adrenaline rush a good race provides. There are a ton of Trophies to nab, some of which are pretty easy, while others demand perfection with cars that can be beasts to drive properly. While the cars and tracks look great, you'll see things such as trees and some background elements that look a little too fake for their own good or grandstands that could use a wee bit more race day liveliness. Sounds are great overall and I pretty much shut the music off after the first few races, as NOT hearing wailing guitars and other tunes actually helped me concentrate on the courses.

Online play is well implemented and as for competition, it ranged from slim to a pretty decent amount of live players the few times I logged on. If you're into awards, the nice load of offline and online Trophies will definitely keep you quite busy, particularly the more demanding ones that require specific cars, track times or track conditions. Other than the load times, my only other gripes would be with the lack of an inside the car view, the AI sometimes being too darn good when it gets in first place. Once you lose the lead (or if you're way in the back of the pack and moving up), it's as if the AI gets a rocket boost, blazing perfectly ahead while you fight it out with the pack. If you're in first place, you'll almost always find someone on your tail or trying to nudge you into the dirt when you slow down for a sharp turn. But hey - that's racing, right?

Bottom line, don't let the budget price fool you - this one's quite a blast for the money and a better deal than you'd expect, provided you're a fan of one type of racing-only games. Superstars V8 Racing is a good enough racer that proves that you don't need to be a total car nut to like and enjoy what's here. You just have to be in the mood for a budget game that's solid enough to sell for twice the price and there's nothing wrong with that, I always say...

Screenshot Gallery 1

Screenshot Gallery 2

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