Release Date: 9/16/2002
Michael Schumacher's Racing World Kart 2002 is a game that allows you to drive a mile in the shoes of legendary kart racing personality, Michael Schumacher. Why you would want to do such a thing might not be readily apparent however, I mean, is kart racing really even a recognized sport? Apparently it is, and apparently Schumacher is to kart racing what Tony Hawk is to skateboarding, or perhaps more precisely, what Antz are to “Extreme Racing”, hehe, but I digress. This is actually a surprisingly enjoyable game by all accounts, the game play is simple yet takes time to master and the overall presentation is of pretty high-quality.
The first thing you'll do after starting up a game is customize your kart racer. The customization options only allow for changes to the aesthetic design of the racer and kart however. There are no options to upgrade parts or switch between different personalities with unique attributes, it is very cut-and-dry in this regard. After choosing the design of your racer, you will then want to check out the play modes. There are three modes of play; Championship, Time Trial, and Training. Each mode is split up into three classes; FUN, ICA, and FSA. Initially only the FUN class will be available, in order to progress to the next class you'll have to complete whatever challenge is applicable for the mode you are attempting to progress in. As you move up in classes you'll be given more powerful karts thus changing the handling and behavior of the game play considerably.
The main mode, Championship, is based on an overall score system. The first class that you participate in is comprised of three separate tracks, it requires that you collect at least 24 points in order to progress to the ICA league. The amount of points you are given will be dependant on what place you rank in each race, the maximum amount of points you can receive per race is 10 points, that’s if you place first. There are six people to a race, if you place sixth than you get a measly single point. The point-system in this game is a great way to give the player a choice in how to proceed. For example, if you have placed second in all of the races you will be a few points short of qualification, so you can pick and choose exactly which courses you wish to compete in again to acquire a higher score.
The other two modes are entertaining in their own right but mainly serve only to compliment the more in depth Championship mode. Time Trial allows you to progress to the next class by beating all the track times. Same courses and karts as Championship only the method of progression is different. Training mode is pretty cool, it offers up recreations of actual real-life professional racers on various tracks via a ghost image. If you can beat the ghost image than you can move on to the next course.
Actually controlling your kart through these three modes is extremely simple. The only buttons that you need worry about are acceleration and brake, maneuvering is limited to left and right movements. When you get out on a course and start racing, the first thing you'll notice is how tight the game controls, it feels like arcade-style play but in actuality it also does a good job of simulating what it is like to drive around in a actual kart. Kart racing kind of is arcade-style in real-life, so what we have here is a simulation game that just happens to play like a arcade game, or something. The various twists and turns around the courses is where you'll really need to put some power-sliding skills into play, once you learn how to navigate sharp corners than it should be smooth sailing from there.
The on-screen action is fast and frantic, vying for position is very feasible in this game and the computer-controlled opponents act and react very realistically. You'll often close the gap between you and the person in front of you by pulling a couple swank cornering maneuvers. It is easy to be mislead about the game’s difficulty at first since the first few courses don't require that you pay much attention to the road in order to win. But once you hit the ICA league the game gets very challenging, requiring that you play through courses multiple times before earning a respectable position. This is good and bad, good because it successfully prolongs the overall time it takes to complete the game and bad because the ramp in difficulty seams relatively off-kilter.
Graphics are sharp and detailed, though there is no option to tweak the video detail settings outside of resolution and a few bells and whistles like whether there should be lens flares or tire marks. The 16 available courses all look very realistic and vary greatly from track to track. There are indoor tracks that are composed completely of artificial surroundings and tracks that are outside on the open-road. Visually, the game won't make any reasonably new systems sweat, nor will it succeed to impress in the graphics department. But it gets the job done and even looks pretty good doing it.
You can tell that the developers spent a good amount of time working on this game’s aural niceties, the sound effects being the focus of its audio presentation. As you move up to more powerful engines you'll notice that they tend to make realistic revving and acceleration sounds. The music is a little generic but compliments the on-screen action quite nicely.
Overall, Michael Schumacher's Racing World Kart 2002 is a great diversion to other more cartoon-y kart racing games. It offers a realistic depiction of the sport while not going overboard with tons of tweaking options and other technicalities, for some that may be a disappointment but for people looking to jump right into the action it should prove to be entertaining for at least a few hours. The replay value isn't the greatest though so I wouldn't recommend a purchase if lasting appeal is important to you. It should be noted that new tracks can be downloaded from the publisher’s site, so that should somewhat extend the game’s longevity.
Score : Score: 7.4/10