Published by Infogrames
Developed by Ratbag
Release Date: Feb 11th 2003
There are many different kinds of racing, and the racing genre could be split up into different divisions. There's good old rally racing; taking your vehicle over dirt, mud, and ice, racing against the clock. There's street racing, with emphasis on showing off your hot exotic car - powersliding through tight turns, down stairs, and whatever else the cities have in store for you. There's motorcycle racing, where one must show off their ensemble of tricks as they leap over ramps and still try to catch the competition. There's plain Gran Turismo-esque racing: you against a bunch of other racings, duking it out for first place, no matter what. Then there's sprint cars.
Ahh, yes, sprint car racing. Mix in elements of all other racing genres; the dirt tracks of rally racing; the simple ring courses of NASCAR, and a bunch of crazy looking cars, and you've got sprint car racing. The goal is, of course, to get first place, using a funny-looking car that looks like it might tip over at any second. There are odd fins on top of their kart-like structure, and wheels of varying sizes. I would imagine the fins are there to help guide the car and use air to its advantage, like an airplane. And the different sized wheels are there to help the car, above all else, turn to one side much easier than the other on turns.
The game starts off with a very nice interface. You have the option to do a single race, some multiplayer racing, or start a career. If you start a career - the main feature of the game - we're sent off to a nifty little garage, rendered in 3D. By clicking around the garage, we find some other options available to us. We could hop into the office, where we can sign up for racing events, order our car online, and check out our records, among other things. We could do some repairs to our car if it needs them, or take the car out for a spin.
Generally, when starting out at a new location, you get a practice run to get a feel for the track. Then there’s the qualifying race to make sure you’re good enough to race with the big boys, as well as figure out your starting position. Then comes the race with all the other guys. It’s kind of exciting to go from an empty course, where you’re alone, to a race with all the other guys.
The actual game play can be somewhat monotonous, although it's sure to please fans of sprint cars. Basically, you race around a track, taking every corner carefully, and try to get first place. Your car can get pretty banged up during these races, so you should probably give it a tune-up if you think it needs one. This is a pretty cool element - you can fix separate parts of your car instead of spending money on the whole thing. If you've only bent the fins a bit, but you've got your tires out of alignment, you probably want to fix your tires first and foremost. After all, repairs cost money, and you don't have very much in the beginning.
You will be doing a lot of turning. Be warned: it can be pretty tricky with a keyboard. There are about a dozen real-life tracks, as well as several made-up locations. And they all have something in common: they bombard you with turns and force you to power slide. Unlike many other games, you don't need to grab your hand brake to power slide - it's automatic, as long as you go into a turn correctly. Whether you make it out of the turn is a different story. You'll often be flying off the track, ramming into walls, or even turning your vehicle over. It's tricky to do, and the game demands you do it a lot. I almost wish that you're given more money in the beginning of the game - the other racers can be very tough to beat, and you'll probably need to spend money on inevitable repairs. Losing, of course, doesn't grant you much cash. The learning curve is a bit steep.
I must compliment Ratbag on their nicely done artificial intelligence, at the very least. The cars are unpredictable and pull off things you'd expect to see if you were playing with some buddies online. They make mistakes, too, sometimes careening off a wide turn - just be careful that you aren't in their way. These guys can be pretty challenging to defeat, especially in the beginning. You can't afford a very good car, and it seems like a lot of them are going pretty damn fast.
Graphics are pleasant on the eyes. There's nothing mind-blowing, but the animation is fine, car models look great, and the environment actually has some interesting stuff to look at. It all moves at a very nice clip, too. It's not perfect, however. The anti-aliasing job isn't wonderful; the game can look downright jaggeriffic if you pay attention to them. Also, there's an annoying effect where sometimes mud gets spattered up onto your windshield. Except it never comes off until the race is done - even if you're in a third-person view.(ed. it has been brought to our attention by the fine people at RatBaGGames that WoO2002 has a "tear off" option to remedy this, default key for this is "o") It usually never drastically changes your chances of winning, but it's annoying nonetheless.
Sound is something that bothered me to a degree. The music throughout the menus is okay, but there's no music during the races! None at all! This is kind of ridiculous. It's not like we need popular, licensed material or anything - just something, anything! The music in menus feels like a breath of fresh air after a race. At least the sound effects are well done. The roar of your engine is pretty realistic, as is the spinning of your wheels while power sliding. There's some kind of announcer commenting on the race, and while it sounds real enough, I'm not exactly sure why he only ever talks about your car. You'd think he'd talk about who's winning, right?
Sprint Car Racing isn't going to change racing games drastically, nor does it even add a whole lot to the genre. But it is fairly unique and does stand out from any other average racer. Fans of the sport will dig it, while others probably won't be interested. It can get a bit tedious, and there's not a ton of variety, but it's still a decent experience if you need a bit of racing to refresh you. The career mode can keep you busy for a long time.