More often than not, racing games that feature cars from only one manufacturer end up being bargain bin fodder, and for good reason. These games are about as bare-bones as possible, featuring mediocre graphics and sound as well as a plain racing circuit with few extras. While having all of the cars from a given manufacturer is nice, you still don't get the sense that they are all that different, turning a prime opportunity to put out a decent niche racing game into a wasted one. Despite the setbacks that come with such a game, however, they still get made, and unsuspecting people still buy them up. Chrysler Classic Racing for the Wii is another racing title that, sadly, fits well into this category. It does get credit for trying something different, but it ultimately fails on just about every level.
The premise of the game is actually one of the more interesting ones for a racing title. It's the late 1950s/early 1960s, and you play a young teen who wants to desperately get in good with The Kings, a local racing crew. Unfortunately, not only are you immediately labeled a nerd by anyone who catches a glimpse of you, but you also have no money for a car. Weeks later, you scrape up just enough to get one of the cheapest Chrysler vehicle on a used car lot, and with that, you are on a mission to prove that you are more than worthy of belonging with The Kings.
The main racing mode, known as King of Cool, consists of 15 different race tracks. Each race charges you with placing in the top three in order to move on to the next track. During each race, you can collect items on the track, such as turbo boosts and repair icons, to fix any damage to your vehicle. You can also collect cool points and money along the way, which can be used to buy new outfits for your driver and new cars and car parts. Placing in the top three of each race will not only net you more cash and cool points but also open up bonus races. Winning these bonus races gives you several different rewards, including even more cash and cool points, a new girl to hang by your side, or a chance to rank higher within The Kings' racing crew. Once you complete the King of Cool mode, you can always go back to each track and race against a friend or race for better times. You can also check out any old Chrysler car ads you've unlocked in the Extras section.
The teams at Zoo Games and EM Studios should be commended for trying to do something a bit different for budget racing games. Having said that, there are several different issues that drag down the game to the level of mediocrity. The AI is predictable and relentless; all of your opponents try to follow the same line when racing and try to not to deviate from the path. More often than not, if you try and get in that racing line, you'll get knocked off course or have your car tipped just enough to see the front or back of the vehicle dip into the ground.
Car damage isn't used as expected in this game. Instead of affecting your car speed and performance, any damage you incur during a race will only result in you losing some cool points. Each car and subsequent upgrade fails to give you any performance, which becomes painful when you have to decide between spending your cash on a new car or a car upgrade, since you have no idea what will benefit you the most.
Finally, there is no real sense of speed present in Chrysler Classic Racing. No matter what car you drive or what upgrades you buy for it, you never get the sense that you are driving a very fast vehicle. Even the speed boosts don't seem to work, since there is no change in speed once you acquire them on the track. The last thing a racing game needs to do is make the player feel like he's driving a slow clunker of a car, but that's exactly what you get with this game.
There are a few options when it comes to the controls, but none of them seem right. The first option given is to let the Nunchuk handle steering while the buttons on the Wiimote handle acceleration, braking and shifting gears. This method handles fine but goes against the principles of the Nintendo Wii being a system where the controls are different and more imaginative in comparison to other consoles. The other option is one that other racing games follow, where the Wiimote is held sideways. The 1 and 2 buttons handle braking and acceleration, respectively, while turning the remote steers the car. The steering is a problem here, since it is a bit too sensitive, causing you to lose more races because you went too far off track or got pushed aside because you hit the other cars that were following their racing line. Oddly enough, the game will fail to continue to the title screen unless you plug in the Nunchuk, and unless you go into the options yourself and change the preferred setting, you'll be stuck with the more pedestrian control scheme.
The graphics are a sad example of what some developers are comfortable with on the Nintendo Wii. Everything from the car models to the character models to the tracks look like they belong on the Nintendo 64 instead. While the cars look like the actual models they represent, there isn't a lot of detail placed on them. Even the custom paint jobs you can acquire fail to make the vehicles any more distinguishable or attractive. The same goes for the buildings, which all have a generic color and look to them.
Special effects don't seem to fare any better. The shadows cast by each car are a bit too transparent, and the smoke your car emits is barely noticeable in the 480i resolution given. The same can be said for the sparks that try to fly out whenever you trade paint with the opposing cars. What really offends are the drivers used in the game. The simple look and shape of each mouthless being hearkens back to an age of early computer animation, when simple looks and movements were enough to wow an audience. With the look of each character being limited and movements few and far between, it would have been a better idea to scrap the characters given here and just use the Miis instead, especially when some scenes choose to display clothes and accessories floating on a nonexistent body.
The sound presented in Chrysler Classic Racing is borderline awful. The sound effects for the roar of the engines fail to give you the feeling that you're driving a powerful muscle car. Tires seem to screech a bit too late in relation to the car, and sliding and crashing against another car doesn't have as much of an impact as one would like. For a game set in the 1950s and 1960s, the music in the menu screens and the end of races seems more like modern generic video game music than anything else. It's only during the races that you get the '50s and '60s vibe and, even then, the music isn't rockin' enough to get you in the mood to race. As for the voices, there are none. With as many cheesy lines as this game gives you, having a Wolfman Jack soundalike or a greaser impersonator would have added something special.
Chrysler Classic Racing for the Wii is another in a long line of racing titles that doesn't respect itself, let alone the system and audience it seeks to find. Everything from the graphics to the controls to the sound is well below par. Even the cars, which should be the highlight of the game, fail to be good enough to interest even mild fan of cars. Just like the other games of its ilk, the best thing that you can do as a gamer is to leave this on the shelf and spend your gaming money elsewhere.
More articles about Chrysler Classic Racing