For most people, car racing is usually associated with fast cars. People can get behind the idea of anything engineered to be more aerodynamic and pump out tons of horsepower on a paved track. By that same token, off-road racing uses the ugliest possible machines on barely suitable surfaces, and the winner is often the machine that can go fast while handling inhospitable terrain. Perhaps that's why there's a subgenre of racing fans who like to race with trucks. By nature, the common consumer truck can handle bad terrain pretty well yet still look pleasing enough. It may be a reason we now have Ram Racing, a racing game solely focusing on Dodge Ram trucks.
The game comes with three gameplay modes. Competition mode is the basic career mode, where you go through each Ram class truck trying to score cups in multitrack races. Each class has you racing a set of two tracks with two laps each, and your placement at the finish line determines your score for the class. Getting at least a bronze gives you access to the next Ram class, but getting a gold in every class opens up the final class for the game.
Time Attack has you trying to beat the given lap time in any of the six tracks. While all tracks are available from the outset, the only available truck types are unlocked via Competition mode. Beating all of the track times gives you access to the reverse tracks for play in Competition. It's basic stuff, but one perplexing thing is that you only get one shot at beating the time per track instead of going around and around as many times as you want until the time is beaten. Even though the load times aren't that long, it does ruin the flow of the game.
Duel mode is the game's final mode, and it has you racing against one other person using any available truck in any track, normal or reverse. It's a basic mode, and the only difference is the lack of CPU-controlled opposition.
One good thing that can be said about Ram Racing is that it is an arcade racer through and through. There's no need to learn any drifting or braking; holding on to the gas will get you through just about everything. Coupled with good steering, and you have a racing game that just about anyone can learn easily, making it suitable for those who've never played a racing title before.
Get past that fact, and all you have left is criticism. Compared to most other racing titles, the track and truck selection feels anemic. The tracks have some decent designs to them, but the different racing surfaces don't present any real change in driving tactics. Racing on the snow, for example, is exactly the same as racing on the asphalt or on dirt roads. While the trucks differ in class, you never get the sense that any are faster or slower than the others. The physics are off to the point that you can bounce off barriers but not off other trucks. Instead, you're stuck if you crash into them, but they'll make you bounce if they crash into you. You see this more often because your opponents drive as if they're drunk. It is humorous to see them crash into other opponents or into walls, giving you an opportunity to pass them, but it is annoying when they crash into you and make you spin in the wrong direction or crash into a wall. Even though they don't have any catch-up code, they still make for some very annoying opposition.
The game controls are basic. Like any racer, you hold the Wii Remote sideways and tilt to steer, with the face buttons acting as brakes and gas. The tilting isn't too sensitive, and you always feel like you have complete control over your vehicle. For those that dislike that scheme, it can be switched to a more traditional one where the d-pad handles steering with everything else being the same. There are no real complaints to be had here.
Graphically, Ram Racing fares better than most budget titles, but not by much. The trucks look rather decent. The insignias and details, like license plates, tend to blur, but otherwise, the trucks look fine. The environments and smoke effects are serviceable, though not exactly detailed. The frame rate also holds well at around 30, with no sharp increase or decrease in any situation. The game suffers from some pretty bad draw-in, and seeing the buildings in a city simply appear when moving forward or making a turn makes you wonder how this is occurring on such an old system. Also perplexing is the camera transition when you change your viewpoint. Going from default view to hood cam to bumper cam is immediate, but going back to default causes the camera to circle around from the front to the back of the truck and disorienting the player. When done at the wrong time, it can cause the player to make a bad turn or ruin his lap due to the temporary introduction of a blind spot.
The game's sound is downright laughable. The music consists of generic rock instrumentals, which makes for decent background noise, but you have to go into the options to turn up the volume since the default level is barely audible. The engine noises sound good, but don't expect to hear any differences between the different Ram classes as you drive. Every other effect is pretty bad. Crashing into a car sounds like a shoe dropping on a floor, and the same goes for hitting barriers. Screeches are replaced with silence, and landing from a jump is also silent. The most grating noise comes from you scraping against a guard rail, another truck or the environment. The sound is like static coming from a speaker or analog TV set when there's no signal instead of sounding like metal being scratched. It's poor enough that you wonder if someone forgot to replace a placeholder effect with something more realistic.
Ram Racing is a decidedly below-average racer that elicits more groans than cheers. The graphics are steadfastly mediocre, but the sound is laughable. The game feels shallow despite the few attempts at adding depth, and there's no sense of speed for any of the seven trucks in the game. You'll laugh at the bad physics and at the aggressive drunk driving exhibited by your opponents until they slam into you and completely ruin a good run. In the end, even the cheap price isn't a positive for the game since there are plenty of better, similarly priced racers on the Wii. Even if you or someone you know is a huge fan of the trucks, there's no reason to consider renting this title, let alone buying it.
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