No wonder they have helmet laws.
When someone says "motorcycle," the first thing that comes to my mind is "plastic surgeon." Why, you ask? Well, long ago and far away in a land called UC Berkeley, I attended a lecture featuring a plastic surgeon. I don't remember exactly why he was there, but one thing he brought up smacked me out of my post frat party haze faster than a paddle to the backside: motorcycle accidents. Apparently, motorcycle crash victims are some of his best customers and the guest speaker went on to project some massively disturbing shots of severed limbs and other mangled things that used to be attached to people like you and me.
So as I play through Acclaim's Ducati World Racing Challenge, I am reminded how very bad things can happen on two wheels. Very, very bad things.
Like a bad accident, DWRC charges forward and slams you head first into a wall before you ever see it coming. Given, things don't look so bad at first glance. The graphics don't seem that bad and you get to race on a bunch of cool bikes. But as we all know, appearances can be deceiving.
Starting off, you'll have the option of running a Quick Race or entering Ducati Life. Ducati Life is basically a career mode, in which you'll race for cash and prizes, buying new bikes and upgrading them as you go along. Seems pretty normal, right? Wait until you start a race.
What starts off as an innocent motorcycle racing game quickly becomes an ordeal of unholy gaming evil. Before the green light ever flashes, you'll notice the less than desirable third-person camera angle, which is followed up by the two bad and really bad first-person angles. Oh well, as the seasoned gamers that we all are, bad cameras cannot deny us respectable gameplay, right? Too bad there isn't any to be found.
While the arcade style of control is easy to grasp, there are definitely some strange things going on. Standing out like a sore thumb is the so-called "manual shifting," known to most people as "automatic." Despite having this "manual shifting" feature, bikes will upshift on their own once a certain speed is reached. This also means that down-shifting to slow yourself involves a round of button mashing in order descend a single gear.
Players will also notice the worm-like animations of riders as they lean into the curves. For some reason, their head starts the lean and the rest of the body slowly follows in a wavy fashion. I never knew annelids could ride so well.
As you fly through the various tracks, you'll also notice the problems with textures. Tracks as well as the surrounding environments seem to change before your very eyes! This is most apparent while passing through lighted tunnels, since the change in textures makes it appear as if the lights are moving.
But wait, we're not done yet. Other bizarre things keep happening in the world of Ducati. For example, the ability to drive up walls. That's right - take a turn the wrong way and there's a distinct chance you may be able to ride the wall. I like Spider-Man and all, but I never knew he rode a Ducati motorcycle. Someone should have reminded the developers that this isn't Tony Hawk.
Spidey isn't the only hero to make an appearance in this game. Apprently a bunch of Jedi are here, too. A force field surrounding each of the bikes makes it almost impossible to get close. This mysterious power will often push your bike away or even cause a loss of control. I always knew the Jedi were cheaters, but this is ridiculous.
Most importantly, the game is just plain boring. The audio is pathetic, the visuals are flawed, and the gameplay provides no intensity at all. Most of the time, you're racing a small group of other riders that do nothing to make the race exciting. Stop this bike, I wanna get off.
To its credit, DWRC does have a bunch of unlockable stuff. Do well and you'll be able to get new bikes and tracks. What this game needs, though is the ability to unlock another game.
It's pretty hard to mess up a racer, but it looks like Ducati World Racing Challenge has found the formula. Too many technical problems and not enough fun drive this bike straight into the ground. You'll have more fun playing Hang On again with Shenmue.