Choosing a sim is almost as hard as driving one!
Formula One/CART racing exploded this year with over six -- count em! -- new titles vying for your PC gaming dollar. In August we saw the disappointing port of arcade-style racers Formula 1 (Psygnosis) and Power F1 (Eidos). November brought us two flashy but questionable arcade/sim hybrids Andretti Racing (EA) and Indycar Racing (ABC Sports); she also brought us two quite different, but similarly named fully realistic sims: CART Precision Racing (Microsoft) and CART Racing (Sierra/Papyrus). And now with Christmas just around the corner, I bet you're wondering which one to put under the tree. That's why you here, aren't you?
Well, in all likelihood, I imagine you'll want to steer clear of Papyrus/Sierra's CART Racing. Why? Because if you're an arcade racer you'll despise the difficulty of CART Racing and if you're a fan of the sim genre, you probably already own it! Though it's hard to tell from the confusing marketing campaign, the "new" CART Racing is not a new program by any stretch of the imagination. CART Racing is a Windows 95 Rendition enhanced re-release of the original DOS IndyCar Racing II. In case you've forgotten, IndyCar Racing II is the game Grand Prix II arguably displaced as the reigning sim champ more than a year ago!
So what does this "enhanced" re-release stuff mean? It means that you can now run the game from Windows 95 with a graceful menu structure. It also means that if you own a 3D accelerator with a Rendition chip, you will find some nice new graphics and solid frame rates. But if you own a Rendition, chances are your graphics card already came bundled with the Rendition version of IndyCar Racing II. The Screamin 3D, Intense 3D, Total 3D, and Magic Video all included it--in other words, the only Rendition owners who don't already have this game will be those who bought the 3D Blaster PC).
So if arcade racers won't want it, if most die-hard sim fans already bought it, and most every Rendition owner has a copy also, who is the target audience for this game? A small bunch indeed: new sim fans who don't have hardware capable of playing the latest 3D intensive sims like the soon-to-be-released Ubisoft's F1 Racing Simulation or Microsoft's (soon-to-be-patched) CART Precision Racing. Though non-Rendition owners will find the unaccelerated CART Racing graphics dated, though the sound is horrible, though multiplayer support is limited to two players, and though the bells and whistles of newer sims are missing (Pi Telemetry data and interactive driving schools, for example), the case can plausibly be made that CART Racing still offers the most realistic driving physics to date. This isn't the only thing it has going for it: CART Racing has strong tuning/car setup options and other cool features that none of the new sims have (the ability to edit replays and save the highlights; an immediate race-restart function for first-turn pileups; inner, middle and outer tire temperatures; and the most graceful method of handling pit-stop instructions). Add to this the fact that CART Racing has a loyal web following (read: great user patches) and comes with a manual/strategy guide that will make you a better sim racer on any game and you've got a perfectly good reason to not feel stupid for shelling out top dollar on a re-release of the year-and-a-half old IndyCar Racing II.
If you buy it, remember to use the old title while you search the web for all those cool patches! (None of the old fans care about this new name business.) You can find a lot of great user mods at www.simproject.com. Keep driving.