Racing is not a sport, it's an art. The road is the canvas and the car is the paintbrush. A well-raced lap is a thing of beauty. It takes many years to become proficient at this craft. Many people long to capture the checkered flag, but only a handful will succeed. The determination and drive of the racers sometimes leads to spectacular crashes, but they also lead to Victory Lane. Are you prepared to meet your destiny?
Newman/Haas Racing is yet another CART style open-wheeled racing game which challenges you to race low to the ground and high in the rankings. Psygnosis, the creator of the highly-touted Formula 1 game, has come out with another game to whet the appetites of race fans. How does Newman/Haasstack up? The answer is not very well.
Let's start with the graphics. From the outset, I had high hopes for the visual presentation. However, after I peeled out from the starting line, things began to fall apart. The cars would break up and sometimes parts would seem to jump out of the shape of the car. When I careened into a wall head-on, a part of my front wing would fly off, but then magically reappear on the car after I drove off. The real damage comes after several trips into the walls and barriers. Then your car starts to break down big time, with sparks and smoke coming out of your engine. At this point you can't shift past third gear and are reduced to plodding around the track at less than 100 mph. The tracks are realistic to a tee from the scenery past the track to the pit and its crew. However, the horizon is difficult to discern. Even using the widest angle outside view, it is hard to see the sharp turns coming up. This doesn't pose a problem except on the especially curvy and winding city street tracks. I had to rely heavily on the map to anticipate the turns.
The sound in this game is just as good if not better than Formula 1and Cart World Series. Even though commentators Danny Sullivan and Bobby Varsha don't go into histrionics like the "Look at this!!, Look at this!!" commentator from Formula 1, they still do give the race order and make little comments appropriately placed during the race. Also, they are not above letting you know that the race "got off to a good start, but I think we've seen the best of it" if your driving becomes sucky after a while. The sounds are realistic because they were recorded from the Newman/Haas racing team, although the crashes tend to sound more like dead bodies dropping than metal on concrete.
The racing itself matches up to Formula 1. The cars are not too hard to handle and they don't drift like they tend to do in the other game. In fact, they drive more like Nascar machines rather than Indy machines. The driver and the tracks are authentic and have individual personalities and racing styles, as is the norm. These include such big time names as Jimmy Vasser, Scott Pruett and the Newman/Haas winning tandem of Christian Fittipaldi and Michael Andretti. No matter what skill level you are, this game will not be hard to play because it is easy to recover from crashes and you can always wimp out and drive automatic with no damage.
The split screen racing in this game is excellent, allowing a fairly wide view from the outside and a pretty complete view from the cockpit. There are also a lot of adjustments that can be made to your car to tweak it and custom tailor it for the particular track you are racing. Actually, there are so many different ways to set up your car I just give up and run it on the default, which works fine for me. I am not a big fan of tweaking because I lack expert mechanical skills, but it's nice to know that the option is there.
Two things about the game especially bothered me. If you make any contact with the wall, you are automatically shifted down into first gear. This means you have to run through all your gears and can mess up your pace, especially if you are about to run through some chicanes. Also, if you make contact with another car and are using one of the outside views, the camera pans back for a second and then returns to normal. Not a big problem, but slightly annoying at times. I did like the fact that there was a turbo gauge, which you could use to give you that extra kick when hitting a long straightaway.
Once you get past the graphical glitches, Newman/Haas is a pretty fun game to play. The driving experience is realistic and exciting. The commentators are lively and engaging. The peelouts, crashes, and "rubbing" make for a complete driving experience. However, when all is said and done,Newman/Haas is just not as good as F1. Play it for a different flavor and then go back to Formula 1.