So you reckon you can be a Villeneuve, then?
Can't be that hard to go as fast as the proverbial excrement off a stick, what with traction control, automatic clutch, paddle gear shift and constant radio contact with the pits (et cetera, et cetera). Oh, and 400 brake horse-power throbbing between your legs. Well here's your chance to find out exactly how mind-bogglingly difficult winning the indy championship really is! Or even getting around anything other than an oval without leaving yourself and your car making a rather good impression of the same proverbial substance, somewhere around turn two!
Andretti Racing for the Sega Playstation allows you to sample the entire racing experience, from rookie to champion (the latter will require a little more dedication and practice than making an oddly named mammal do flips and spins along yet another run-of-the-mill platform). If you are looking for something different, and if you want to satiate that irresistible urge to go fast - really fast - (and if you own one of said PlayStations), here is your best opportunity to experience the impressive realism that is beginning to emerge in only the most recent racing games.
This title includes the thrills of both indy and nascar, on a selection of tracks from both disciplines. You'll soon find that a nascar can take a few more bumps than the fragile thoroughbred that is an indy car, but those nascar drivers you are racing against seem to have that bit more of a vicious streak than their indy cousins. Or maybe it's my imagination.
Don't be put off by my implying that you will find it difficult to get started in this game. You wont. You can be a wimp and turn off the damage and put the gearshift onto automatic (for which you will not be penalized in terms of either speed or agility). I heartily advise being a wimp under these circumstances. Damage also is fun (I especially like the way the MacDonalds logo on the spoiler of my nascar slowly crumples in response to my wayward control), but damage can wait. Turn it off. The game, however, is not limited to brakes, accelerator and gears. Far from it! Everything from tyre hardnes (durability versus grip tradeoff) to spoiler angle (speed versus maneuverability tradeoff) can be adjusted. Adjust, adjust, I say unto you! Every track has its own quirks and a badly adjusted car will severely put the kibosh on your chances of that long dreamed '15th place.'
You can practice every track, of course, and get the hang of things a bit before you embark on a career. Being a rookie, you will be driving for one of the weaker teams. You are all they can afford, God help them, but they (and hopefully you) will do their best. If you have a good season, one of the bigger teams may well put in a bid for you. Stranger things have happened. If you want a break from building your million-dollar career, you can always take on your buddy on a one-on-one to see who is king of the ring (or at least king of your living-room). Another good thing about this game is that it gives you a split-screen race. No Playstation linking required.
As far as the playability is concerned, this game is definitely as smooth as they come. You have three choices of view as you scream down the back straight, white-knuckled and red-eyed. You can immerse yourself in the true driving experience by choosing the in-cockpit view, or you can distance yourself somewhat from that fast-approaching concrete barrier by selecting an out-of-car, above-and-behind outlook on life. Either way, you can choose also to display a dynamic map of the track and your position on it, or a rear view. Herein lies one of my few criticisms of the game - the lack of rear-view mirrors. That is the way it is in a car and that is the way it should be in a game that is serious about its realism. A rear-view video camera (that also takes up a chunk of your screen area) is just not the same!
The control is just as smooth, however I do have a confession to make. I was able to play this game with an analog steering wheel. To be specific, the Per4mer wheel from Platinum Sound, complete with accelerator and brake pedals. Andretti Racing, like most racing games, is really designed for this kind of control. Trying to steer a car with the digital sony joypad is like trying to play the piano with a baseball bat. Its still fun to play that way, but if you're serious about racing, save your pennies and buy a steering wheel.
The graphics and animation are top-notch, from the paint-streaked concrete barriers to the aforesaid crumpled Maccie-D. The attention to detail is admirable. The last 30 seconds or so of action can be replayed from a variety of angles, so you can indeed examine the unforeseen and bizarre set of circumstances that led to you being eye-to-eye with a beetle in a gravel pit in a downside-up position. The makers of this game saw fit also to embellish it with the trappings of TV, with various video clips that, in my opinion, are superfluous to the game itself. But some people like the frills. Hey - you get to hear from Mario Andretti himself that its good to slow down coming up to corners!
If you have not played a racing game in the last year or two, then get off your butt and strap yourself into this one. You will not have seen anything like it. It does find itself under comparison with the newly released Grand Prix II (for the PC), which if anything shows an even finer attention to detail. However, for the Playstation you will find none finer... yet.