The Race Is Off...?
Written by Squirminator2k
In their 14-year history, Team17 have never developed a seriously enjoyable racing game. It's harsh but true - the only racing game that was even slightly playable was ATR, and that wasn't even developed by them. So what's wrong with Team17? Were they just born without that part of the brain? Or are the most successful developer in Europe simply not good at this particular genre? I mean hey - no one's perfect, right? Right...?
The first racing game Team17 developed was F17 Challenge. You can tell from the screenshot that this doesn't look anything particularly special. In fact playing this game reminded me of an old Karting game I used to play on the Amiga 500 back in 1989, only I can't for the life of me remember what the name is (I have a funny feeling it was developed by Konami). This racing game is like many pre-MarioKart psuedo-3D racing games - the track is beneath you, accelerating moves you forward, you can move side to side but that's about it. Think along the lines of Lamborghini American Challenge, Crazy Cars, and possibly a few other games that I can't seem to recall at the moment. It's just that sort of game and unfortunately it bored the Hell out of me - it'd been done before. It was nothing special.
Next came Overdrive, which at least pretended to be interesting. It was a top-down racer not too disimilar from Micro Machines or Turbo Trax (infact it's a lot more like the latter). The only problem is, it's not too disimilar from Micro Machines or Turbo Trax. And because of this, there's nothing setting it apart from these other games - it's too damn similar. There is virtually nothing to tell the games apart. In fact If I put a screenshot of Turbo Trax up here, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference between the two (I would put one up if I could find one). I did just double-check the box for my copy of Turbo Trax to make sure they're not the same game. They're not - Arcane released TT in 1995. About the same time that Team17 released their next racing game, ATR.
ATR is a racing game that is viewed from an isometric point of view, and wasn't even developed by Team17 themselves. Not entirely. ATR is the work of one Jamie Woodhouse who also developed the shockingly addictive duck 'em up, Qwak. It is because of this that ATR automatically gets an advantage over Team17's other racing games - it wasn't developed in-house. It's rather nifty, although not something I would play often. If, for example, a friend came over and he wanted to play a racing game, this would be in my list of possible games whereas the top two wouldn't be, even if I did own them (which I do, but that's beside the point). It's definitely the best racing game Team17 have made, but it's not one of the best racing games around. Not by a longshot. Sorry, Jamie.
And then Team17 decided to release their next abbreviated racing game, WRF. It must've been a little bit good because there's a whole table based on it in Addiction Pinball. Indeed it is - I bought this game for £2 on the Sold Out budget label, and it took a while to get it working under Windows but once I did I found it strangely addictive. It's definitely Team17's best PC Racing game, but it's not as good as ATR. If I had to describe it in the simplest terms, I'd describe it as a cross between F17 Challenge, and the next and final game on this list:
Ah, Stunt GP. You were received well (apparently). So why do you suck like a high-powered Dyson with a broken power switch? I'd played the game on the Dreamcast and I couldn't point my finger on it... something about the game was off. And then I bought it for the PlayStation2, and it hit me. The game is smegging slow. It's slow. Not just MarioKart DoubleDash at E3 slow, but A snail sat on the back of a tortoise going "Wheeee!" slow. And that's pretty damn slow. Granted, it looks beautiful - at the time it was the best-looking game out on the Dreamcast. But it doesn't play well. Okay, fine - it's a game about remote-controlled cars. Hoorah. But... well, it's slow. And at the end of the day, racing games are supposed to be fun. They usually involve a little speed. Maybe that's just how I would do it.
So what is wrong with Team17's racing games? To be honest, no one can be sure. Each game has it's own individual faults. If they were all smudged together and all of the crap were pushed out I reckon we would end up with possibly the greatest racing game of All Time, because there are some nice touches in there somewhere. But unfortunately, there is also some Evil. Like I said, no one can be perfect 100% of the time.