In what is quite
possibly the worst use of the term "xtreme" ever, Xtreme Air Racing is a
virtual representation of the real life sport of airplane racing. The
sad truth is that if pilots in these races tried to pull anything in the
least bit "xtreme" they would probably be banned from the sport for
endangering the lives of their fellow pilots and the thousands of
spectators on the ground. Also, the game itself is a straight
simulation. The only "xtreme" thing you can really do in the main mode
of the game is to go outside the course and receive a time penalty. Now
thats extreme! XAR is well put together and is a realistic depiction of
the real life sport of air racing, but it is too bloody boring for
anyone other than hardcore flight simulation fans to enjoy.
Racing is based on the races held in Reno, Nevada every year. All of the
pilots and their aircraft are faithfully recreated in the game.
Airplanes such as the P51 Mustang, F8F Bearcat, F4U Corsair, P38
Lighting and more are all included in the game. The announcer for the
races and the first voice you hear when you boot up the game is the man
behind the microphone at the real races at Reno, Gordon Bowman Jones.
Better still for fans of the real life races, racing legend R.A. "Bob"
Hoover fully endorses XAR and helped make sure the game was as realistic
as possible. Whether or not those names and airplanes actually matter to
you is another story.
available in XAR are pretty standard. A free flight mode, a single race
mode, a season mode, and a combat mode (more on that later) round out
the game play. Season mode is where youll be spending most of your time
in the season mode where new tracks and planes can be unlocked once you
prove you can handle the easy stuff. The courses available range from
ovals to figure eights to long and twisting endurance races.
consist of you and a handful of competitors racing around narrow tracks,
all the while staying under the 1,500 ft ceiling. This is a lot harder
than it sounds because not only do you have to worry about not crashing
into your competitors (or them crashing into you), but you also have to
watch your engine temperature and your water and nitrous levels. If you
use your nitro boost too much, your engine will overheat so you have to
turn on your spray bar to cool it down. On long races, not only can you
run out of water and nitrous, but you can run out of fuel as well. This
means you have to hold back and be fairly patient for most of the race
rather than going at full throttle the whole way. Flight sim fans will
probably love it, though, while arcade racer fans will get frustrated
and/or bored rather quickly.
even more detail to the realistic racing experience are the amazingly
deep tuning options available. You can fiddle with the engine, play with
the engine RPM to propeller RPM ratio, and even decide how much engine
coolant, fuel, and nitrous you are going to carry. All of the available
tuning options will make simulation fans very happy. Each change makes a
very noticeable difference, and tuning your plane becomes absolutely
necessary the further you get into the game.
As I mentioned
above, there is a combat mode in XAR, but I wasnt very impressed with
it. Finding the enemy plane is a difficult task because there isnt any
radar. You are left simply scanning the environment looking for a tiny
point of bright color against the bland background. Of course, finding
the enemy plane is the easy part. Getting your plane into position where
you can actually shoot the other plane down is rather difficult. I
suppose not being able to spot the enemy plane easily and the difficulty
of actually shooting the enemy plane down make XARs combat mode more
realistic, but it still isnt very fun.
Xtreme Air Racing is difficult, but becomes slightly easier the longer
you play it. A flight stick is the best way to play the game, but a
joypad will work pretty well. The keyboard does not offer precise enough
movements to play the game effectively, so a flight stick or joypad is
definitely your best bet. The control setup I used was a Wingman
Rumblepad where the left stick controlled the ailerons and the right
stick controlled the rudder. The nitrous boost, and spray bar were
assigned to face buttons and the throttle was assigned to the sliding
throttle control on top of the controller. This setup worked quite well,
but Im sure a proper joystick would work a lot better.
XAR looks pretty good. The planes are all precisely detailed to look
exactly like their real life counterparts. The only real complaint I
have is that the ground is pretty ugly. The same boring texture map
covers the entire area with only simple little buildings scattered about
to break up the monotony. This lack of anything interesting to look at
makes the free flight mode pretty much worthless, which is a shame. One
thing worth noting is that the game features pretty spectacular crashes.
Wings and propellers break off and your plane makes a nice fiery
explosion when it hits the ground. Something that really hurts XAR is
that there is no real sense of speed. The speedometer says 400 mph, but
it feels more like you are going 50 cruising up Highway 95.
The sound in
XAR gets the job done and nothing more. The airplane noises sound muted
and when there are several planes around you it sounds more like a swarm
of angry bees than a squadron of 4000hp racing planes. The announcer
becomes annoying after a while as he enthusiastically announces that you
cut a pylon or crashed into the ground. R.A. "Bob" Hoover whispers
advice into your ear and coaches you around the track, but even his soft
sweet voice will wear on you after a while. Luckily, there is an option
to record your own voice as the announcer. Making use of this option can
give you an edge as you can remind yourself in terms you can understand
of upcoming obstacles. This option can also be pretty funny if the right
people get their hands on the microphone.
So if everything is technically sound, why is the game still getting
a 3/5? I like simulation style games quite a bit. The extremely deep
tuning options and precision controls required in simulation games are a
welcome challenge. I have been known to play the Microsoft Flight
Simulator games for hours on end, so I am no stranger to flight sims. My
main problem with Xtreme Air Racing is that it is flat out boring. It
just amazes me how a real life sport that is so fast and so exciting can
be so sluggish as a video game.
Overall, Xtreme Air Racing will appeal to hardcore flight sim fans
and hardcore flight sim fans only. Despite decent graphics and sound and
endorsement from major personalities of the sport, XAR just isnt
exciting enough to entice arcade gamers to play it. A little bit more
speed or slightly easier controls could have added immensely to making
XAR more fun while not hurting the sim aspects at all. If you are a fan
of flight sim games, youll probably like XAR more than I did.