|It's never enough, no matter how much it is. Well, with racing
games anyway. Huck a controller into a wall of video games and odds are you'll come up
with one of the hundreds and hundreds of racing titles that have been published for a
plethora of different systems. We've seen everything from Pole Position to Gran Turismo,
and there is a different driving game for every little niche in-between the two. For the
most part, they are all fairly similar: Race your car to earn better cars and more races.
It's not too complicated, and any fan of the genre will tell you that it's really all
about the driving.
World Driver Championship seeks to bring what hasn't been brought to the N64 yet: A realistic racing sim for dedicated race fans that will be able to stand up to Gran Turismo. For the most part, WDC succeeds. With stunning graphics and control that will frustrate all but the most hardcore of hardcore drivers, WDC provides, nay, requires, hours of tough, beautiful play.
In WDC you play a race car driver just starting out. You have your choice of two racing teams to join at the beginning, and as you progress you are recruited by other teams who have better cars. There are ten tracks in all; although the packaging and advertising claims that the reverse, mirror and slightly modified versions count as up to 100 different tracks, I say they don't. Sure, if it weren't for the small differences, the tracks would be even more boring than they already are, but I'd much prefer real variety in the courses.
Graphically, WDC is easily as impressive, if not more, as Gran Turismo. The N-fog is kept to a scant minimum, and there is not a problem with clipping. WDC can be played in a hi-res letterbox mode, which squishes the screen down a little, but looks gorgeous. I found the letterbox mode just as easy to play in as the regular mode, and the benefits to the visuals were well worth the slightly smaller screen area. Where WDC really sticks out is in its lighting effects. Tracks are shadowed and lit appropriately, and the lighting is especially noticeable during the replays when your car is traveling in and out of differently lit situations. And the remarkable thing about WDC is that it doesn't use the memory expansion for the N64. Apparently the expansion isn't necessarily required to get better graphics, and the developers at Boss Studios are doing something right here.
The vehicles in WDC are non-licensed, which means that while they don't have the same name as their real-life counterparts, they look just like them. There are 30 different cars that look like Porches, Mustangs, Lamborghinis, etc. The cars are gorgeous, fitting with the rest of the game's graphics, and they are very colorful. Handling and speed vary quite a bit between types of car, so it is good to try them all out at least once.
Then there's the control issue. WDC straddles the line between realistic race sim and arcade racer. Speed is represented "accurately" (I'd be more confident about how accurately if I had ever driven over 90 MPH in real life), but this means that you have to spend a lot of time powersliding. Other reviews have described the handling, especially at the beginning of the game as "tricky" or "difficult." I'd say that upon first picking up WDC it's one of the squirreliest games I've ever played. For the whole first evening I couldn't get around a corner without spinning around in circles and slamming into walls. And here's where the frustration factor comes in.
A lot of people have criticized reviews that have been too harsh about WDC's control issues, but it is completely true that WDC will make anybody put it down quick. Unless you are really dedicated to learning the WDC system, you will not bother with it. I don't have a problem with the slower vehicles that are available to you at the beginning of the game, but there should have been a better way within the game to learn the driving style. Although it contains a training mode, it's fairly useless. You just drive around a track by yourself, and it tells you what the recommended speed for certain parts of the track is. Woo-hoo.
But, when you sit down and work really, really hard at it, you can make it to the upper echelons of WDC where the cars get much better. Unfortunately, it's still caught up with that "racing simulation" stuff, so slight bumps from other cars will send you spiraling off the course while they zoom by. And here's where more frustration comes into this game. So many great races have been ruined by a single, seemingly negligible, bump from another driver. After awhile it gets ridiculous.
WDC isn't big on the different play modes, either. It's the standard play setup you've got your Quick Race, Championship (career mode), Versus and Training. The modes work pretty much as you'd expect. I'm sad to see that there is only a Two Player Versus mode available, since most of the games for the N64 allow you to play with up to four friends.
Overall, WDC is a solid product. The graphics are great, the sound is plenty adequate (once you get rid of the crappy background music), and the game works quite well. If you're looking for something that is very time-intensive and realistic, WDC could be the game for you. But, as with all racing games, you have to be aware of what you're looking for. If you're really hankering for an arcade racer, then WDC is one to avoid at all costs. It's already building a cult following among racers on the N64, and for every person who sells it back the day after they bought it in frustrated disgust, there's another waiting to pick it up used so they can spend the better part of their waking hours getting good enough to have fun with it.