Racing games have a long history in computer entertainment. It seems the thrills of the track provide all the necessary elements of a good action game: Adrenaline, destruction, competition and the need for a cool head under pressure.
Originally the basic graphics on computers only allowed for the overhead style of racing, but before long these were abandoned as everybody tried to simulate the sight of bullring scenery from the cockpit view of the car. Some attempts were good, some were bad, but one thing was certain: 2D was out, 3D was in.
Now, however, the old fashioned overhead view is making a come back. Over the past year, down-under developers Acid and Vision brought us the highly acclaimed Skidmarks II and Roadkill, both of which made up for the lack of on-the-track realism with quirky features and challenging gameplay.
For some reason there's always something dirtier about this type of game: Forget Silverstone, these games are about the rough and tumble of racing round dust tracks or annihilating rivals with futuristic weaponry. And true to form, Team 17's ATR is suitably unwholesome.
TWO PLAYER MODE
Players can duel with friends by playing the battle variation of the game, a head-to-
This means that both players must stay on screen at the same time, so what happens if one person lags too far behind? Well, if the chasing player is about to disappear off-screen the computer automatically makes them catch up. By forcing the opponent into this position, however, the leading player scores a point.
In fact, this is the whole point of the battle mode. Each player struggles to keep ahead so they can score points off the enemy, picking up power-ups on the way to help them along. At the end of a race, the computer counts up the points for a winner.
To give this version of the game an added edge, extra power-ups that are unavailable in arcade mode have been included. Roadkill fans will be pleased to hear that these include missiles and mines that can be used to take the wind out of your mate's sails.
Team 17 games are notorious tricky - often too tricky for me. Everyone raved about Super Stardust, for example, but I felt sad and left out because I couldn't do it. I know, though, that this is because I'm past it, and I can only hope that one day they'll include a zimmer
Mercifully, ATR is very challenging but nowhere near as tough as I thought when I started it. Anticipating the bends is undoubtedly trickier than in the rival games, and as tracks peter out players will find themselves ploughing off into the cones in a moment of misjudgement. This, however, is all part of the fun and eventually players learn from their mistakes.
Winning form the outset is virtually impossible. In the arcade mode players are matched against four computer opponents, two of which instantly zoom off over the horizon from the moment the starting lights turn green.
This gives ATR more of a long-term challenge that its rivals, because the route to success involves more than a large helping of arcade skills. Yes, folks, there's some rudimentary tactics involved.
Players start the game with $4000 to spend on their kit. Their main expense will be the car, with ATR offering a choice of jeep, buggy or formula racer. Each of these motors has its own strengths and weaknesses.
This leaves you with a small amount of money to make customised improvements. Acceleration and traction upgrades are a good choice to start with, but bigger engines can give you higher top speeds while power brakes and steer give better handling.
Of course you can only afford a bit at a time, and ultimately it all comes down to your success on the track. Gain some modest success by coming third in a few races and you will soon start noticing the rewards in your newly souped-up vehicle.
These enhancements are important, but players must also keep their eyes peeled for power-ups during the races. These are tricky to get and opponents compete for them, but the key to success is to keep your priorities on completing the race.89%
Racing games only really need two sounds: the noise of the engine and the noise of the crash. Still, titles like Roadkill introduced speech and other effects to show how small extras could help boost the atmosphere.
Unfortunately, ATR does not shine in this area. There's a light-
True, ATR is no Daytona USA. The view is form the top, which means you can forget the sensation of burning tarmac because this game's attractions are of a different nature. But this does not deduct form the fact that this is by far the best-
Though the player looks down on the track, this doesn't mean it's a 2D game. Each car is a 3D model viewed fro a 45 degree angle - similar to Skidmarks but better drawn in my opinion.
The stars of the show, however, are the tracks themselves. Treacherous loops and lethal crossovers are all there to throw you off balance, but you expect these things (at least you should by now). It's the fact that in some terrains the road disappears altogether which makes this a novel experience, both to play and look at.
ATR has three types of terrain to race on, ranging from obstacle ridden race tracks to white knuckle rides down narrow canyons or slide and smash battles in the Alpine snow.
The sports circuits are the closest you'll get to the traditional racing game, but there's still plenty to keep the eye alert. Ramps and cones can help or hinder, and the familiar gleaming oil spill makes a reappearance, sending you spinning into the barriers,. Less predictably, sand and water make a later appearance, as do the Team 17 offices - allegedly.
However, it's only after choosing the canyon or alpine tracks that the game takes on a more distinctive appearance. Racing through the canyons, for example, will have players disappearing through tunnels or splashing through streams. By contrast, the Alpine experience involves icy conditions, ever
ATR offers more colour, more detail and more variety in the graphics department than any of its rivals. It may not leave its players gob-smacked but no-one could deny that it looks a lot of fun.88%
Given that there were a couple of acclaimed games in the same vein released recently, is there room for another overhead racer from Team 17 I was sceptical, but thankfully ATR was done so professionally that it won me round.
On the balance of things it beats its predecessors because of a great long-term incentive. The rewards of winning the money, then spending it to soup up my motor filled me with a boyish flush of satisfaction - and that's the sort of thing to keep a player going.
The two-player mode is different, though I'm not sure it works as well as the designers hoped. Otherwise it's got the looks, the features and the speed to take the chequered flag. Go forth and spend your money.