Virtual Karting

Title		Virtual Karting
Game Type       Driving
Company         OTM Publications
Players         1
HD Installable  Yes
Compatibillity  AGA
Submission      Joachim Froholt Profiled Reviewer

I remember when I got the demo of this game from a CU Amiga coverdisk.
I had just discovered Daytona USA and wasted a lot of money on it in the
arcades, so a texturemapped Amiga racing game seemed to be the solution
to all my economical problems. For some reason, I was totally blown away
with the Virtual Karting demo. I played the track over and over again,
just to see if I could get further before the 1 minute time limit which
"blessed" the demo ran out.

Un(?)fortunately, VK did not get a review in CU, so I never actually
bought the full game - until six months ago (autumn '98), when I found it
in a PC games shop in my home town (of course, the only reason they
stocked it was that they had bought that and a lot of other stuff from
another company which had gone bankrupt). VK was the last Amiga game
I ever came across in a local computer games shop :(

Anyway, I bought it. It cost me about 5, and I was pretty excited to
finally be able to play the full version of my favourite game demo.
I guess I have played the thing three times since then. Yep, I'm pretty
certain. Three times. Ah, but now I'll turn it on and play it again, just
to be sure that I don't thrash this game without good cause.

(Very crappy engine noises in the background)

Ok, I'm back (fortunately). No, just as I remembered - VK is just not
fun enough to be interesting. You can either just accept that fact and find
another review to read, or continue reading as I try to explain what's
wrong with this game.

Well. Virtual Karting simulates karts. I have never actually tried driving
a real kart, so I can't say if it is a good simulation or not, but that
doesn't really matter for me. All I want from this game is fun.

There are three tracks for you to play - beginner, advanced and expert, and
you can select from two karts. One is slightly slower and more suitable
for beginners, while the other, er, isn't.
There are some other options as well, like selecting the control method
(a plus - all games should have such an option) and so on, but what counts
is the game, so let's jump straight to that bit, ok?

The race begin with a helicopter fly-through of the course. This bit
is quite impressive, with a nice music module playing in the background
for that "extra touch" (it has to be said that the music in VK is good,
but the tunes are very short). The first thing you notice when the actual
race starts is the crappy engine sound. Your kart sounds more like a bee
than a vehicle. Not good. The graphics are ok, I guess. The screen
resolution is very low, but this doesn't really interfere with the
gameplay. There are plenty of colours and texture mapping. Unfortunately,
the landscape is totally flat, there aren't even any trees along the track.

The game box and the manual both makes a point of the fact that this game
moves fast. And it does - the framerate is very high even on an unexpanded
A1200 (up to 25 fps, OTM boasts). If you've got an accellerator fitted
in your Amiga, you can expect up to 50 fps, which is impressive.

The action can be seen from a variety of views. You can see it from above
the kart, from your helmet or from the front of the kart, some centimetres
above the ground. You can also choose to drop the 3d alltogether and
view the kart from above. When you view it from above, the screen
zooms in and out depending on your speed, which is cool.
The game also seems to be more forgiving when it comes to rounding corners
when viewed this way.

Rounding corners is dreadful. Whenever the kart leaves the asphalt,
it loses speed extremely quickly. And because of the tricky design of the
tracks, this happens a lot. This is a VERY big minus.
In fact, it almost ruins the playabillity of this game completely.

To make things more interesting, there are some computer opponents in the
race as well. Unfortunately, they don't seem very intelligent. Not because
they're no good, but because they seem to be running on railroad tracks.
They always follow the same path, they never attempt to overtake each
other and they always follow each other, sort of like wagons in a train.
Because of the fact that they always follow the same path, they make very
few errors. Because of the crappy corners, you'll make plenty of errors.
Add these factors together, and you get computer opponents which are
almost impossible to beat. Another big minus.
Also, when you collide with another kart, it seems to go on like nothing
happened while you will lose a lot of speed, which is unfair.

Another flaw is that you can select to play any of the three tracks
whenever you want. There are no extra tracks rewarded if you win, so
there are no reasons to win. If you could play a tournament or something,
this would have made things a bit more fun, but you can't.
The tracks themselves are poorly designed, at least the advanced and expert
tracks. The corners are too sharp, and the track is too narrow.
I like the beginner track, because there you can actually drive
around and overtake the cpu opponents, but this won't last forever.
Besides it is still to easy to make a mistake, and when you do, the
computer opponents will whizz past you.

You might say that it isn't right of me to trash this game after playing it
four times (counting today). In a way, you could be right. But if Virtual
Karting was a good game, I would have played it more than four times,
right? The thing with VK is that the gameplay is too frustrating, and the
game does not even try to give you any reason to bother with it.
I think the one minute time limit of the demo actually made the thing more
fun, because at least I could compete with myself then. As it stands,
I can't be bothered. My money was wasted.

Epic has recently released Virtual Karting II (late '98).
I wouldn't dream of buying it, but if you feel that you'd like to try
racing karts, then you should try VKII instead of VK I. Of course, if you
just want a fun racing game, buy Xtreme Racing instead. I did, and I
don't regret it.

Category list.

Alphabetical list.