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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Racing

 

Publisher

Infogrames

 

Developer

Melbourne House

 

ESRB

E (Everyone)

 

Released

Q2 2002

 

 

- Just right level of difficulty and challenge

- Excellent progression through the different classes of cars

- Weather and time effects

- Good simulation of tracks

 

 

- Rules cannot be customized and are too easy

- No online racing mode

- Dated graphics

 

 

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Le Mans 24 Hours

Score: 7.5 / 10

 

Having the lowest household recognition of almost all of the racing series doesnít necessarily mean that a game based on that series will be poor.  This was proven on the Dreamcast a few years ago when Test Drive: Le Mans was released for the console by Infogrames.  Now, comes this yearís installment of Infogrames Le Mans series game following 2000ís Test Drive: Le Mans for the PC.  With the same formula that made the previous game a simple joy to play, Le Mans 24 Hours (LM24H) is a little too close to its previous installment to earn top marks, but still offers enough to be worth a recommendation for those unfamiliar with the Infogrames Le Mans line of games.

 

le-mans-24-hours-pc-1.jpg (19377 bytes)         le-mans-24-hours-pc-2.jpg (15005 bytes)

 

What makes Le Mans so fun to play is the simplicity of the racing experience.  This will no doubt cause the game to lose favor from serious racing sim fans, but I found the level of difficulty perfect.  At an intermediate level with some traction control, racing was extremely satisfying with only my performance hampering my total domination of the AI drivers.  There is an easy, intermediate, and advanced level of difficulty, with each corresponding to having an assist on or off.  The assists are auto braking, and driving aids.

 

There are a few modes of gameplay including Time Trial, Quick Race, Multiplayer (2 player split screen), Le Mans and Championship.  The meat of the game is in the Championship mode as it is there that new cars and tracks will be unlocked when you win the series.  Unlocked cars can then be used in the other modes including the Le Mans mode.  It is here that you can simulate a real Le Mans endurance race with time scaled anywhere from 10 minutes to 10 hours on the Road Atlanta track, and anywhere from 10 minutes to 24 hours on the Le Mans track.

 

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During long races, you will be exposed to changing weather and lighting which adds a nice dynamic to the race.  Unfortunately, it is here that the dated graphics are really exposed.  It doesnít seem as if Infogrames has made any improvements to the graphics within the last two years.  The graphics although serviceable, are quite bland and donít offer any eye-popping eye-candy.

 

For those of you unfamiliar with the American Le Mans

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Racing Series, it is an endurance racing series.  This means that the winner of the race is not the first one to complete a certain number of laps, but rather the first one to complete the most laps in a given period of time. This makes the proper car setup integral in winning races, as pit strategy comes into play especially in the longer races.  Before races, cars can be set up for each track and race condition for a greater chance of winning.  These include tire compound, downforce, gear ratio, engine setup, and fuel level.

 

Where the game truly shines is in the gameplay.  With a near perfect level of difficulty at the intermediate level, you donít have to worry too much about spinning out with fresh tires, and this leaves you with only the AI drivers and your own ability to battle with.  The sense of speed in the game is very well done with curb markers, and static items scattered along the track.

 

le-mans-24-hours-pc-3.jpg (14790 bytes)          le-mans-24-hours-pc-4.jpg (14719 bytes)

 

Although I enjoyed the simple level of racing and the speed depicted in the game, the rules of the race model leave much to be desired.  Taking shortcuts across long turns, and ramming cars off the track are not punished as there is an almost non-existent damage model.  Also, barring car damage, there is no time or disqualification punishment for using such tactics.  Although it didnít bother me in the slightest, there is no online racing mode which is sure to miff a lot of gamers.

 

Le Mans 24 Hours will never be a classic but it is a solid racing game for casual fans of racing games who are big fans of the ALMS racing series.  Therefore, it is unlikely to appeal to a lot of people, making it pretty much just like its real life counterpart.

 

- Mark Leung

(August 24, 2002)

 

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