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Platform

Playstation 2

 

Genre

Racing

 

Publisher

Titus Software

 

Developer

Smart Dog

 

ESRB

E (Everyone)

 

Released

Q3 2002

 

 

- Real pretty racing game

- Crashes are back! (cue grunting and ground slapping)

- Excellent detail on cars, especially when accelerating and braking

 

 

- Memory card fault

- No difference between any of the selectable cars

- Some levels are hard to see parts of the track

 

 

Review: Ferrari F355 Challenge (Playstation 2)

Review: LeMans 24 Hours (Playstation 2)

 

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Downforce

Score: 7.0 / 10

 

Downforce is a new racing title from Titus that is a throwback to old school racers like Pole Position on the Atari 2600. The game is a Formula-1 style racer, where you usually start off at the back of the pack (due to your relative inexperience on the circuit or the near impossibility of doing well at the time trials) and have to challenge everyone from behind. The main feature of the game has got to be the crashes – once you bite it on the course the game switches to an external camera and shows that brutal crash in all its destructive glory (even with shrapnel and pieces of the crash remaining on the track after you restart).

 

downforce-1.jpg (16264 bytes)           downforce-2.jpg (20977 bytes)

 

Downforce is a pretty title, with the detail on the cars taking center stage. Each of the cars has its own design and reacts differently to braking (from retro-flares, to sparks off the axles, to changing spoiler profiles). More impressive is the realistic damage to the cars when bumped or rocked into the walls without crashing – the molding on the spoilers will deform and will not work as well; i.e. the spoilers won’t brake as effectively. Taking in the whole Formula-1 experience, the levels are from all over the world and each try to convey their individual tone – from the bustle of Singapore and Hong Kong to the beaches and sun of Florida, style is king.

 

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The action is where the old school feel comes in. Unlike current simulator-style games, crashes and near-fatal mistake may not doom you in the race. If you get back on the ground quick enough, and attack effectively there is a good chance of still winning the race or at least finishing in a high position. Like Pole Position, the computer AI seems to suffer from a selective skill level – when you’re at the back of the pack, it doesn’t take much to get back into the race… but when you’re in the lead expect the competition to be merciless. This makes the game more of a fun experience in that you 

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don’t necessarily have to be serious or focused (or sober) to play. There are a variety of F-1 cars to choose from, but the only difference between them is the design and the color scheme (and possibly the CG character standing next to them in the selection screen and the name that you have to look up for in the standings).

 

The in-game sound is good; you don’t notice the music mostly because of the constant and realistic sound effects ranging from the squeal of tires and engine pitching to the radio chatter from the pit crew (including instructions and praise). The visuals vary from stage-to-stage in that all of the levels are well designed and implemented but there are sections that can’t be seen during game play. (There is nothing more frustrating than slamming into an outcropping that you couldn’t see and coughing up a good position in the race.)

 

downforce-3.jpg (17929 bytes)          downforce-4.jpg (17985 bytes)

 

Downforce features 7 different modes of play: Trophy mode, Championship mode, Time Attack, Free Race, 2 Player Free Race, 2 Player Time Tag, and Time Trial. The trophy mode is a regular track-specific race against nine other cars where the objective is to place in the top 3 – by completing all of those tracks with a trophy, more tracks are opened. Championship mode is a circuit series where you are awarded season points for finishing positions but you must first qualify for a position in the race by competing in a rolling start time trial before each race. In Time Attack you have to keep completing laps before the time runs out (think arcade) where progressing opens more tracks. The Free Race is exactly what it sounds like, just screwing around on a track with no restrictions; this is an excellent way to try out tricks like curve-positioning before a big race. The Time Trial mode is a single lap with a rolling-start with the plan to set the best possible time on an open course. The 2 Player duplicate modes should be self-explanatory.

 

The one major fault that I could find with the game is that there is a memory card problem with this game. For some inexplicable reason, the game claimed that it could not find a valid memory card in the Playstation 2 every time that I tried to save a game. I was able to reproduce the problem with 2 different Playstation2 decks and 3 different memory cards. This had the unfortunate side effect of me not being able to explore the entire game as I would have liked, so I never was able to advance more that 2 hours or so at a time in the Championship league. This title’s score would have been higher if not for this fault.

 

The learning curve for Downforce is about 2 hours – within that time, most people should have figured out the nuances of the hairpin turns and how to contact other cars to spin them out. Downforce is entertaining, and recommended for those who prefer a more “mindless” approach to racing (especially because you can’t seem to save your progress).

 

- Tazman

(July 24, 2002)

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