Release Date: Out Now!
Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) is America's premier open-wheel racing series. With CART Precision Racing (CPR) Microsoft promises all the speed, excitement, and pageantry associated with Champ Car racing.
1. 17 Real CART tracks
2. 3 Skill Levels (Rookie, Intermediate, and Professional).
3. 17 CART teams and 26 drivers to choose from.
4. Extensive car setup options, along with the Race Engineer.
5. Force Feedback support.
6. Multiplayer Support.
7. Windows 95 native.
With a variety of graphics options and Direct 3D accelerator support, it's easy to get a good framerate in CPR. There is also a choice in unaccelerated modes to choose windowed or full screen racing. With all the graphics on, best textures, at 640x480 resolution, the game looks good. Turn off some of the objects and switch to good textures, however, and things get a little ugly. Objects appear drab, with a marked lack of detail. The cars are modeled well, and all but the tobacco and alcohol sponsored cars are in the proper 1997 season livery.
As is typical of Microsoft applications, the interface is entirely mouse-driven and very user friendly. Navigation between screens is simple and straightforward, and the pop-up tips explain anything that isn't clearly marked. The garage screen is also fairly simple, with easy controls for the alarming array of car adjustments.
First things first- this is a very difficult simulation. It will take a lot of practice with all driver aids on to get comfortable, even at the rookie level. Once confident enough to attempt racing with other cars, the gameplay is rewarding and immersive. Computer AI is above average, the only major complaint being the AI cars hitting the player in the tail rather than waiting for a good passing opportunity.
Where things begin to decline is in the realism department. I never once saw a caution flag caused by the computer cars, though I often saw them sitting wrecked in the middle of the track. An accident involving the player will bring out the yellow, but any on track incident should do the same. The damage incurred seems lenient as well, with heavy contact resulting in only minor damage.
The racing itself is presented well, with a race weekend presented accurately- you can participate in each session leading up to the race itself. Friday practice and qualifying, Saturday practice and qualifying, and Sunday warmup and race. It provides for a real feel of what a team goes thru week after week during the season.
Having never driven a real CART Champ Car, I can't say whether the driving model is accurate or not. I can only comment that it feels different when compared to other sims, with a pronounced tendency to understeer. Garage adjustments can make the car handle more to your liking, but changes to wing angles, etc., seem to have less than the expected effect. The Race Engineer feature is a Godsend to less experienced racers, allowing you to answer a series of questions about the car's behavior, then making the adjustments automatically.
Another feature is the Racing School, presenting a wealth of information regarding turn entry and exit, racing physics, aerodynamics, and other topics. Even an experienced driver will be able to find valuable information here, and viewing all the topics is highly recommended.
This is where CPR really stands out from the crowd. Engine, tire, and contact sounds are extremely real sounding. The pre-race music fits in well, and puts you in the mood to go racing.
The commentary is well done, and everything sounds good at any of the available settings.
CPR is billed as a simulation, so I never expected it to be easy. The three difficulty levels allow some flexibility for beginners by changing grip and power for the player's car and adjusting speed and aggressiveness of the AI cars.
At first I thought CPR was too difficult, but backed away from that analysis after a few hours behind the wheel. After getting a feel for the handling and other car responses, I now feel that CPR presents an appropriate challenge.
One drawback to many gamers will be the absence of a true arcade racing mode, but CPR is touted as a simulation, not a game, so if you want an easy arcade-type experience, this is not for you.
Despite a few minor problems in the realism department, and being a bit picky about hardware settings, CPR is an admirable first effort. Practice is an absolute must when dealing with a simulation like this one, and will pay off with some enjoyable and challenging racing, provided you are willing to spend the time to become proficient. The garage is the most comprehensive I have seen in a racing simulation, and the driver aids make it accessible to even casual fans.
CPR may not be the best open-wheel simulation available, but with the price dropping into the $20.00 range, it's not the worst buy out there.
166MMX Pentium, Diamond Stealth II w/4MB, 32MB EDO RAM, and Thrustmaster Formula T2 steering wheel and pedals.