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Powerslide (PC) Review

Presentation/Graphics : 97

Positively outstanding! Be sure to have some clean underwear handy when you fire this one up. Standard resolutions, with support for virtually every popular 3D card on the market, D3D, and even software rendering. You will really need a 3D accelerator to enjoy this game though. At 800x600 on the tested machine, it ran superbly. The texture use is fantastic, from the scenery, to track surface (when there is a track), to the cars themselves, it really captures the post-nuclear setting of the game. The cars have a Mad Maxish look to them, especially the gasoline powered ones. Chips, dings and scrapes in the body, paint flaking off, and rusted patches all make the cars look great. Surface and trackside scenery is equally impressive, with weather worn and cracked pavement, crumbling abandoned buildings, and towns all but buried by the sands of time. Terrific use of lighting also, as good as your favorite first-person shooter. You will certainly want to take a break from the action and just drive around gazing at the post-apocalyptic landscape.

Presentation/Audio : 94
3D sound supported! Yea! Both A3D and EAX are supported as well as DirectSound 3D. Different cars have different engine sounds and it is easy to tell who's driving the old pre-war gasoline engines and who's got the modern high tech powerplants. Over all the sound is excellent, though just a tad 'dirty' sounding. With a 3D sound card, it's a pleasant experience. Tunnels and closed-in areas have an appropriate echo to them and you can just feel where a car is behind you by listening to it. The different track surfaces (mud, snow, pavement etc.) also produce an appropriate sound.

There is an interesting assortment of music in the game. I just wouldn't know how to classify it though. It is slightly similar to the mix of music that you heard in Red Alert. Techno-something-or-other, a bit of classical, and some... well, the music is high quality. Personally I have to turn the music off when I race, it's too important to hear the engine and other cars. It is interesting enough though to listen to all the audio-tracks once.

Interface : 88
Navigating through the different areas of the game is straightforward and simple. Large icons at the bottom of the screen get you where you need to go. They are always there, so you're able to get to any area from any area. The controls and hotkeys are not as customizable as you might want, but enough so that it really isn't an issue.

Gameplay : 97
Pure fun. The racing is fast, furious, and always on the edge of being totally out of control. In single player, there is single race, championship, and against the clock modes. In the championship mode, you start out at the novice level with only a couple of tracks to race on and a few cars to race with. As you progress and win championships, more tracks are opened up as well as new cars.

The driving model is certainly not based on realism; however, it is detailed, consistent, predictable, and believable in its own world. Most importantly though, it's a blast. All four wheels act independently, the chassis sags under its weight in the corners, and the suspension buckles with creaks and groans on impact coming off of jumps. Powerslide is all about (suprisingly) powersliding. You'll have to learn how to snap your car sideways and counter steer in order to win races. Using the terrain and keeping your momentum up are also key to cranking out fast laps.

Track and car design both show that someone at Ratbag has an incredible imagination. The tracks range from rolling sand dunes to abandoned cities and toxic mineshafts. All of them exquisitely detailed and obviously well thought out. The cars are a mix of light, nimble buggies to heavy horsepower cruisers and are equally as detailed as the tracks. Each car has its own strengths and weaknesses that need to be exploited to drive well. For multiplayer, there are three tracks devoted to the Fox and Hound game (see multiplayer section) which are very much like a Quake deathmatch level.

The computer-controlled cars appear to live by the same rules that the player does. They do on occasion make mistakes, and you can see the lighter cars taking different lines than the heavier ones when more than one line is available. They love to bang wheels with you and while they won't go out of their way to do so, if you're in 'their' line, they will let you know.

Multiplayer Gameplay
Multiplayer gameplay is so good, that it deserves its own separate section. So here it is. Powerslide multiplayer is like Quake on four wheels. It's fast, competitive, paint-swapping, wheel-banging action. Absolutely intense. Ratbag makes some pretty lofty statements about their multiplayer code and for the most part it is all true. Four or five people even on standard 33.6 connections can have a great experience. Connections include IPX, TCP/IP, and modem play. Included on the Powerslide CD is the software you'll need to play for free on, or just gather a group of friends and host your own TCP/IP game.

In addition to the standard racing is a tag-like game called Fox and Hounds. One person (at random) starts as the Fox (the 'it') and the others are the Hounds (the ones that chase the 'it'). Tag the Fox and you become the Fox. Whoever can accumulate four minutes while being the Fox wins. A couple of weapons are optional, adding to the excitement.

There are unfortunately a few bumps in the road. The biggest being getting the game started. There does seem to be a problem or two trying to get everyone you want into the game. This can be a little frustrating at times but once you do get everyone in the game, it is well worth it. There is a patch due soon that will hopefully resolve this issue.

Difficulty : 85
This area is so-so. The difficulty levels are locked like the tracks and cars, to unlock them, you must race and win the championships. An odd approach, but it isn't necessarily a bad thing. I whipped through the first two championships (difficulty levels novice and advanced) with nary a hitch, but I found the third championship exponentially tougher than the previous two. At this point though, you have all the cars and tracks unlocked except for one car and track each (one supercar and one super fantasy track called the Luge!), so you basically have unlocked the entire game. The third championship should provide plenty of challenge for most people, and for those that find it too challenging, the previous levels of difficulty are always selectable in single races after unlocking them.

Overall : 93
Powerslide is the first game from Ratbag, and it oozes with excellence in nearly every aspect. One can only dream what fantastic games might come from them in the future. Arguably the best, fastest graphics of any game on the shelves right now, let alone a racing game. Terrific sound. Addictive and engaging gameplay. Over the top multiplayer action. Oh, and a great implementation of Force Feedback. Powerslide does it all and does it well. I haven't had this much fun since playing Doom. Get your shoes on and go buy a copy of Powerslide already!

By: Garth Cramer 12/24/98

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