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Superbikes World Championship (PC) Review

Presentation/Graphics : 94

These are ooh'er and ahh'er graphics here. The level of detail on the machines and their riders is amazing, it's darn near like watching television. The riders and bikes are faithful reproductions of the real teams, with real names and sponsors. You hardcore superbike racing fans will likely recognize your favorite rider or team just by looking at the bikes. Like most racing fans, I prefer the cockpit view, but the graphics are so impressive that I've spent more time racing in one of the chase views so I don't miss those wonderful looking machines screaming across the pavement. Equally impressive is the track side scenery. Grass, pavement, and building textures are all superb. The grass has that striped manicured look, like golf course fairways and the dust that kicks up when you shoot off track into a sand trap is so real looking, you'll subconsciously be spitting the dirt out of your mouth. If all that wasn't enough, there's more. The shadows. Real shadows, not just darker textured pavement, but real shadows. When racing through a wooded area, your bike blinks in and out of the shadows, just as it would in real life. Truly amazing. Rendering-wise, there is software, D3D, and support for most of the major cards providing they have DirectX 5 drivers. I turned every thing up on full and it ran like a champ on my system.

Presentation/Audio : 87
Audio seems to be the weak link in a lot of racing sims. Not so here though. Each bike (Ducati, Yamaha, Suzuki, Honda, Kawasaki) all have unique sounds to them. Not as ear-popping as the graphics are eye-popping, but well done and better than most games. The only complaint I have in the audio department is when you are in the middle of a pack of riders (not very often in my case), it's very difficult to hear your own bike and can become disorientating. That's a pretty minor gripe, though, and it's probably more realistic the way it is. The other sounds like tires squealing, and cheering crowds are all done well also. There is music in game, although I never race with it on, but the menu music is suprisingly catchy.

Interface : 88
No crimes committed here. Simple interface, large clearly labeled buttons, and everything grouped logically. Completely customizable sound, graphics, gameplay and control options to tailor the game to you or your systems needs.

Gameplay : 93
Superbike World Championship is a sim lover's sim. It's a hardcore sim through and through. From track temperatures, to weather, to more garage-tweaking than you can shake a stick at. One of the greatest aspects of the game is that the rider and bike are completely separate. It's almost two sims in one. One for the rider and one for the bike. High side the bike coming out of a corner and you'll wince as the rider launches one direction and the bike in another, both tumbling and flipping in a spectacular crash. The physics and modeling are real enough that you can do a forward and reverse (when you stand the bike up on its front wheel) wheel stand. Good stuff there. During a race, you'll see the assorted flags come out, yellow for cautions, blue when riders on the lead lap are coming up behind you (I saw the blue flag a lot!), and black flags for those really bad things. If you're really clumsy, you might even see one of the other riders giving you a rude suggestion with his fist.

Game modes include arcade and simulation, and in each of those, there are a strictly practice mode, single race, and championship season. The practice session is rather interesting in that rather than showing a line to follow around the course, it uses gates (like a croquet wicket) to show you the correct line around a course. There is a multiplayer mode with TCP/IP, IPX, modem, and serial options available, but I was not able to test any of that.

The garage area is easy to use, though fairly complex. Plenty of adjustments can be made from multiple shock rebound settings, to gearing, sprockets, rake, tires etc. Then there's the telemetry tool. This is a tool used to give you detailed information on a bunch of different aspects of your race laps. You run a few laps, then pop into the garage to use this tool and see things like braking, speed, velocity, bike angle and more in a graph overlaid on the track. Definitely interesting info, but how useful it is, I never discovered.

Difficulty: 83
Being as hardcore as this sim is, you're going to have to log some serious hours on this game to get very competitive. Even on arcade mode, you'll be spending some time practicing, learning how the bike you've chosen handles and learning the tracks. Unfortunately this may turn some people off who don't have a lot of patience for that sort of thing, but considering how detailed the sim is, it's unavoidable. It's as difficult a racing sim as any other I've played to learn.

Overall : 90
I've been waiting for this game for a good many years now. Why it took so long to get a good bike sim out, I don't know, but finally it is here! If you're like me and have been waiting, it's over. The game should be on the shelves by the time you read this, so go grab it. If you like a good sim, but are not particularly into bikes, you might still like it, it's just that good. I caution the casual gamer though, while a lot of fun, you've got pay your dues in time spent practicing before it pays off. Most importantly, keep the rubber side down!

By: Garth Cramer 3/5/99

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