SimCity Graphics. (computer game) (evaluation)
by Robert Bixby
Driving simulations have accelerated into the fast lane since the original Test Drive. This time, Distinctive Software, the developer of the Test Drive series, has teamed up with Broderbund Software to bring us a racecar driver's dream, a game simply called Stunts.
As a stunt-car racer, you choose from an arsenal of 11 road rockets ranging from Indy-car racers to elegant sports roadsters to off-road puddle-jumpers. To get the feel of the controls and the inventive stunt tracks, I started with the Lamborghini LM-002, a $120,000 four-wheel drive with a top speed of only 126 mph. When I switched to the Jaguar XJR9 IMSA, a $325,000 Indy car with a top speed of 215 mph, it was like going from the cockpit of a twin-engine Cessna to that of an F- 1 9. Th of power under the Jaguar's hood was exhilarating.
The stunt tracks include such challenges as steeply banked curves, open drawbridges (you'd better be doing at least 90 mph if you want to make it to the other side), loops, corkscrews, slaloms, and a devious pipe (a simple round tunnel with a nasty cement block in the middle). You have to drive up onto the wall of the pipe in order to miss the block, then be back on the level before you exit the pipe. There are also hills, elevated roadways, and spirals. If that's not enough, you can change the track to dirt or icy roads.
While all this sounds good, you have to see this game to have an inkling of what it's all about. Driving, of course, you see the cockpit view out the windshield. But after you've crashed (or completed your lap, once you've polished your skills a little), you can run a videotaped replay of the race. A VCR-like control panel lets you run the tape forward and back, watch it frame by frame, and select your point of view. You can see it again from the driver's seat or select the TV-camera view, which shows your car approaching then receding from a series of remote cameras along the track.
The most fun is the helicopter view. You can zoom in and out, move the helicopter camera up and down, and change the angle of view through 360 degrees. As you move the point of view, the scenery, horizon, and racetrack all change appropriately. Although the scenery and the cars are mostly polygons that are fairly jaggy-looking, the illusion works. It feels like a race as you drive, and it looks like a race as you watch the videotape.
Stunts has nice touches throughout, such as the choice of six opponents with varying degrees of skill. Helen Wheels and Skid Vicious are the best of the lot. In the evaluation panel that appears after each race, your adversary appears in a digitized animation to either rub your nose in your loss or pout about your superior abilities.
The developers have created painstakingly accurate simulations of the driving characteristics of these 1 1 cars; you'll come to recognize the feel and sound of each. They accelerate differently, they spin out at different speeds, and they even have individual characteristics when airborne.
In addition to the traditional cursor-key control system, you can drive these car,. by mouse; left and right mouse movements turn the steering wheel. I found the mouse movements to be too hard to learn, so I soon drove exclusively by keyboard.
Once you've mastered the half-dozen increasingly complex tracks that come with the game, you can design your own tracks using the basic building blocks. You'll be able to create tracks formidable enough to keep you challenged, no matter how well honed your driving reflexes become.
Stunts' extensive graphics and complex simulation algorithms require a powerful computer; a 286 machine running at 8 MHz or better is recommended. The game also requires a tremendous amount of memory. If you have any TSRs running, you'll have to unload them in order to run Stunts. For me, this meant creating a separate boot disk just to run the game, which rankles a little.
If you have an unfulfilled desire to drive the hottest racing cars on the planet or if you fantasize about driving in an exciting TV-style car chase with jumps and other stunts, you can work off a lot of that energy with Stunts. The cars are satisfyingly realistic, the stunts are dramatically exciting, and you can create (and save) computerized videotapes of your exploits. In addition, the highway patrol will thank you for confining your stunt driving to your computer room.
IBM PC and compatibles; 512K for CGA and Hercules, 640K for EGA. MCGA, VGA. or Tandy 16-color; 8.MHz 286 or faster processor recommended; mouse or joystick optional $49.95
BRODERSUND SOFTWARE 17 Paul Dr. San Rafael, CA 94903-21 01