Cyberspace. (computer game) (Software Review) (Evaluation) (Evaluation)
by Scott A. May
Some games just beg to be liked, regardless of any inherent flaws. CyberRace is one such product, a stunning 3-D racing simulation determined to win your gaming affections despite several puzzling imperfections. Published by Cyberdreams, this is the company's second title to employ a famous artist for its design foundation. The first, Dark Seed, captured the surrealistic imagination of painter H. R. Giger; CyberRace draws upon the futuristic visions of Syd Mead, set designer for such films as Blade Runner, Tron, and 2010.
The story is set in a faroff future, where interplanetary war has been replaced with the less destructive-- but no less hostile-- competition known as CyberRace. Contestants pilot sleek, heavily armed hovercraft-style vehicles at high speeds over forbidding desert and mountain terrain. To win, you must stay on course, maintain speed, avoid attacks by alien opponents, and dish out punishment of your own. You play the part of Clay Shaw, forced to compete for your unscrupulous government, which holds you girlfriend hostage. Each race nets various credits which can be used to upgrade your vehicle or buy blackmarket services. Bonus credits are earned for completing certain prerace goals, such as eliminating specified drivers during the race. The branching story line changes according to how well you do.
The first-person race graphics are spectacular, featuring incredibly realistic landscapes that are rendered with Voxel technology--the same graphic style used in NovaLogic's Comanche: Maximum Overkill. At the lowest detail level, the game screams with such speed that, on a fast 486 system, it's almost unplayable. Curiously, when detail levels are set to medium or high, the same system slows to a crawl. There appears to be no workable middle ground. The actual race is an exercise in mass confusion. The track--outlined by tiny holographic lights--snakes wildly about the terrain. With dozens of other opponents, air mines, missiles, and constant explosions, staying on track is a major chore. Persistent gamers will eventually get the hang of it, although the rewards rarely seem worth the effort.
The CD-ROM version adds speech to the game, but it does little to enliven the terribly stiff character interaction between races. CD-ROM users will also find the game technically unfriendly, running only from a bare boot disk, sans memory managers, with at least 550K of free base memory. This leaves almost no room to load necessary CD-ROM drivers, let alone memory-resident sound card drivers. How ironic that a game that feigns cutting-edge design should be so technically backward!
Is it possible to like a game but not really enjoy it? CyberRace proves that it is. It's handsome, technologically advanced, and intriguing, but it ultimately fails to realize its true potential.
SCOTT A. MAY