World Tour Racing Review (For The Atari Jaguar)
The Atari Jaguar has been bashed quite a bit since it's release in 1993 by reviewers and gamers alike and continues to be to this day. But the Jaguar can be very misunderstood by those who have either never played it or those who didn't really give it a chance.
This negativity is not totally unfounded. I'm sure most classic or nostalgic gamers have heard of the game Checkered Flag for the Atari Jaguar. But I'm also sure that it was mentioned as a joke or a way to put the system down more than likely. Many people were left with this memory of what 3D racing on the Atari Jaguar was like and stayed away at all costs. Can World Tour Racing for the JaguarCD make believers out of them.
Being a huge Atari fan and with thoughts of the acclaimed Checkered Flag for the Atari Lynx abound, I was excited about Checkered Flag for the Jaguar. What could the 64 Bit console do for the 3D open wheel racing genre? Uh Oh! Well, though I believe Checkered Flag can be fun at times, it is simply not a good game. Broken controls and a terrible framerate spoil the nice colorful polygonal look of the game and what the game should have been. Well, enter Teque and programmer, Lee A. Briggs and World Tour Racing is born. What a difference a few years makes.
What The Hell Is World Tour Racing?!
World Tour Racing is a 3D polygonal racer for the Atari Jaguar CD addon. Though it is based on the Formula 1 series, it does not have the F1 license so you won't be able to race as Michael Schumacher, Mika Hakkinen or any of your favorite drivers from that era. But the game does include an editor for names in the options menu, so if you were so inclined to take the time to do so you could add them to the grid. It also has 2-player support via split screen.
There are 16 tracks to race on with 12 of them mimicking their real-life 90's counterparts and the other 4 being fantasy tracks. You can tune your racer to your liking for the best lap times or to try for the pole position. Three difficulty settings along with 3 to 15 lap race options should give drivers of all levels a chance to aggressively compete and shoot for the podium. Tire wear and wing damage can ruin your race if you're not careful. A cockpit view along with other chase views and even a trackside camera are selectable while on track along with the choice of automatic or manual gears. Watch the lights go out and slam the accelerator! It's time to go racing F1 style on the Atari Jaguar.
Graphically, World Tour Racing includes textures and a mixture of polygons and sprites on track unlike Checkered Flag. World Tour Racing is a graphical mixture of good and… well… not so good.
The cars are actually modeled well for the Jaguar. What you might not notice is that the game contains more than one car model. It may be a little hard to tell due to the fairly low resolution used in the game, but nice nonetheless. The track surface can be textured if you like by pressing the “8” button while on track. But it will cost you a few frames per second which it really can't spare and it doesn't look as well as you might hope. Hence the reason it is off by default.
Trackside objects consist of polygonal buildings, a mixture of polygonal and sprite based vehicles, 2D people and trees, polygonal grandstands, Atari Jaguar and Jaguar game banners and signs along with some of the strangest clouds you'll ever see. I'll admit that I truly enjoy the moving clouds and I am glad they were put in.
The drivers field of view and the draw distance are very nicely done and make judging your breaking points or passing a rival much easier. Nice backdrops are incorporated into the tracks, though some are used more than once and the low resolution makes them pretty pixelated.
The engine sounds in World Tour Racing are fairly well done and give a good sense of when to change gears if you use the manual gear option. Screeching tires let you know when you've lost grip and need to make an adjustment. Collisions can be common if you're not careful and the accompanying sound is a little weak in my opinion, but it gets the job done. One of the highlights in the sound category would be the music.
Though there is not a lot of it, the music is very nice and sounds great if you have a nice audio system. But of course, you can always turn the music off by pressing the “0” button. While on track, the engine noise, voice and music levels can be adjusted by pausing the game and pressing either the “A” button for music, “B” for voice and “C” for engine. The only voice audio you'll hear in the game is the sample “Final Lap”.
Well, this is a little complicated. The framerate can be a bit touchy and is extremely noticeable on some tracks more than others and when playing 2-player split screen. Fortunately, the control is tightly done and even when the framerate falls to an almost unbearable low, you can still control the action on screen fairly easily. But there is a caveat to this….
The game includes an automatic steering and throttle mechanism (control interpreter) that you cannot turn off. It is noticeable when you drive but especially when trying to enter the pits. Sometimes it's almost impossible to get into the pits.
The collision detection can be frustratingly crazy at times. There are times you hit a car and all hell breaks loose! Your car goes spinning into the air or shoots backwards for some reason. For the most part, it works just OK. But it is definitely not a high point of the game. This can be a bit frustrating as you cruise around the tracks. You can learn to drive clean if you take the time to, but eventually you'll hit somebody or something and it's a bit unpredictable.
That brings us to the AI. You'll be happy to know that the AI in World Tour Racing is well done. Especially for a game that was released in 1997. The cars can be aggressive, but they definitely know when to give up and fall in line. The great thing about the AI is the fact that unlike Checkered Flag before it, you actually race wheel to wheel with your competitors. Not only can the racing be hair raising and fun, but it can actually be very satisfying! Whether you're racing for first place or to stay out of last place, it is quite satisfying to set up and then make that pass. I'm still impressed with the AI to this day. It's obviously not perfect and the game is not a sim as a lot of the time you are power sliding around turns to get the best lap times. But theres a lot of fun to be had if you give it time. All in all, it's quite fun to play World Tour Racing and I still have as much fun now as I did when it was released.
The games presentation is fairly well done, with beautiful FMV (that's full motion video for our younger readers who are used to our powerful home consoles now) sequences that in some cases serve as the underlying background for your menu.
While on track, information such as your position on track, speed, lap and lap time are all available to you. Unfortunately, this cannot be turned off. With the resolution the game is running in, the text is a little large and cumbersome. It would have been nice to have the option to turn this off. It's easy to navigate through the menus though it can take a few seconds to load some of the menus.
As you progress through the games Championship mode, you will have to write down a passcode in place of saving. The game does not utilize the Jaguar's Memory Track unfortunately. The 16 character passcode can be a handful but it's the only way to keep your game progression. Luckily, these passcodes can be found easily online if you have lost or forgotten yours. ;)
Summary / Value
While the Atari Jaguar is not known for 3D racers, World Tour Racing is definitely worth a try. While Super Burnout and Power Drive Rally get a lot of applause as the Jaguar's best racers, as well they should, World Tour Racing shows that there was potential in the Jaguar and the CD addon. All of this was done while Atari was dying and pressure was high. Framerate issues are there, but the controls are not broken as they are in Checkered Flag and this makes World Tour Racing a good racer. If you have a JaguarCD and are thinking about getting World Tour Racing, do it (though you'll be hard pressed to find it these days and it'll cost you a fortune on eBay).
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