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Jarrett and Labonte Stock Car Racing
Score: 87%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Codemasters
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 2 (1 - 4 Multitap)
Genre: Racing

Graphics & Sound:
What can I say... the PlayStation is an aging system now, as we stand looking a mere two weeks into the future towards the U.S. release of the PS2 - and yet Jarrett and Labonte Stock Car Racing proves that the PSX can still hold its own. I must say that as far as I can recollect, this may be (okay, at least one of) the first time(s) that a game looks really good more because of WHAT is being rendered than due to HOW WELL it is being rendered. The graphics are excellent, don't get me wrong, but one important aspect of the look of this game is the realistic way the cars respond and react. The sound is also very realistic, with unique sounding engines and very authentic sound effects and the grinding alternative soundtrack is top notch. Add in the extremely well-done vibration effects, and you have a very nice racing experience... if you can hack it.

You like racing games? You like realism? Here ya go! Jarrett and Labonte Stock Car Racing packs more realism than casual racing gamers would care to see into a very pretty, fun (and challenging) game. With a host of cars to choose from (including BMWs, Hondas, and other cars you wouldn't expect in a stock car game), and a bevy of tweaks you can make to the handling prior to each race, you can easily find a car that 'fits' you. However, when you actually start the championship, you'll have to do well in the car your team provides for you. What car is that? Well, that depends on the team. You actually get to choose a team to play on and have to 'try out' for the team by successfully passing their qualification requirements. After your first championship, you can choose to race for another team. Each team may have a different requirement expected, such as finishing one race in first place in a season to making a certain number of points in a season... choose wisely. The competition is tough, and you might NOT be able to come in first in ANY of the races in a season. You may, however, be able to come in within the top three at least three times... or obtain a preset number of points... Try to choose a goal you think you can achieve. The bottom line is always, 'Is it fun?' The answer is 'yes - If you like racing and crave realism.' If you prefer games that are more forgiving, stick to Gran Turismo.

OH, boy! If you're a die hard racing game fanatic and you find yourself bored with the 'plastic toy' nature of cars in racing games, and can't seem to find a worthy challenge, you may have just met your match. Realism is wonderful and exciting, but it doesn't make a game easier. Also, Jarrett and Labonte Stock Car Racing doesn't have any adjustments for difficulty. So, it's 'jump-in-and-try-your-luck.' Only, with the destructible nature of the cars and the skill of the A.I. opponents, you will need more than luck.

Game Mechanics:
One really unique feature of Jarrett and Labonte Stock Car Racing is its deformable models engine. If you love racing games, but find it a bit unrealistic when you bounce harmlessly off of other cars (ala Gran Turismo...), then you will love this feature. Not only do pieces appear to fly off when you scrape your car up, but dents stay dented. Bumpers will get knocked off halfway, dragging behind you as you race (and giving off sparks) until they finally fall off. Make a note of where they fall off - you'll need to dodge your own bumper next time you pass that part of the track! We're not talking simple 'instant' damage, either. I have suffered a hard front end collision and then lost my hood minutes later, when I reached a high enough speed to blow it off! This added realism makes method much more important. If you don't take care of your car this lap, it may not handle very well on the next lap... As far as the handling goes before you bang it up too much, I find that as a default, most of the cars ride 'like-they're on rails'. Now, while you may frequently hear people make this boast about their race-modified or just plain 'suped-up' cars, try to remember the last time you saw a really exciting train race. I personally prefer a little more 'play' in my grip... Yes, I have heard that 'power-slides' don't exist in real life... I know I prefer to be a little 'out of control' and regain my grip coming out of a turn than to run into a wall while trying to make a curve. Jarrett and Labonte Stock Car Racing allows you to set your suspension, brake bias, etc. to your preferences. By setting my suspension too hard and my brake bias too front, I was able to get that good old 'I-sure-hope-my-tires-grip-the-road-in-the-next-coupla-seconds' feeling.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

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