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Superstars V8 Racing
Score: 65%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: O-Games
Developer: Milestone
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 (2 - 12 online)
Genre: Racing (Arcade)/ Racing (Simulation)/ Sports (Racing)

Graphics & Sound:
Publisher O-Games has teamed with racing developer Milestone (Evolution GT, MotoGP 07/08) to bring a downloadable exclusive through PlayStation Network by the name of Superstars V8 Racing.

Racing games have come a long way in videogame history and the cars in this one look nearly as good as in AAA retail titles from the start. Unfortunately, that is where the beautiful visuals end. The environments that these racers drive through are fairly mediocre at best and just don't deliver the polish that you'd expect from a next-gen title. When considering that Superstars V8 Racing is a download and more limited in space, however, it shouldn't surprise that the game doesn't stun your retinas like a full retail copy. It was also a bit disappointing to not see significant damage on the vehicles. After plowing head-on into a wall at a speed way too fast for consideration and not seeing a mangled wreck felt a bit more like old arcade games than true simulations. While the steering was certainly affected, the lack of visual feedback did disappoint.

The audio presented in Superstars V8 Racing is decent once you get out of the Menu system. Upon first booting the game, the background music while navigating Menus actually was quite catchy, but it soon borderlined on annoying. In-game, the sound fx do a pretty good job of helping to pull you into the action. The changing of gears, screeching of tires while rounding tight corners, and the scraping of metal all sound great.


Gameplay:
Superstars V8 Racing is the first officially licensed game of the Superstars Series organized by FGSPORT. As such, the game features official teams and drivers (11 and 19, respectively), as well as 10 full tracks. Superstars V8 Racing also has a few settings that allow you to set the game up to behave like an arcade machine without wear and damage, or as a simulation that requires a bit more finesse when navigating each course.

The game features only a handful of Game Modes, with online multiplayer and five single player modes, including Quick Race, Training, Race Weekend, and Superstars Licensees. The heart of the game is, of course, in its final single player mode of play, the Championship. Here, you'll select a driver and get into time trials, after which you'll get the opportunity to tweak out your car's different systems, including the tires and suspension, among a few others. One thing I've enjoyed about Superstars V8 Racing is that in longer races, you really need to watch your turns and preserve your tires. The harder you are on them, the looser your ability to stick turns becomes, assuming you enable it in the global settings.

Another thing that I've noticed is that it was a bit too easy to figure out small cheats when taking corners. The usual is that if you cut too many corners, you'll incur a penalty delay where your top speed is severely limited for a short period of time. Unfortunately, some corners can be taken out of play if you take a slightly different line into them. While at times this may not make a huge difference because the grassy ground surrounding the pavement will slow you down, there are instances where sliding across the sand can benefit greatly.

I've also found that the overall gameplay feels a bit simplified when compared with some other top-quality racing titles from the past, which includes the tweaking of the car's limited statistics. However, at its price point of $20 USD, Superstars V8 Racing is good for a handful of hours of entertainment. While the single player experience is certainly enjoyable, it's the multiplayer experience that will likely keep you coming back. Up to 12 players can compete on all 10 tracks.

That is the one thing that most gamers will be anticipating with this download title, online multiplayer. The racing allows for a host of human players and includes the option to also use A.I. cars within the same race. As far as online gameplay goes, it is a bit of a mixed bag. Locally, the gameplay is very smooth and runs the same as if you're offline. Unfortunately in my testing, other players' cars would pop around on the racetrack more often than is comfortable due to a lag in the system/connection. There are also design problems present that allow rogue players to smash into you or even stop on the track and act as a roadblock for you the next time around the track instead of being booted.


Difficulty:
Superstars V8 Racing offers up to four levels of difficulty: Easy, Medium, Hard, and Legend. I was quite surprised to see that its default setting was the lowest of the group, and for good reason. Easy actually felt a great deal too easy, and this coming from someone who doesn't play a lot of racing titles. In fact, the difficulty setting is really only available when first setting up each of your modes, including for A.I. multiplayer cars. Because of this, I highly suggest that seasoned racers will likely want to immediately bump up the difficulty upon first installing. Legend is actually a fair challenge, especially when skipping qualifying races and starting at the rear of the pack as it is relatively difficult to overtake all of the other cars (at least in shorter races).

The other difficulty options come in the form of playing the game with an arcade style or with simulation in mind. While I would never call Superstars V8 Racing a true simulator, it does allow you to incur damage and tweak your car out a bit, which can either aid or hinder your performance on the track.

As far as gameplay modes go, the quick pick up and play nature of Superstars Licenses was interesting, but I was a bit disappointed in how easy it was overall. There are four categories to choose from in this mode, each with five challenges. Deciding to go in order, I jumped into the first event of the first category (Countdown) and couldn't get past it. Thinking that I was in for a long road of agony and defeat, I finally decided to skip ahead to the next category and nearly maxed out all of the medals for the rest of the challenges. So while the first category still eludes me and I can feel the dark cloud above my head, it has to be said that most of the challenges are far from an actual challenge.


Game Mechanics:
The controls used for the Superstars V8 Racing PlayStation setups are actually pretty decent. While glancing over them in text form put a doubt in my mind, actually getting into a race eased the doubts and it quickly made sense. The two Analog Shoulder Buttons, (L2) and (R2), are used for braking and accelerating, respectively. The nature of being able to go half- or quarter-throttle around hairpin corners (chicanes) is excellent; although I can't help feeling that it would have been more enjoyable using a steering wheel to get a bit more precision with the car's steering. Still, despite not having a sensitive enough range in the steering controls, the standard controller does well for what it is. It should also be noted that players can fully customize their control scheme as well, making no excuses for performance.

Superstars V8 Racing is certainly helping to usher in a new era of fully downloadable retail games. While it may not have all of the bells and whistles that some retail racing titles have, its price point of $20 USD helps sell it as a worthwhile title. Admittedly, I was a bit disappointed in the lack of overall difficulty and features, but racing junkies will likely find a few hours of entertainment and will certainly enjoy the multiplayer aspects of the game. For most gamers, I would recommend checking out Superstars V8 Racing's demo before purchasing.


-Woody, GameVortex Communications
AKA Shane Wodele

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