IndyCar Series

IndyCar Series

Written by Charlie Sinhaseni on 9/11/2003 for PS2  

For racing fans nothing is more exciting than Formula 1 racing. It throws all of the random idiosyncrasies of racing out the window and chooses to focus on what men love the most, speed. We’re not just talking blazing speed here. No no, this is “put some hair on your back, kick the living piss out of your Geo Metro and castrate your brother” speed. It’s a true man’s sport and since we’re all men here at the ‘Nexus, we’re huge fans of it. This doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re huge fans of Brain in a Jar and Codemasters’ IndyCar Series though, and the answer is evident right when you hit the virtual tarmac.

It’s not exciting, it’s not fun, it doesn’t look pretty and the cars don’t even appear to be going that fast. The sensation of speed isn’t present and instead is simulated via a set of poorly construed physics that make Daytona Racing look like the definitive racing simulation. Don’t put that shovel away yet because the game just keeps piling on the stink. On top of the cheap gameplay are the misleading graphics that look great in screenshots but are poor in execution. The cherry on this molehill of New Jersey filth is the horrendous audio that makes our ears bleed on exposure. But hey, it’s got Indy so it can’t possibly be that bad, right?

To be fair the game tries its best to mimic an actual racing season but its just so barebones and empty. After playing a game like NASCAR Thunder 2003 and seeing how much depth can actually be put into a racing game IRS’s attempts seem futile at best. Sure there are the usual adjustments here and there, point tracking and such, but there’s just not enough here to satisfy hardcore racing fans. Where’s the in-depth career mode? The big hoopla nowadays is about creating your own racing team and then placing yourself into the game. Sure Castroneves is a cool cat but we want to put ourselves into the game. We don’t want to drive some pre-existing cars, we want to race alongside them, not become one of them.

It’s missing a whole lot like an entire garage element. There’s no cash involved so there’s not much of an incentive to win races. Since there’s no cash here damaging your vehicle doesn’t come with a penalty, thus you’re actually encouraged to drive recklessly instead of realistically. Keep in mind that this all happens before you actually hit the track. When you’ve got this much going against you things can only get worse and trust us, they do.

Racing is made difficult thanks to some erratic vehicle physics that is about as random as a Leprechaun standing in a bikini trying to sell you some oranges on a freeway off ramp. Sometimes turns can be taken in excess of 200mph with ease while that same turn gave us trouble at speeds of 170-180mph. We’re all up to date on our racing games so we spend an awful lot of time studying the apexes of turns. It’s not a result of any grievous error on our part but rather the inconsistent vehicle behavior that will send a vehicle into a spinout for no apparent reason. Turning on the artificial assists helps straighten out the vehicle but then it makes the game entirely too easy to play. Don’t come here expecting F1 2002’s level of physics because you’ll be sorely disappointed.

And if the erratic vehicle control isn’t throwing you for a loop the unpredictable AI will. On some tracks the AI will give you a run for your money, riding on your tail from start to finish. In these instances you get the feeling that you’re running in a real race where one mistake can be the difference between first and 12th. Then there are times when you’ll just simply run away from the field. It’s almost as if the AI just gives up and dies on you, letting you stroll your way into the winner’s circle. It’s not just bad, it’s terrible. At times I won a race where the nearest car was three laps down from me, not exactly what I would call white-knuckle racing.
There are some problems with the crash physics as well. Sometimes a slight nudge will send a vehicle into an uncontrollable spin while a full on collision will result in nothing more than a love tap. When swapping paint at speeds in excess of 200mph I’d expect to see some fireworks, not hear some cheaply recorded sound effect while continuing on my merry way. In the event that you do see a crash it’ll probably be something way over the top, complete with vehicles being thrown into the air and smashed into the pavement a la the movie Driven. Strangely enough the vehicles can still be driven away afterwards and continue as if nothing ever happened.

Speaking of visuals your eyes will thank you after you pull them away from this merciless endeavor. It’s a huge shame too because the game was looking amazing in the early screenshots that I received. The close-ups showed plenty of promise, especially when it came to the vehicles. In truth the game is a pretty bad mess of bland textures and blurry objects. Most of the time you won’t even notice that you’re approaching a wall until the last moment and by then it’ll already have your paint on it. The tarmac looks very unconvincing as do the stands in the game. The only decent facet of the visuals are the vehicles but they’re nowhere near the caliber of a NASCAR Thunder or EA’s F1 series.

The light gets a little brighter when it comes to the audio elements, but not by much. DTS support is included for people who have a compatible receiver and speaker setup but audiophiles will immediately notice the deficiencies in the audio. It seems like the audio techs had a hard time discerning distances for the opposing drivers. At times cars that are right on your tail will sound very faint while vehicles off in the distance will produce a loud rumble in your speakers. There’s in-race music provided for your pleasure/torture depending on whether you’re a big fan of country rock, techno and industrial. There are only a small handful of tracks that play on a loop, none of which are particularly exciting or pleasant.

On the whole IndyCar Series is a pretty average title that will fail to satisfy avid racing fans. It’s just one of those titles that gets worse and worse with time. The more you play the more and more the deficiencies really jut out at you. It’s a shame that Codemasters’ latest foray into the racing genre was such a bust, the company was really showing promise with Colin McRae 3 and Pro Race Driver. Hopefully it’ll be able to land on its feet if it decides to continue this series for another year.
Finish this analogy: Nascar Thunder 2003: IndyCar Series:: God of All Nascar Games: _____ If you said “God of All Indy Racing Games” then you’re in for a huge disappointment. However if you said “God of all Disappointing Indy Racing Games” you’re on the right track.

Rating: 6.4 Flawed

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


About Author

Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.

It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.

It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.

When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."

As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.

When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.

Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile

comments powered by Disqus