IndyCar Series


posted 9/11/2003 by Charlie Sinhaseni
other articles by Charlie Sinhaseni
One Page Platforms: 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.
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