Indy 500 (Electronic Arts) Review | Computer & Video Games - Everygamegoing

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Indy 500
By Electronic Arts
IBM PC

 
Published in Computer & Video Games #98

Indy 500

Since just after the turn of the century, drivers have risked life and limb in the Indianapolis 500, a motor race so called because (a) it's staged on Indianapolis' Motor Speedway Track, and (b) it's 500 miles long. Now this simulation gives you licence to drive the Indy, and without even the risk of getting oil on your trousers.

Unfortunately, any road racer which takes itself so seriously that it bills itself as a "simulation" is one of those games with a mouse-operated wind tunnel, an icon-driven pit crew, and all the speed and thrills of a Tri-Ang "Mr. Chugalug" pedal car. Indianapolis 500 has those sorts of options too, but the difference is that they complement the fastest, most exhilarating and most realistic driving action I have *ever* seen outside of an arcade!

You start your practice or qualifying lap in the pits, where you're given the option to tinket with anything from the composition of the rubber on your tyres to the rigidity of the roll bars. All the customising features have some effect on your car's performance, and hence your driving style - it's up to you to experiment until you've got the optimum settings then save them to disk for future use.

If, like me, you're after thrills first and a physics lesson afterwards you'll more than likely roll straight out onto the track. I was a little surprised to find that there's no provision to let you use a mouse to steer, but fortunately the response from a joystick or the keypad is perfectly adequate. I found it best to use the cursor keys, as it's easier to reach the keys activating the turbo boost and cruise control (!). Gear change is automatic, but you can go into reverse by holding down the decelerate key.

Indianapolis 500's most outstanding feature is undoubtedly the astounding 3D graphics which you're treated to as you screech around the circuit. The level of detail can be set to suit the capabilities of your PC, but playing the game on a 13MHz VGA machine graphics allowed me to marvel at the speed and smoothness with which trees, barriers, buildings, people and even a huge grandstand (you can acctually see its supporting beams!) flowed past the cockpit. I mean, you may have thought the graphics on the ST versions of Hard Drivin' and Stunt Car Racer were good... I thought they were good, but this is on possibly another plane of existence!

The other vehicles are superb, solid-looking models of Indy cars are so realistic that, when you crash into one, bits of bodywork fly off and scatter on the track! If you do crash, you don't just disappear or suddenly stop as in other race games. In Indy, you actually spin off, and you can keep spinning until you either lose momentum or regain control of the car by steering into the skid.

One of the most fun features of Indy is the ability to stop the action at any point and replay the last 20 seconds, viewed from various positions above and around the track, and from inside or behind your car. The practical use of this is, of course, to help you study the best line to take through a corner, or how a certain adjustment to the car alters the way you drive.

However, I found it was great fun to drive into other cars at full tilt, then watch the resulting smash from all angles! The realism of the graphics make it look like those snippets of "Motor Racing Disasters We've Enjoyed This Season" that Murray Walker treats Grandstand viewers to every once in a while.

Not only does Indianapolis 500 look good, it plays good too. The other cars drive very competitively, even in a beginner's race, so getting to the front of the pack, and indeed, just getting a decent lap time is down to lots of practice and hours of customising. But every hundredth of a second is worth it. Now back to Desmond in the studio...

PC

The best race game you'll see outside of an arcade. If you haven't got a PC, consider buying one. If you have, get your hands on this at all costs.

Paul Glancey