Amstrad Action


Wec Le Mans
By Imagine
Amstrad CPC464/664/6128

 
Published in Amstrad Action #42

Wec Le Mans

Twenty four hours of blood, sweat and gears. Grown up boys in grown up toys careering round French public roads at breakneck speed. Fantastically expensive motor cars driven by the racing elite, as both driver and machine are pushed to their limits. This is Le Mans, one of the greatest of motor races and Wec Le Mans, an excellent endurance car game, is worthy to share its illustrious name.

There are many racing simulations, good, bad and Out Run (AA30, 37%), and without any doubt at all, Wec Le Mans most definitely falls in the very good class. There's nothing pretentious, no fancy tricks, no chance to wipe out entire armies, no chance to mow down poor defenceless grannies or anything like that. All you get is a car and a race: no more, no less. But, and it's a big but (a double-decker but, in fact), that's all the game requires to make it both challenging and good fun.

Excellent graphics (reminiscent of what the arcade version of Out Run looked like and what its CPC offspring should have) roll the French countryside swiftly past you during the race, accompanied by a low electronic growl for engine noise and a satisfying thump when you break the slipstream of another car during overtaking. There are all the sundry other effects - such as squealing tyres when you've charged into a corner at reckless speeds - one is entitled to expect from a car simulation. All of which is introduced during loading with one of those charming theme tunes, so instantly forgettable they wouldn't even play it at Tesco's.

Wec Le Mans

The race is viewed from just behind your car, the track trailing into the distant horizon. The objective of the game is simply to complete one segment of very faithfully recreated circuit in a set number of seconds. This is not as easy as it may sound because the reality oi endurance car racing is captured. Bends not being sign-posted, tyre-scrub the tell-tale sign of imminent spin offs and other drivers unpredictable behaviour, blocking your racing line or suffering blow outs.

The car is controlled in a very simple fashion. As has been the case with arcade racing sims from time to time for ten years now, there's a grand total of two gears to choose from, fast and very fast - and we're talking 137 mph in first! Direction is just left and right with no degree of lock, your accelerator and brakes (never touch the things myself, I'm much fonder of the barriers) being your forward and backwards control.

Information about speed, time remaining and points scored is displayed at the top of the screen (Points?! Who cares about points when there's a chance for some really serious drag-racing on the strip?). The present gear is illustrated by something resembling a piston in the bottom right corner. The pace is suitably frantic as any joy ride at 200mph should be. The first section contains the glorious Malsanne straight, making it the easiest and the fastest, while the later parts feature more tortuous corners, the track twisting and turning like, like... well, like a twisty turny thing! So completion of even one lap is most definitely an achievement - at least until the layout becomes familiar.

Wec Le Mans

The game is a great test of driving reflexes, with subtle additions such as the drift experienced when cornering too fast, which when used at the right time can be a handy overtaking ploy for those annoying 'Sunday style' drivers who continually leap out of the foreground straight at your front bumper. Although all they cost you is time (the car being seemingly indestructible), the balletic crashes nearly make failure worthwhile. Well, almost.

There are, it must be said, some shortcomings in the game design. Firstly, Le Mans is a 24 hour race and yet no night-time sections are included. Secondly, where is the bad weather? Life would be even more fun (but a lot shorter) if you could tailgate in torrential rain or thick fog.

Thirdly, why has the car only got two gears when at least five would add to the realism and the skill level required to win the race?

Wec Le Mans

Perhaps most importantly for the game's longevity is the lack of variety. The only apparent change to the scenario after completion of a lap is the appearance of more cars in more awkward places.

Minor gripes like this aside. Wec Le Mans is a first-rate race game, with enough tricky little corners and mad (most certainly Italian) drivers to keep you going round in circles for days - which I suppose is what the racing game is all about.

Its release follows hot on the (w)heels of a historic British win at this very event, and it's good to be able to get the feel of the circuit at first(ish) hand. Oh, the joys of motoring! The throb of the engine! The wind in your helmet! The car wrapped round a lamp-post! [Are you sure that's right? - Ed]

Second Opinion

Wec Le Mans

Phew! My joystick hand still aches after playing this one. It's fast, it's good. In fact, it's brilliant! Buy it!

First Day Target Score

Complete two laps.

Green Screen View

Fine.

Verdict

Wec Le Mans

Graphics 91%
P. Smooth, steady and speedy.
P. Road markings almost hypnotic.

Sonics 56%
N. Limited but functional.

Grab Factor 81%
P. On go on, just one more lap.

Staying Power 64%
P. Gets repetitive.
P. Gets trickier.

Overall 82%
Great game about a great race.

Trenton Webb

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