Thursday, April 25, 2002

Wednesday, April 24, 2002

Car Wars is in my greasy mitts, Futuristic Hot Wheels, Lexan Bodies, PS2 Games of Interest to the A&A Player

The all-new revised Car Wars seems to have sneaked onto the shelves here in England. (I say sneaked as I had not noticed, although West Bromwich Albion's succesful promotion push to the Premier League has admittedly occupied nearly all of my attention for the last month or so, so it might have been advertised on 50' billboards on my route to work for all I know!). As a result I went to Waylands Forge in Birmingham on Saturday morning and purchased all three of the Division 5 starter sets.

Initial impressions are that the counters are very, very nice indeed although the Division 5 cars look quite a bit smaller than I had expected - 1" x 2" or roughly a third of the 1.5" x 3" size that most "3 x" players use. I hope this is purely down to Division 5 cars being quite small as you need the full 1.5" x 3" base size to cover the 'footprint' of a Hot Wheels or Matchbox car. The other counters for landmines, oil slicks, flaming oil slicks and calthrops are excellent and will replace my Axles and Alloys ones. You get a handful of pedestrians in each set, not as useful for me as an A&A gamer but useful for those of you who need them as suitable figures are hard to find.

The format is worthy of note as well. For £4.99 (I believe the dollar price is identical) you get the rulebook, cardstock turning template, two car counters and loads of auxillaries like mines and drivers etc. Each rulebook contains two stock vehicles, a variant for each and an upgraded version of each. The rules look playable, I had forgotten exactly how much I had forgotten about the CW rules from the earlier editions. Was the movement really divided into three phases? I can't for the life of me recall.

One thing I am not sure about is that you can pull off a number of maneouvres spread across the three movement phases but that the handling class of your car drops (and hence the chances of losing it increases) as you try more and more. Since this does not reset at the start of a phase and carries across across the whole turn it strikes me that making turns at the end of your phase could be more dangerous than at the start so I imagine a disproportional amount of phase three movement will be in a straight line and the resulting games will feel odd.

I haven't done very much with die-cast collecting lately. The Hot Wheels 2002 First Editions are on the shelves locally but having never finished the 2001 First Editions and losing interest in doing so I haven't bothered to start this years collection. One thing I have been doing recently is buying up Hot Wheels for Car Wars but only those that represent fictional or concept designs. The reason for this is that CW is set fifty years into the future (2052 at present, but I remember when CW was set in the early 2030s...) so I am keen to avoid using 'recognisable' cars. Fortunately HW produce lots of such futuristic cars and those with the more vivid tampos even look as if they are festooned in sponsors logos. I recently acquired a Sidekick (a recast of the 1970 Redline HW) in sky blue with large eagle crest on the bonnet and the motto 'Hot Wheels Express Delivery Service' - it looks ideal for a televised arena duel in the year 2052. Modelling-wise, all I am doing with these cars is a bit of paint touch-up (light clusters and repainting plastic chrome mainly) then mounting on 1.5" x 3" bases that has been surfaced with drybrushed wet-and-dry paper.

On the subject of modelling the only thing I have done recently is to experiment with painting clear lexan vac-formed bodies for HO scale slot cars. I've nearly exhausted the first batch I purchased but as I only regarded them as experimental fodder I'm not too bothered by the odd mistake and mess that I made. I've determined that you can PVA glue magazine cuttings to the inside of the body and paint behind them, my next trial is to colour inkjet print onto clear acetate and see if that can be PVA'd succesfully.

Computer gaming-wise I followed the recommendations of Chris J and picked up a second-hand copy of Rumble Racing (PS2) for £19.99. This is very good fun, it reminds me of the LAN games of Carmageddon:TDR 2000 we used to have on lunchtimes. It's your normal "three laps around a themed course" sort of racer but with three 'twists' of interest to auto-combat enthusiasts. The first is mad powerups, including summoning up a hurricane to swat the opposition, throwing a giant snowball at them to freeze their steering and a glowing 'space-shuttle-re-entering-atmosphere' type glowing aura on the front of your car that flings the opposition into the horizon when you so much as tap them. The second is the cars. As you advance from the first level to the Pro and Elite levels, the cars sprout bodykits and massive spoilers, superchargers and Holley carbs emerge from bonnets and the paintwork designs get madder still. The third is the ability to pull somersaults and barrel-rolls in mid air by holding down R2 and moving the left stick. A succesful (and completely physically impossible in the real world) stunt grants up a nitro boost (essential on harder difficulty levels), a failed one leaves you sliding along your roof. Highly entertaining even if the idea is a rip-off of the Hot Wheels game on PSOne, the Deep South and canyon courses owe more than a little to Need for Speed III, the dockside level and it's submarine seems very reminiscent of the one in Motorhead that also had a submarine etc. etc.

Typically, no sooner do I buy a PS2 game from GAME then they send me a voucher for £16. Now this bemused me as I hadn't spent any money in any of their branches for ages having decided to support the independent stores instead. Perhaps they have a policy to send big vouchers to their customers who stop spending in an attempt to tempt them back into the shop - when I was buying stuff from them regularly (including a GBA and PS2 so we are talking big money) I used to only get vouchers for 3 or 4 quid.

Anyway this meant that I picked up Star Wars Racer Revenge for only £3.99 as it was reduced to £19.99 (not selling as expected?). This isn't bad, especially for less than 4 quid, but I preferthe longer courses of the PC original. The ability to flip the pod on its side to get through narrow gaps seems to have vanished but so, to be fair, have the narrow gaps! Ramming the opposition to take them out is a far larger part of the game than the original as well. Like most of the PS2 games that I have picked up cheap I regard this as excellent at the reduced price, not so palatable at £39.99 or the ridiculous £44.99 that some games get launched at.

Another PS2 arcade racer that I have acquired at a sale price is CART Fury. Nothing to do with large-headed cartoon characters in go-karts (for once) but an arcade racer based on the US CART series, played up for laughs. Three lap races, limited nitro boosts, massive multi-car pileups and alternative routes to the finish line. Unfortunately these alternative routes dominate the game. Take all of the shortcuts and you win by a country mile. Don't take any of the shortcuts and you lose. Furthermore the arcade machine origins of this title rear their ugly head in the fact that the races are over very quickly, but the front-end is very slow. So.... in any given hour that you dedicate to PS2 CART Fury you will spend more time in the front-end (and waiting for the agonisingly slow PS2 DVD drive) than you will racing. These two flaws ruin the game for me which is a shame as this game had good potential to be a modern-day Virtua Racing. Shame. Avoid.

And of course, the Ronin-influenced Burnout is still King of PS2 Racing Mayhem.