Ultim@te Race Pro
It may be burdened with a rather crappy moniker, but Ultimate Race is without a doubt the finest looking driving game we've ever seen on the PC. Why? Because of all the eye-shagging impressive PowerVR jiggery-pokery, that's why - it's one of the select 'Extreme' range of titles. Running in a frighteningly crisp 800x600 maximum resolution at a very smooth frame rate, with all manner of lighting and misting effects hurled in on top, it's a Ridge Racer-style exercise in arcade motoring that should exhilarate the boy racer in just about everyone. If you want to see your console-owning pals for once turn fluorescent green with envy, this should do the trick nicely.
There's only one course, but before you all start booing and hurling rotten vegetables at the page, consider the following: it's a very long track, it has plenty of variety along the way, and most important of all - it's a damn good drive. Starting out on an urban highway, the game wastes no time in whisking the driver through a breakneck tour of picturesque Americana, as the route winds its way through underground tunnels, dusty red Arizona canyons, overgrown mud tracks and towering suspension bridges. There's even a perilous mountain pass to negotiate before you've completed a single lap, whilst the inclusion of several knuckle-whitening hairpin turns should ensure that even budding Damon Hills will find it a worthy challenge.
You are presented with a choice of five cars, any one of which would cause Jeremy Clarkson to lock himself in the bathroom and touch himself in ways and places that you or I can only dream about (in our most graphic and unsettling nightmares), and three different playing modes to drive them in - Time Trial, Single Player vs Computer Opponents, or best of all, Multiplayer. Alongside the prerequisite network or serial link options, the developers are promising smooth Internet play (we'll believe that when we see it). And do you want the really good news? It's free. Sort of. Ultimate Race, you see, comes bundled with the Power VR card itself. We've been playing it here in the office (using a PC steering wheel, 'cos we're spoilt), and although it isn't quite finished yet, we'd be the first to confirm that it's all set to make bloody big waves in the digital ocean of PC gaming lore.
Look Closely At The Surrounding pictures. Now imagine them a lot bigger and moving at high speed into your face. That, in a nutshell, is the Ultim@te Race Pro experience; although what's going on with that is anyone's guess.
For those 3Dfx-ed up, or indeed PowerVR-ed up, it's a handsome looking game, and there is a tangible sensation of speed to be had, accentuated by some perilous obstacles. In particular, one course features a toll booth-type arrangement much like the Severn Bridge, which leaves little room for error. Attempting to squeeze through a car-width gap at over 100 miles per hour, it's difficult not to flinch, despite the fact that there's no risk of personal injury, barring a freak monitor explosion.
Can't drive, won't drive
By far the best thing about Ultim@te Race Pro, though, is the way the cars handle - that is, totally unrealistically.
Kalisto have succeeded in creating a game rather than asimulation, and for this they should be applauded. Within minutes, it's possible to throw your car around with little concern for the Highway Code, fellow road users or the immediate scenery. Braking at the last second, performing an unlikely 180-degree turn and accelerating out of a bend is pretty much par for the course. If the car begins to slew violently across the road, easing off the gas for a second enables you to escape with no more than a few skid marks - on both the road and the lining of your tanga briefs. Furthermore, high-speed collisions result in only superficial damage and the loss of a few seconds. This is all as it should be; any Top Geordullard who insists on realism can go and sit in traffic with the rest of the drones. Three-point turns and double-declutching are not the stuff of fantasy.
Dip, don't dazzle
As for token quibbles: the headlights are a bit odd, and the turning circle could be tighter - far too much reliance is placed on the handbrake turn. But the biggest flaw is the lack of a Championship mode, which is provincial sloppiness at its worst. Ultimately (clever wording, cheers) though, Ultim@te Race Pro is a very cool game.
Unlike TOCA, Utlim@te Race Pro is very much an arcade-style racing game. The cars handle like they're on glass, with concrete tyres, and there's no way you're going to end up on the podium without employing your brake, handbrake and some gentle nudging. Developed by Kalisto, the game was used by VideoLogic to show off what their PowerVR technology could do, and as a result it looks rather gorgeous.
Again there are plenty to choose from, and they all handle pretty much the same way - like they're on ice. At first it's hard to stay on the track, but once you've learnt to overcome the rather poor steering by using power slides you're in seventh heaven. The cars aren't what you'd call overdetailed, and they don't fall to pieces when you hit things, but the moving reflection in the rear window is a nice touch, as are the headlights when it gets dark.
To say this is one of the bestlooking driving games wouldn't be a lie, mainly thanks to the detail in the tracks and the roadside furniture. There are misty waterfalls, shadowy, tree-lined avenues and sun drenched desertscapes - sometimes you just want to stop the car, get out and have a picnic. And there's a good mixture of tracks: some you can fly round at full pelt, while others require precision braking and expert use of the handbrake.
When it first appeared, network Ultim@te managed to usurp even Quake for a while. If you ignore the sometimes erratic frame rate, the 'killer' arena with four ramps aimed at the centre is a hoot - and the traditional races aren't bad either.
Originality And Fun Factor
Ultim@te Race Pro isn't exactly original, it's just another good-looking arcade-style racing game. But everything is done rather well. It looks good, it's very easy to get into and the multiplayer mode is a lot of fun. Because it lacks any real depth, it's not a game you'd play for hours at a time, but it's definitely worthwhile for a quick fix of speed.
Download Ultim@te Race Pro
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode
Ultim@te Race Pro Screenshots and Media
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