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It’s a great learning experience, not to mention excellent gaming for racing obsessives. And Microsoft’s CART performs like a well-oiled machine on the Gadget Four Question User Test…

Review: CART Precision Racing (Microsoft)

By GLENYS WILLIAMS-HESSE

  1. Is it ready to use? It’s a Microsoft Game, and hence slides easily into place; as usual, with Microsoft products, the interface is well designed and intuitive to use.The minimum specs given are P60 WITH 16 Mb of RAM, 30 Mb of hard disk space, 4x CD ROM. Again, “as usual,” with Microsoft products, the minimum specs are massively inadequate. Microsoft gives recommended specs of P160, 32 Mb RAM, 100 Mb hard disk space, and 6x CD ROM. I reckon that to get the game played properly, you’ll need a P200+ and at least 220 MB free on your hard drive (so that you can run the game from there, not the CD ROM). A 3D graphics accelerator and MMX capability won’t hurt, either.You will also, really, really, need a game controller – this is not one that can be played with keyboard buttons.All of this is an indication of the multimedia intensity of the game; It’s great on that front.
  2. Is it easy to use? Yes. Whatever else one feels about the Empire, their use of “educators” to help design interfaces and interactive learning situations has resulted in their producing software that the user can operate easily, straight out of the box; and learn the details of as he or she uses it. They’ve done this particularly well in their games. The Learning Campaign in Age of Empires is one example; the Racing School, levels of expertise and driver’s aids here are another. I loved the peripherals in this game, and going through them, learnt more about car set up and racing driving than a month of listening to wannabe Schumachers in the pub could have given me. Although this is specifically a CART game, a lot of what the game teaches you about car set up and driving can be applied to any racing situation and any racing sim.The best way to play this game, if you are not an extremely experienced racing sim player, is to start at Rookie level, switch on all the drivers aids, switching them off one by one as you gain experience.For car setup, the game provides a “garage” where you can change the setup on your car in every aspect that would be changeable in a real race. The game supplies a short explanatory .wav file with each parameter of change; as well as a section where a “Racing Engineer” can adjust the car to fit your driving style after you’ve answered some questions.There’s an extremely informative driving school, where techniques of cornering, driving and car setup are explained further, with video clips and animated diagrams to illustrate the points.
  3. Does it operate as advertised?Gameplay: There were, reportedly, some control problems with the initial release of this game, and with the AI controlling the other cars on the track. Versions of the game released since February this year have incorporated improvements that address these problems (the improved versions also incorporate an extra oval track: Miami). Owners of older versions of the game can download a patch from the Microsoft web site that should make the same improvements.Although the cars are difficult to handle, as they would be in Real Life, I found steering no more difficult than in, for example, GP2, and so can only presume that the ‘fix’ has worked there. I’m not sure that the AI, even after correction, is all that great, but knowing Microsoft, if a further fix is needed, there’ll be another patch available on their website soon.You can play a quick race, one weekend or a full season, on all of the tracks available in the ’97 CART season.Graphics: These are very good – so good, in fact, that they’re slightly boring. There’s not a lot to go “ooh” and “aah” over of three to six miles of concrete-walled road with a city-scape (especially a New World one) in the background. Still, they’re realistic.Fandom: The game follows the ’97 CART season closely; and you can choose to be whatever driver you like, although once you pick a driver, you can’t change his team. The default choice of driver is Zanardi, of course, although having witnessed his first win, I tried to be Dario Franchetti for a bit.There is a track editor available for download from the Microsoft site; and, ambling around the www, I have run into unofficial sites supporting this game, where tracks and updated liveries and teams are available for download, lists of best lap times kept, and news of upcoming multi-player games are announced. For the obsessive CART fan, this game opens channels to other obsessives.
  4. Is it value for money? Well, at around R399 (about $65), it’s expensive. For a first time Racing Sim buyer, though, I think it definitely is worth it, especially given the support Microsoft gives through its web site, and the amount of unofficial resources that are out there to supplement what you get in the box.

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