Codemasters is no stranger to great racing. This is the company that put its name behind my favorite non-Wip3out
racing games, the Colin McRae
series. The formula that appeared in these titles went beyond great rally racing. The concept was to give gamers bite-sized nuggets of achievement and open up the game ever so slowly. The depth of a racing game has to go beyond how many tracks or cars or modes it has. The little touches are everything. Race Driver: Create & Race
seems on the surface to be pretty typical in that it offers several tracks in several modes, some multiplayer option and some extras. The real story goes deep and will keep you engaged in this game almost indefinitely.
Without delving into the "create" part of Create & Race, it is easy to launch the World Tour Mode and start facing off against your opponents. The action takes place on a vertical ladder, tiered events with different style cars and tracks. Completing a race in one tier opens up options to play in higher tiers. It doesn't take an Andretti or a Petty to finish fourth or better in these events since there are only a handful of tracks to worry about over the course of each mini-championship. There is an end to World Tour, but this just opens up a previously closed mode, the Pro Tour. If you wondered what those flags and warnings were about during races in World Tour or abused your car without paying penalties, you'll be in for a rude awakening during the Pro Tour Mode. Damage and pit stops are part of the pro action and the racers you'll face off against are out for blood. Each time you race in either mode, you'll earn points that propel you further in the ranks but also can be cashed in for special game features. This shopping option is part of the game's "extras." You'll find lots of typical things in the shop, but some unusual items as well such as cheat codes. Making design items for the track editor part of the shop is pure genius. Builders will enjoy the challenge of opening up more variety for their master creations.
Those master creations are yours to race after you build them in the editor. The Track Designer is an extremely well-built tool that wouldn't be nearly as much fun without the touch functionality. The DS version of this game will be superior regardless of where else it appears thanks to the intuitive fun made possible by touch. Each tool is labeled clearly and there are some very simple instructions on how to use the editor. You're prompted along the way and given some hints on using various components, but the true test is the trail run. You can do a fly-over first to preview and judge the track's design quality before you put a car down. Solo, free-drive or full competition is possible on the track you build and of course you can name and save the track for later. The absolute best thing about building these tracks is sharing them with friends.
Race Driver: Create & Race features several ways to play with your friends and use custom tracks. Multi-card and online play allow for use of custom tracks while the single-card play option is more limiting. The multi-card option may be what most people end up with unless online play gets more crowded. I tried several times to match up with someone for a race and was unable to match up with available players. Finding a foursome could obviously be challenging, but just finding a partner/competitor should be easy. How are we going to take advantage of nifty features like friend lists and rival lists if we can't find people to race against online... The proximity multiplayer modes are fun, but the single-card option is not going to make for a sustainable experience and doesn't offer the wider range of features that players will want. The final offline mode is Simulation. This features a few standard modes such as Free Race and Time Trial, but also offers a series of challenges that test your skill on the track. Opening up all this content (assuming you don't use a cheat code) is a neat experience and the racing action is solid enough to make it all work. Not finding players online is a big drag, but something that may be corrected once the game has been out for some time.