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Race Driver: Create & Race

Score: 90%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Codemasters
Developer: Firebrand Games Limited
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Racing/ Racing (Simulation)/ Editor

Graphics & Sound:

Race Driver: Create & Race may lose a few beauty contests by virtue of its affiliation with the less graphically sophisticated Nintendo DS. As our mothers never tire of telling us, we'll be judged by the company we keep. It does appear that the game takes things as far as they can go visually on the DS. Fans won't care much about the lack of crisp detail when they get hold of the most excellent (does best Bill & Ted impression) racing action.

The most noticeable variation from track to track is the cars (and trucks in some cases). You'll see designs change and body styles within a given make also show great variation. Select livery (decoration on the car) styles keep things interesting among the stock racers, giving you a variation on each theme. If you don't find enough variation, you can build your own dream machine from a splendid array of aftermarket goodies including vinyl emblems and custom colors. The customization goes far beyond that. Create & Race goes all the way through to a track editor second to none. Building a custom track and a custom car is good for business in the racing world. If you thought it was easy to design a track, think again. The logistics of laying out track can be complicated when you have a limited amount of space and need to choose from lots of different track types. Over time, you'll unlock new liveries and new track styles to make the customization even deeper, but Race Driver: Create & Race is true to its name right out of the box.

There is a limited amount of music, nothing to rock your world, but the sound of racing motors and sliding tires is pretty rewarding. The difference between each car's engine is impressive considering the large stable of vehicles in the game and the relatively limited palette available on the DS. The overall impression that Race Driver: Create & Race makes is exceptional and the best part of the package is still under the hood.


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.


The basic World Tour features several tough matches that many racing fans will find daunting. The American Muscle Car race and the souped-up semi race will have you gritting teeth due to some very slippery or slushy controls. The magic of the game is that these vehicles do feel so different from their counterparts. The first and best indicator of a substandard racing game is lack of definition between vehicles. Race Driver: Create & Race handles true compared to the descriptions of each vehicle before a race. Trucks are deadly to correct and some of the Japanese R-series vehicles seem to skitter off at the slightest twitch of the thumb. Making first place is a real challenge, but one worth tackling. You won't need to finish first to open up new content, but you'll need to finish first in World Tour before you can worry about placing respectably in the Pro Tour. The realism of the controls sometimes blocks the fun, but racing fans will ultimately enjoy the challenge and the opportunity to master each track and then try to substitute vehicles for the challenge. Challenges give specific objectives and provide nice diversity compared to the racing modes.

Game Mechanics:

Setting up the Nintendo Wi-Fi isn't terribly difficult if you've hooked anything up to your home network. A big, fat book was packed in with Race Driver: Create & Race to illustrate the options for connecting. My test was using an Apple Airport on a cable-modem connection and I had no trouble reaching the lobby site. Joining games in proximity is something that everyone will have done now and hosting a game is possible. The single-card option defaults to you as host if you initiate the game since it's obviously you that has the card installed. Other installation possible is the Rumble Pack, which helps the game experience become more realistic as you match up the sights and sounds with some tactile feedback. One annoyance is that Race Driver: Create & Race lets you transfer wireless configuration between your DS and another. If you have two systems this makes perfect sense; if you share with a sibling or can't share and had to get your own systems, you're a candidate for this feature. The strange thing is that trying to transfer pops a dialogue saying that once the transfer is initiated on the target DS system, the original information on the host DS is deleted. What? The concern may be that someone would have access to your network via their DS, but to do what? Play Race Driver: Create & Race illicitly in the dark of night...? I thought this was a lame feature.

Since the DS has no analog stick, the variation on my favorite mode is handled with shoulder buttons. Changing a setting allows you to connect the left and right shoulder buttons with brake and accelerator! I hate pressing a button to accelerate... squeezing a button or moving an analog stick is so much more intuitive. The list of options configurable in the game is huge and that's not counting the customization to the cars. All this is pulled off, along with the editor, in a way that doesn't strain the DS controls. Touch plays a big role in helping things not become crowded, but the smart design of visual clues in the game also helps. Visual clues during the race that show you damaged elements of your car show how well Race Driver: Create & Race was thought out before any coding actually got off the ground. Or maybe the code monkeys were just exceptionally talented and thoughtful. We suspect the latter. Any racing fan with a DS owes it to himself to get a piece of this action. It sounds silly to say in October, but Race Driver: Create & Race will most likely be the best racing game of the year for the system. Now if we can just coax a few people into that multiplayer lobby...

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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