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LeMans 24 Hours

Score: 90%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Infogrames
Developer: Infogrames Melbourne House
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Racing

Graphics & Sound:

Well, there are some racing games out there that are short lived with a few cars. They provide ample graphics with minimal thrills. Infogrames steps up to the racing plate yet again, hoping not to fall into that 'genre' of racing games with Le Mans 24 Hours. Based on one of the biggest, most grueling races, Le Mans delivers some good-looking fun without all the hassle of Christmas shopping. There are over 70 cars, which if you've been around the race scene any amount of time, you'll be able to identify easily. The curves and contours of each car are so perfect, you'll have no trouble telling the Le Mans Corvette from the Viper, or the Porsche from the GTC Competition car. Each car wears its perfect sponsors' sticker with pride, making the cars look as lifelike as any PC game I've ever seen. All of the tracks are true to real life, mimicking their much bigger counterparts' bumps and jumps. The backgrounds are exquisite, with the setting sun letting you know the race is halfway through, while the trees frolic in the wind with you rushing by at 200mph, give or take a mph. So what happens when you put a perfect car on a perfect track surrounded by perfect backgrounds? You get real life racing at a fraction of the cost. Awesome.

Well what about the sound? Great! Each maker has different engine sounds. A six-cylinder Jaguar will sound a lot more exquisite and refined than the raw, throaty power of the 10-cylinder Viper. You would think that all racing games have that detail, but that's not the case, and it's nice to see that Infogrames paid attention to that. Your car's tires will squeal if you gun it too fast off the line. They also will whine in disagreement if you try to take a curve at 150 mph too. If you've got your tires wailing at you on the curves though, you can bet the medicine cabinet that you'll hear the perfect sounds of rubber trying to cut through dirt and gravel which garnish the sides of the tracks. The crowd noise is exactly how it should be in the game. It's there for all the exciting parts, but drops to an ambient lull making the race more of a lifelike experience, instead of something on a 20 minute pay-per-view slot. The music tops everything off by being great beat-driven racing music. It's not too mellow where you don't care if you win, and all you want to do is sleep, while it's not so hard to where you think your car is going to sprout machine guns and missiles. The goal being of course, to blow everyone up. Back in my day, you didn't get graphics and sounds this good on the PC. Thank goodness for the millennium, and that Infogrames made it past that whole Y2K thing.


Gameplay:

Simple enough. Your goal is to race multiple laps around a beautiful concrete track, and cross what many experts call: the finish line, before the other cars do. Le Mans 24 Hours gives you a variety of ways to do this, all of which are broken down nicely in the following paragraph. You can the Quick Race Mode, which lets you compete in a single race. Winning any races in Quick Race opens up more tracks. Considering that there are 12 circuits, you'll want to do the Quick Race often. My favorite Mode was the Championship Mode. There are eight championships in Le Mans which if you win, you open up the next championship and more cars! I really like how Le Mans 24 Hours' whole setup is to open new tracks in one Mode (that otherwise would be rarely used), while opening up new cars and championships in the other. There is the ultra-realistic Le Mans Mode which has you racing anywhere from 10 minutes to 24 hours. Yep, that's not a typo. Infogrames stayed true to the spirit of the real race, and you can too. If you feel that you have an extra 24 hours to burn sometime, you can suit up, and get at the real Le Mans. Keep in mind that the real Le Mans teams have a couple of drivers, so you might want to call you favorite Uncle if you're doing the 24-hour thing. Multiplayer Mode lets you take your racing skills right at someone, while Time Trial mode will have you trying to beat some programmed times. They're challenging to beat, but nothing too frustrating

The control scheme on Le Mans is decent enough, with the cars actually trying to mimic the things in control and weight 'feel'. You can, of course, change all this in the Garage, where you can manipulate things like downforce, amount of fuel, tires, engine and gear ratio (this will make or break you). Adjusting these things will make some of the turns easier, but you may find yourself getting out-accelerated in the straight aways. There are also real time weather effects that usually will change your whole 200 mph strategy, and one slip up in the rain can cost you precious time. There are Options that let you define a race like unending fuel, and no tire wear. You also can control the volume of music, and the basic video settings. Having higher video settings will make things look real pretty, but might affect your system performance.


Difficulty:

There are three difficulty settings, well actually more like 'driving help'. The easiest setting will help you brake, and you have to really try hard to mess up, while the hardest setting will have your car slipping and sliding if you're anything but the best. This is my main beef with Le Mans 24 Hours. The easy setting pretty much has you rip-roaring through the track. That's understandable. The medium setting isn't too hard either, it's more like making change for a 50. The no help setting is extremely difficult, though. The AI races faster, and makes impossible turns to get out ahead of you. If you ever get ahead, then the AI's cars are right on your tail, even if you do out-accelerate them. This is more frustrating than rewarding, and I think could scuff the replay value.

Game Mechanics:

Loading takes a long time - even on a faster machine. I put Le Mans 24 Hours on a minimum requirement machine, and on something that nearly doubled the minimum requirements. Still, the load times are almost unbearable. It was at least two minutes, which is precious time if you're geared up for a 24 hour race! You can play Le Mans with a joystick, wheel or in my case, a keyboard. You use the arrow keys, and a letter or two for gas and brake. With the beginning cars, the keyboard feels really loose and even through the medium ranked cars. Once you hit the nice advanced cars though, then the controls tighten up significantly. The game is not too huge of a memory hog, and saved games are small too.

Riot Rundown: Le Mans 24 Hours is a great racing game, but I think you have to be a racing or exotic car fan to really enjoy it, even though it's probably the best racer on the PC right now. The load times mixed with a zany difficulty threshold might throw some folks off. I had a lot of fun playing it, but was a little unenthused with the load times, and the fact that it didn't play well at all for a machine that met the minimum requirements, if not a tad more. If you're into racing though, LeMans 24 Hours is a great game for the most part, and the fact that you don't have to race a 24 hour race all the time (thank you Options) makes it a more accessible game in your own home.


-Sydney Riot, GameVortex Communications
AKA Will Grigoratos

Minimum System Requirements:



Win 98/Me/2000/XP, Pentium III 450 MHz or equivalent, 670 MB free, 128 MB RAM, 4x CD Rom or higher, 16 MB Video Card, Windows compatible sound card, DirectX version 8.1 or higher.
 

Test System:



Win XP, Athlon 1 GHz processor, 670 MB free, 320 MB RAM, 52x CD Rom, 64 MB Video Card, Hercules Fortissimo II sound card, Direct X 8.1

Windows Green Berets Windows Mafia

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated