Game players are no strangers to battle-oriented race games. When you're hurtling down the track at unthinkable speeds there's no better way to speed by the competition than to blow them into little smoldering bits. Now battle racing fans have a new toy to play with: Megarace from Software Toolworks. Toy is the right word here. Megarace is not a heavily detailed sim; it's just a straightforward "drive fast and shoot things" game. If you don't expect anything more from it, you should like it.
Megarace is actually an interactive TV game show. In the future, Virtual World Broadcast Television will hold a monopoly on the entertainment industry with their mix of interactive virtual reality and spectator TV. Megarace is the highest rated show in TV history, and all over the world people stop what they're doing to watch lucky viewers stalk maniacal speed gangs on virtual racetracks. Your host is Lance Boyle; he's everything you've always wanted in a game show host--and more! He's where a lot of the CD's resources go. Megarace features 20 minutes of the well-animated Boyle, who'll speak to you and your viewers at length before every race. If you can take him for that long, that is.
Apart from Lance, this CD-only game also makes extensive use of 3D Studio-spawned cut scenes. For a low res (320x200x256 colors) game, these scenes look very nice, but the art is outshined by the animation. These scenes are wonderfully smooth and very cinematic. Your viewpoint glides along like a hovership, and the projection screen image of Lance Boyle is reflected off nearby buildings with amazing clarity.
That's nice, you say, but how's it play? Okay. There's no major revelation here, but it's a nice enough game. The tracks you race on are all virtual, so there's no real need to be confined to the demands of natural physics. Impossible banks, corkscrews, loops, and other twisted surprises await you on the speedways. One setting even has you racing underwater through transparent tubes! Each race track is littered with symbols, some good, some bad. Making the most out of these symbols is the only way to overtake the speed gangs and blow them away, and that's the only way to stay in the game. After all, if the audience isn't excited...
Although your car's behavior on the track doesn't exactly stun you with realism, it's still fun in an arcade sort of way. You'll have to keep a sharp eye out for the symbols. For every good symbol there's a nasty counterpart. You'll go out of your way to run over a speed boost or recharge your weapons, but if you're not careful you'll hit a nasty piece that sends your car into a spin or even blows you up. The speed gangs are local experts, so you'll have to learn the tracks fast or eat their dust.
The sad part is that the combat leaves much to be desired. The computer opponents do little more than act as target drones. They'll shoot at you if they have the chance, but this is rarely the case. They start the race way in front of you, so you usually encounter them by coming up behind them, at which point you just take aim and blow them off the track. You will occasionally run out of weapons energy, but you can still ram them into the side wall with little risk to yourself. This would have been a much better game if it had forced you to think defensively instead of just offensively.
Although it's not a great game by any stretch of the imagination, I had a good time playing Megarace, and will continue to play it now that the review period is over. It's a fun little arcade game you can install and learn in a matter of minutes, and the sights and sounds between races are very tasty indeed, especially if you like extra-strong cheese. (Lance Boyle makes Richard Dawson seem like Al Gore.) People looking for the CD-ROM's answer to IndyCar Racing will be sorely disappointed, but if you're in the mood for some light no-brainer entertainment, you could do a lot worse than Megarace. I have.