Corvette Review

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Publisher: Global Star Software (Take-Two Interactive)
Developer: Steel Monkeys

Platforms: Xbox, PlayStation 2
Reviewed on PlayStation 2

Any PlayStation 2 auto racing game is going to be compared to the Gran Turismo series. There are many excellent PS2 racers, but GT has always stood head and shoulders above the rest and became the yardstick by which other games are measured. There are many imitators, such as Corvette, but Corvette adds some ingredients to the mix that merit a look: First, the complete focus on the Chevrolet Corvette series allows players to race every production model (and some custom models) from 1953 to the present day. Second, it's only ten bucks. So how does a ten-dollar game measure up?

Dave Harlan

Things start out looking familiar – the menus are even in the same font used in the Gran Turismo games. The standard modes familiar from most racing games are here: Arcade, Quick Race, Career and Multiplayer split-screen. There are also "Special Modes" unlockable via Arcade or Career. While Arcade and Quick Race Modes are good for a taste of the game and all the car styles available, Career Mode is where racing gamers will be spending most of their time. The player races each series with a particular 'Vette, changing models with each series. A break in the routine comes from the final race in each series, which is an open-road, one-on-one competition with police chases added to the mix. The tracks themselves are interesting and detailed, with some clever settings such as a military base and an airport. There are multiple tracks, but Corvette follows the time-honored method of revisiting rearranged versions of earlier tracks.

It's Not Hard To Race, But It's Hard To Resist Crashing

Corvette is initially quite charitable – it quickly becomes obvious how much more powerful your vehicle is than your opponents', and that regardless of how pathetic your cornering skills are, you can almost always make up for it on the straightaways. Even without the benefit of a test run on a track (something Corvette doesn't offer), most of the early races (the first ten to fifteen of them) are easily won on the first attempt. When the difficulty finally does creep up, your only real competition comes from the common, but tired, use of a single, fast lead car with a perfect driver.

Car manufacturers are loathe to allow their precious vehicles to be smashed up in video games. As GT fans are painfully aware, the game's major shortcoming is the lack of crash damage. Tires wear out and the car needs a wash now and then, but a head-on collision at 160 mph does about as much damage as slamming into your little brother on carnival bumper cars. Corvette shares the same problem, and with an invulnerable car, what is there to fear? The game quickly becomes something more akin to pinball. Can't make that tight turn? Who cares? Just floor it and bounce off the wall and back into the race. Want to take the lead? Just come up behind the leader as he slows for a tight turn, then lay on the gas and ram him, sending him spinning out of control. That's bad driving, and not how racing games are meant to be enjoyed. But when such tactics carry no penalty and first place is a car length away, it's easy to succumb to temptation. The AI does seem to take offense at dirty driving and retaliates, but that might just be my growing paranoia.

Both the standard DualShock 2 controller and steering wheels are supported. The controls are responsive enough, and you are allowed the left-stick/steer, right-stick/gas-and-brake option. But beyond that, controls are only configurable via four pre-set control schemes. I may seem to nit-pick, but when you're used to having the handbrake set to the top-right shoulder button, and the closest alternative in Corvette's control scheme is the bottom-right shoulder button, sharply-honed racing reflexes result in frustrating failures when faced with a sudden tight turn. Is it really that difficult to let the player customize the buttons? Or to at least follow certain conventions?

Do You Prefer Poor Handling?

As you advance through the races, in addition to unlocking more cars, you are awarded upgrades. Sadly, the upgrades are probably Corvette's biggest shortcoming. Each set you win is presented as a tier – a single tier consists of three upgrades that may include better tires, more responsive braking system, and so forth. First, you win level one upgrades, then level two, and so on. There's no tinkering with the vehicle – at the outset of each race, you choose the level of upgrades for that heat. The mind boggles – why would anyone choose anything but the top upgrade they're entitled to? The only upgrades that provide any entertainment are the colors. A variety of paint jobs become available as you complete races, and they include some nicely rendered, two-tone jobs. But in the end, the upgrades are of such little consequence that Career mode is distinguished from Arcade mode largely by its length.

For a game of this price, the graphics are actually quite solid. There are times when the cars seem to beg for more detail, but overall, the Corvettes are well represented. The real visual success, however, comes from the tracks and backgrounds. Skies, trees and other scenery look beautiful and make the courses seem more real. Airplanes fly over as you speed through the airport, and at the military base, fighter planes and Apache helicopters buzz about – all nice touches that really flesh out the environments.

Unfortunately, graphics are left to shoulder the burden when sound takes the day off. Most of the sound effects come off as tinny and flat, seriously lacking that indefinable "oomph." Any racing game that doesn't pitch a hearty rumble through your subwoofer is the victim of severe oversight. Then there's the music – generic pop/funk/rock replicas that start off innocuously, become actively annoying, then thankfully evolve into something you get used to. You never really like it, but you get used to it. For a game of this price, recognizable popular music is far too lofty an expectation – lesser or unknown bands looking for exposure would have been a better alternative.

Corvette gets a considerable bump in rating simply for its ten buck price tag. It should go without saying that the major selling point of this game is its devotion to the Corvette series, and fans of that icon of the American sports car are going to be happy with their purchase for that alone. While Corvette may not be particularly innovative, the gameplay isn't bad, though it lacks bells and whistles. Corvette fans are going to get a nice toy for their ten bucks, and while the average racing fan may tire more quickly of the gimmick, at that price, you simply can't feel ripped off.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on April 21, 2004 1:05 PM.

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