CART Precision Racing

No, it’s not a shopping cart racer – Terminal Reality actually delivers the goods here.

When Terminal Reality, the makers of Monster Truck Madness, announced CART Precision Racing, some wondered whether it would be fun to drive Indy cars that behave like monster trucks. Yet the final product was a pleasant surprise, as their open-wheeled racing simulation is quite effective at bringing accross the excitement of real Indy racing, and doing so without subjecting it to usual arcade trappings.

Microsoft’s IndyCar

Lots of famous tracks are featured, like this one from St. Louis.

Quite a few famous US racing tracks are mapped

However, the release may have been a bit premature. CART is somewhat unbalanced – superb in some aspects and seriously flawed in others. An example of the latter is the telemetry module, which shows a synchronized replay next to the graphs, with a marker indicating the current track position. While superb for making setup decisions, it lacks crucial graphs like ride height, wheel speed, or tire temperatures (there’s just no way to adjust toe-out, tire pressure or camber without knowing the tire temperatures). The setup options, however, do affect the car’s behavior realistically.

More serious are some bugs, such as four wheels spinning frantically when you hit the throttle in neutral, downshift sounds occurring when you didn’t downshift, an oddly spiked steering curve or an engine that refuses to accelerate for no obvious reason. The manual is thin and incomplete, and the included ingame help documentation is but a mediocre suplement.

However, once on the track, CART is a thriller. Breathtaking sound mates with a car that feels as alive as a beehive. In order to be fast, you have to adopt a realistic driving style, and except for an overdone tendency to understeer at slow speeds, the game is one hot beast. Bumps, slopes, hills, slanted roads, off-camber corners, rolling, jumping, the brute force of the turbo engine, tires laying rubber on the tarmac and slides of all sorts combine to provide a serious sense of “wow.”

Snap8The damage model is simplified (probably in order to make online racing more fun); the car bounces off walls like a rubber ball, and if you’re careful with the wheel it’ll let you plow through grass or gravel like nothing. While this is not what hardcore sim fans want, it does appeal to a wider audience. Some of the aforementioned problems were fixed with subsequent patching, but the game is pretty playable and the driving experience customizable one way or the other. Terminal Reality has found a good balance between hardcore realism and fun. While they ended up on the fun side of the equation, overall they’ve done an impressive job.

System Requirements: Pentium 60 MHz, 16 MB RAM, 30 MB HDD, SVGA, Windows 95

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