With racing games like 4×4 Evolution or Midtown Madness making the rounds, a little gem from Codemasters called 1NSANE could well slip through the cracks. Though an ealy entry in a long line of European imports, this is a game that serious off-road fans shouldn’t overlook. The game easily earns its immigration papers by sporting a sexier, user-friendlier spin on off-road romping.
While a realistically plausible learning curve lurks in the shadows, you won’t find championship competitions or quick races monkey-wrenched by an overwhelming attention to detail. Gameplay is classic arcade style zaniness; drivers wrestle for control of flags, rush through checkpoints, or smash into each other mercilessly. The physics model also follows this train of thought, with fun squarely touted above realism. Although all vehicles feature unique handling attributes, they slip, slide, roll over, and crumple like home console roadsters.
Quality craftsmanship also shines within the title’s architecture. In solo mode, a grid full of themed contests beckons lone road warriors. Completing an initial trial opens more play variations and locales for your enjoyment. You score points by placing in events; once a high enough tally is racked up, you graduate into another class of challenges and unlock new cars.
Impressive foundation aside, 1NSANE is not without flaws. Rivals don’t have the sharpest AI, merely following humans and making themselves bothersome. Even novices can tear through the singleplayer experience in no time flat as well. What’s more, the underlying gameplay is somewhat simplistic, in part because of its nearly boundless layout. Every mode is a minor variation on basic capture the flag, gate hunt, or checkpoint race building blocks. Plus the tracks are painfully barren as they are large and open-ended. A bush here, a rock there, but nothing really eye-catching.
Various minor nitpicking notwithstanding; 1NSANE is one mean off-road racer. Limitations and all, this quaint import from an obscure European developer has more than it takes to compete with its more famous peers.
System Requirements: Pentium II 233 Mhz, 64 MB RAM, 540 MB HDD, Windows 98