POD: Planet of Death

There’s a literal need for speed with UbiSoft’s Planet of Death.

Hightailing on the wave of late 90s 3D gaming is POD (Planet of Death). Playable on both MMX and non-MMX machines with acceleration support for the 3Dfx, ATi Rage, and S3 Virge chipsets (though with no support for straight Direct 3D), POD is one of the few games to support both MMX and 3D hardware acceleration simultaneously.

The 18 tracks in POD are great. They vary from city streets to the dank underside of sewers. You negotiate all sorts of twists and turns as you go, and each track has its own little secrets and shortcuts. The game ships with eight cars available, and each is modifiable by adjusting brakes, acceleration, speed, grip, and handling.


For a ’97 game, these graphics are top of the line.

The problem with POD, though, is the feel of the game. The cars, quite simply, feel slow. Although the speedometer might say 140mph, it feels like you’re only driving about 40mph. That lack of speed gives the game a lackluster feel, since you don’t really get the sensation of flying through city streets with abandon. For the most part, the acceleration is slow, even in cars that have the highest rating in that area. Even the fastest cars are sluggish and hard to get moving. If you run into another car or a wall while you’re racing, the car comes to a near-complete stop, and that momentum must be built up again, which makes those sharp turns made by banging off a wall difficult to do.

The controls are also a bit on the wonky side. The game feels as if it’s programmed for a console, since even an analog joystick used to control steering seemed to act like a gamepad — either you’re turning as far as you can to one side, or you’re driving straight. Although some slight turns are possible, it takes quite a bit if practice to keep from overshooting the mark and ramming the wall.

The physics of the game try to be realistic, though. If you’re driving a car without a lot of gusto up a ramp, you’ll lose speed. If you run into another car, the car will bounce off you nicely, and if you time it right, you can knock them off high ledges. The computer AI set at the highest difficulty level will certainly provide a challenge. With damage to your cars a factor, it can be tough to drive defensively (which means make sure you don’t get knocked into a wall) and keep on top of the leaders. Most likely, once you start a game at the hardest level, you’ll only see the other racers for the first twenty seconds of the game, and then they’ll disappear ahead of you. Conversely, if you have it set to Easy, you’ll meet little to no challenge if you’re a practiced driver.

On the upside, the revolutionary (or rather then revolutionary) graphics are some of the best for a ’97 game. The driving is at least plausable and the game’s replay value is greatly enhanced by the sheer number of creatively designed tracks, while the inclusion of multiplayer is a definite plus.

System Requirements: Pentium II 120 Mhz, 16 MB RAM, Windows 95

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