|The Foundry is the first track you encounter in MegaRace 2|
- Reviewed by: Mark Goninon
- Developer: Cryo
- Publisher: Mindscape/Microids
- Release Date: 31 August 1996
- Time played: 8.5 hours
What is itCryo was a French game development studio that was formed back in 1992 and besides the MegaRace series, is best known for Dune, Dragon Lore, Lost Eden and Atlantis: The Lost Tales. While Cryo enjoyed critical success with their earlier titles (especially Dune), reception tended to be mixed for many of their later games and they finally closed their doors in 2002.
The first MegaRace, released in 1993, played similar to a rail shooter and featured pre-rendered tracks (which would've been a novelty for its day) but bitmaps for the car models. The aim of the game was to eliminate all the competition during a race in order to progress through the eponymous "MegaRace" game show.
A few years later, its sequel, MegaRace 2 was released and it again featured vehicular combat on pre-rendered tracks, except this time the cars themselves were 3D models and annoying game show host, Lance Boyle, had an assistant, whose real name you never learn. Set in a dystopian future where virtual reality is touted as being much better than actual reality, the Virtual World Broadcast Television (VWBT) network hosts a gameshow that's a mix of "The Running Man" and car racing called "MegaRace 2". There are six tracks to beat in the game and they are often set off-world. You'll have to race each track three times (meaning there are a total of 18 races) and in order to make it to the next race, you have to ensure you are not eliminated (i.e. you must be in the top 7 to make it to the second race and the top 4 to make it into the third race). The winner of the race is first to the finish line after a certain number of laps but in the first two races of each track you're allowed to use weapons such as rockets and mines to destroy your opposition.
The final game in the MegaRace series, MegaRace 3, was released in 2001 and differed from the previous MegaRace games in that it was a game rendered in real-time 3D and you got to fly futuristic flying cars around, similar to Psygnosis's Wipeout games.
How I got itI purchased the game off GOG as nostalgia got the better of me; I have fond memories of playing MegaRace 2 in my youth and I was impressed by its use of FMV back in the day as well as its soundtrack which wasn't a MIDI or MOD affair. I did finish the game back in the day, but I obviously never got around to reviewing it since the last time I played the game was waaaay before Choicest Games was even thought of.
|Love him or hate him, Lance Boyle is what makes this game (oh, and his lovely assistant too, whose name he can never remember)|
What I like:
The Running Man meets racingDo you remember that 1987 sci-fi movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger in it called "The Running Man" or did you ever read the 1982 novel it was based off (written by Stephen King under the pseudonym Richard Bachman)? Well, the movie and film feature gameshows set in dystopian futures where a challenger attempts to stay alive in the competition as long as possible: MegaRace 2 has a similar setting but instead of contestants running around run-down, impoverished neighbourhoods, you're driving around in a car, firing missiles at the opposition. Maybe it should be called "The Racing Man" instead?
Beautifully crafted tracksOkay, sure, everything looks pretty low-res by today's standards and the tracks are not rendered in real-time, but they looked damn pretty back in the mid-90s and they have a certain appeal even now.
Lance BoyleBack in the 1990s, FMV was cool; I mean, the ability to watch video on your computer? Inconceivable! Despite Lance Boyle (played by Christian Erickson) being the world's most annoying TV show host, he's definitely one of the reasons you'd want to play MegaRace 2 especially to see the banter between him and his assistant (played by Alice Evans).
Rockin' soundtrackThere's a reason I featured the music from this game in my VGM Monday posts and that's because it's got a rockin' soundtrack, especially when it first came out (since soundtracks tended to be in MIDI or MOD format prior to the mid-90s).
|The game doesn't give you many hints on how the cars will perform on the track.|
What I dislike:
Primitive 3D models3D games in the 90s are an acquired taste and while the pre-rendered tracks are nice enough to look at, the cars are rather ugly.
Not many tracksThe game only has six tracks in total and you race them three times each: that's a total of 18 races and then it's game over.
Obfuscation of vehicle statsWhen you buy a new car in MegaRace 2 there are only really two things that you can tell about a car: what its top speed is and how much it costs. However, you're able to purchase the fastest car in the game right at the beginning of the game and yet there are dearer cars with lower top speeds, suggesting they must excel in other aspects – what exactly those other aspects are though, is a mystery. Cars in the game probably have hidden attributes such as handling, acceleration, durability, etc. but the game doesn't let you in on what these are, making the purchase of a new car a very risky gamble.
UnforgivingIt's generally accepted as common knowledge that games in the old days were much more difficult than the games we play nowadays (except maybe for Dark Souls) but I never thought MegaRace 2 to be one of them, until I started replaying it this year.
The game seems to have an infamous feature found in many racing games called "Rubber Band AI". That means, no matter how well you're driving, the AI will find a way to catch up with you, even if you've got the fastest car in the game! This is at odds with how the AI normally behaves which is rather stupidly: often they'll collide into each other and sometimes even drive the wrong way (which, as you could imagine, is a double-edged sword)!
Also, the game doesn't allow you to save your progress until you've finished all three races on a track. Considering the random nature of the AI, this just amplifies the frustration.
BayouThe 5th track in the game was a real pain to complete and I very nearly gave up playing the game multiple times since it was that infuriating (the final track was child's play in comparison). All tracks tend to have multiple routes you can take and on earlier tracks at least, taking the alternate routes could sometimes help you win since they are often the routes the AI don't take, meaning less traffic which means less chances of your car being either destroyed or spun around; this is not the case with the track Bayou as the alternate routes take you waaay off course (meaning you lose valuable time) which means you're forced to take your chances with the pack of AI cars.
From the few videos I saw of the map, it seemed like the Cocoon is the best car to pick for the later tracks, but by that stage, I didn't have the funds to get one; I only had enough money for the starter vehicles like the Thunder and Astra B. It turned out that taking the risk and buying the Thunder (with no weapons mind you) was the right move since its handling seemed to be better than the Vipper's (the car I was driving up until that point) despite it having a lower top speed.
GOG Galaxy issuesDespite the issues being minor, I did encounter a couple of issues when playing the GOG Galaxy version of the game: firstly, the game often freezes when quitting so either there's a problem with the game, GOG Galaxy or DOSBOX. Thankfully, alt+tabbing seems to automatically close the window but it's still not exactly a graceful exit. Also, if you ever lose your connection on GOG Galaxy, the game automatically shuts down: why would a 1990s single-player DOS game be dependent on whether you're connected to the Internet or not? Argh!
No Steam Achievements or Trading CardsConsidering the game's age, this is probably not surprising, but the Steam version of the game comes with no Achievements, Trading Cards or Leaderboards.
Score – 6/10 (Okay)Nostalgia seems to have tampered with my memory of this game making it seem better than it actually is. Sure, the graphics are dated but you'd expect that from a game that's over 20 years old but the unfair AI (which is at times ridiculously overpowered and others ridiculously stupid), inability to save between races and the concealing of vehicle stats makes the game a frustrating experience, especially for a modern audience. However, if you were a MegaRace 2 pro back in the day or you're just curious to experience what was considered slick graphics back in 1996, it could be worth a look.
Is the game worth $2.99 USD?: Yes, it's a pretty cheap price for an oldschool FMV racer, although you've got to appreciate that the game is looking pretty dated and the AI can be frustrating at times.
If you like this game, you might like…
[ LINK: Megarace 1 and 2 on GOG.com ]
[ LINK: Megarace 2 on Steam ]