Game Review - by James Allen
The changing face of the American automobile et has given rise to the popularity of SUVs. Approximately 96% of these vehicles are not used for off-roading or anything even remotely resembling anything sporty. Thus, it's up to computer games to fill that void, and put SUVs in the place where they belong. There have been several off-road games of late, including 4x4 Evolution. 1nsane attempts to recreate the off-road experience that is not faced by many owners of sport utility vehicles, and deliver a fun racing experience. Will 1nsane successfully conquer the great outdoors, or be demoted to runs for groceries?
1nsane comes with many vehicles and many kinds of events. The motor vehicles in 1nsane are not just limited to the classic SUV. We are given the classic 4x4's, but we can also drive pickups, trucks, police cars, rally cars, and ATVs. As you progress through the championship mode, you unlock the different classes of vehicles, and each actually behave differently, rather than just being a cosmetic alteration. Once you choose your big rig, there are many different types of races available, which all involve passing through gates, getting a flag, or crashing into other vehicles. In the jamboree, one gate is activated at a time (in a pattern), and you must pass through a certain number of them before your opponents do. In gate hunt, all the gates are activated, and you must claim more than your adversaries. In pathfinder, all of the gates are again active, but you are required to pass through all of them in the shortest amount of time. The two flag variations, return and capture, both involve transporting said flag, and being hit by an enemy transfers possession over to them. In return the flag, you have to bring the flag back to a specific area. In capture the flag, you have got to hold on to the flag for the longest amount of time, and you gain bonus points for passing through the activated gate. Finally, points are gained in destruction zone by slamming into the other cars, or staying at the specified location, much like king of the hill. All of these modes are just variations on a couple of themes, but each play so differently that you get a new experience every time.
Of course, all of these racing modes would be useless without environments to race in. There are many different lands to play in, all corresponding to a global location, which mainly just serves as inspiration for the color and terrain of the map. They range from the pyramids of Egypt to the evil cliffs and ice of Wales. I HATE Wales. If these are not enough for you, a user friendly landscape generator is included. In perhaps the stupidest move, you can only use the landscape generator after you fully complete the championship season. Now, I can see the reasoning behind this, but don't advertise this feature on the box when you can't even use it until you beat the game. And there's multiplayer. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised at the smoothness of the play over the Internet. Included with 1nsane is Codemasters's online matching software, which works a lot like Gamespy. You can play all of the modes in the single player game, and all of the vehicles and racing locations are unlocked. Even with poor connection speeds (pings of 400 or so), everything ran smoothly, and I even played some games in Europe. It's obvious that Codemasters spent some time designing efficient net code, and it shows in the smooth gameplay. With all of the vehicles, game modes, lands, and online play in 1nsane, there is enough variation to keep racers interested for a while.
The sound is average. Each different vehicle has a different sounding engine, and most of the game-related information is relayed by sound bytes. The background music is bearable (you actually miss it during multiplayer events). The sound in the game is nothing dramatically different or new, but it doesn't make the gaming experience insufferable.
1nsane is an arcade game with simulation leanings. The physics model that is used is annoying, especially for the beginner. You feel as though you aren't piloting multi-ton vehicles, as they flip way too easily. Although it's an important gameplay element, the amount of flipping brings back memories of the flip fest in NASCAR 2000. Before the flipping kicks in, the cars behave realistically, but the damage modeling is a bit lenient. Falling several hundered meters off a cliff just leaves you with some body damage, rather than a 4x4 the size of a nickel. In addition, you can totally repair your car in three seconds, which almost negates any strategy involving not damaging your car.
The AI itself is questionable in some situations. Especially in the earlier levels of the championship mode, the AI is pretty stupid. But as you progress, they do get smarter. However, in a capture the flag event in China, we were stuck in a river canyon for quite a long time, as the AI struggled to find a low grade exit. The level design sometimes makes the AI look like fools. At the same map, the AI drivers had an impossible time driving up the mountains, usually going up a steep side, and falling back down to earth. You can also exploit some tendencies of the AI. For example, you can memorize the pattern in jamboree, and position yourself to capture three closely spaced gates, as the AI will always drive their way to the active one. Conversely, you can wait for the AI to come to an active gate you are meters away from, if they are closer to the next gate than you are. These facts make multiplayer that much more enticing. Still, the single player mode in 1nsane is tolerable enough, especially since you must complete the championship mode to unlock the landscape generator.
The graphics are good. Most of the lands are rendered nicely and believably, and the cars themselves are very detailed. You can even see the mud collect near the wheels. Damage is somewhat less than I would have hoped, as only severe collisions result in noticeable damage. I have yet to see shattered windows. Still, you can see the spring and shocks for goodness sake! Also, the amount of black smoke emanating from the trucks is directly related to the RPMs being turned. Neat. There have been some clipping problems (one of the truck wheels come through the bed every so often), and draw in effects are present, but 1nsane's graphics are nothing to complain about, and the little details make it extra nice.
1nsane is an arcade simulation of off-road racing. With all of the cars, tracks, and game modes included, 1nsane has a very good replay value. Add in multiplayer, and you've got yourself a satisfying racing game. If you're a fan of off-road action, and you can stomach the overdone flipping, 1nsane is for you.