Game Review - by James Allen
Most of the racing that any of us will undertake on any enclosed track will be in the form of kart racing. It's a proven American pastime to venture out to the local track and then bump the living daylights out of your friends/soon to be enemies. This has been packaged into computer game form in Open Kart, presented to us, the gaming public, by the fine folks at Microids. Following the exploits of a professional league of kart racers, will Open Kart crash its way to victory, or end up buried in a shameful pile of old tires?
The features in Open Kart are pretty impressive, and include a multitude of racing options to undertake. The main draw of Open Kart is the career mode. You can advance your driving prestige through the 100, 125, and 250cc series. You can compete in the normal championship races, which go towards determining the series champion. If you so desire, you can enter amateur races to earn some money on the side: it's kind of like idea behind The Winston Cup in NASCAR (except there are more than one to enter). Each race consists of a Practice session, a Qualifying run, and the race itself. To give yourself more of an advantage, a complete car adjustment system is in place. You can buy replacement parts, make adjustments to your car, and change the installed components. If you are good enough in the series, you can earn extra money from sponsors. This is a complete career mode which should keep those aspiring kart drivers occupied.
If forming a career is too much commitment for you, there are other modes of play available in Open Kart. An arcade mode actually contains a simplified career mode, but without all the bells and whistles found previously. So why would you want to do it? Basic races are single events, where you can setup your car, set weather conditions, number of opponents, and select the kart class and course. In addition, you can practice time attack session, and even play multiplayer. Even with all these impressive features, there isn't a difficulty setting whatsoever. This single abhorrent notion knocks the rating down a notch. Still, the rest of the options available in Open Kart are very good.
There aren't many sounds that you will remember in Open Kart. The collision sounds are all the same, and the engines have the authentic kart whine that is so annoying. It's not that the sounds in Open Kart are not accurate, it's just that they are accurately irritating. This droning covers up any of the environment sounds that are present in the game, and leads your ears ringing with ineptitude.
The gameplay is Open Kart is covered by the driving model, and there are enough problems here to discourage most casual karting fans from the game. First off, as I stated earlier, there is no adjustment of difficulty, which makes the game entirely too hard for beginners, and entirely too easy for veterans. On top of this, it looks like the kart driving model is a little bit more simplistic than it should be. Now, I'll be the first to admit that I've never driven a kart professionally, but it just doesn't feel right. You can learn each track in a matter of a couple of laps, and, as you start the game, it appears that the AI drivers have a bit of an unfair advantage over you, constantly getting more acceleration and more grip than you are. This may be due to the setup of the car, but this is still present in places where changing the attributes of your car are not available. Also, there is absolutely no difference that I can see in the driving model between arcade and career mode, so jumping modes does not make any difference, and keeps the same weird driving in place. In addition, you cannot veer very far off the paved surface, eliminating any off roading and advantages of shortcuts. As for the AI, the drivers will bump and grind to gain an advantage and pass you by, so we are not presented with simplified computer opponents. Still, the physics of driving seems so off that the game loses any feeling of fun.
I have to say that I was pretty impressed with most of the graphics found in Open Kart, barring one crucial areas. The drivers and karts are very detailed, showing accurate depictions of both the helmets, uniforms, and chassis. The environments, while they are mostly bland, also have an air of genuineness to them. The karts themselves leave plenty of skid s of the track surface and small puffs of smoke in the air, showing the areas of past action. There are even sun flare settings. During rain, lots of gray lines dot the screen, giving the illusion of, well, rain.
Now then, the most disappointing aspect of the graphics in Open Kart, by far, is the lack of any damage modeling. I though that we were in the age of racing games where damage was finally a standard addition, but this is not the case in Open Kart. There is absolutely no indication of how much damage your vehicle has taken during the race, either in crumpled metal form or even a little gauge. This is an inexcusable blunder in today's racing et, and one that I am completely surprised was left out. Add this to the fact that the game continually slows down when many karts are present on the screen (to a crawl), then rapidly speeds back up, which usually leads to an unwanted impact with the wall. Ouch.
I recall the summer days in which I played Super Mario Kart continuously. Open Kart is not one of these games, but a realistic depiction of professional kart racing. With nice features and good graphics, it would seem that Open Kart would soar to the pole position. But, a simplistic racing model coupled with no difficulty settings makes Open Kart just an average racing game. Still, there are barely any kart racing games available on any platform, so I suppose that those looking for a reasonable representation of this genre of racing will be satisfied for a period of time.