reviews\ Jan 28, 2004 at 7:00 pm

Maximum Torque - PC - Review

For as long as video games have been around, developers and publishers have been making bad ones based on movies.  And to add insult to injury, they make them because they know that we gamers will shell out copious amounts of dough to get them, because of hype for the film or whatever.  However, Warner Bros. Online is releasing their tie-in to the upcoming motorcycle racing film Torque in a slightly different way: it’s available for free download on the Internet.  Granted, the game is very short, simplistic, frustrating and not terribly fun.  But, hey, at least it’s free.


Maximum Torque gives you control of four different drivers and five different motorcycles (one of them is locked), although the only real differences between the drivers and the motorcycles are aesthetic. You race one opponent through three different tracks: a desert, a palm tree forest, and downtown Los Angeles.  However, in order to play the palm tree forest and LA levels, you must first unlock them by completing the desert mission first and earning the password (which are mind-numbingly easy to crack on your own without finishing the desert level).  Each level has a pretty different feel to it.  The desert level is pretty easy, the palm tree forest is very narrow and pretty tough and the LA level is a bit more difficult in terms of obstacles that stand in your way.


You have a few different moves at your disposal to help you win the race.  You can utilize power spins, wheelies and nitro boosts to progress through the races.  However, the power spins are pretty useless, as they don’t really help out very much in a bind.  The wheelies, on the other hand, are good for accelerating to your top speed (but do limit your turning abilities) and the nitro boosts add a lot of extra speed.


Maximum Torque’s biggest problem is probably the cumbersome controls.  Your motorcycle handles very unresponsively, and any slightest contact with any object will send your driver tumbling through the air like a Frisbee.  This is very irritating in the middle of a race, considering how cars will appear out of thin air and smack into your racer at least twice every ten seconds and there is really no way to avoid them.  Luckily, the opponent is always dumb as a brick and finds the time to hit way more cars than you ever could.

Maximum Torque was created using Virtools Web-gaming software, and thusly has some pretty impressive graphics by Web-game standards.  They’re not really anything to get too excited about (the graphics are comparable to retail games released about six or seven years ago), but it’s pretty cool to see a 3D-polygonal Web game.  The game also has a great sense of speed to it, as the onscreen action moves fast and fluidly and the light-bending effect that occurs when you fire off a nitro boost is a nice touch.


The sound effects and music are both really barebones.  The engine sounds sound like weak leaf blower and the music is pretty bland techno, so don’t expect a lot out of the game audio-wise.


Maximum Torque is a pretty big step for web games in that it combines the compactness of a Web game with the perks of 3D-polygonal based gameplay.  However, that doesn’t make it very fun, as the stiff controls and unnecessarily high frustration level will drive you bonkers.  However, the game is free for download, so what’ve you got to lose?


Reviewer’s Scoring Details                    

Gameplay: 4.0
Not that I was expecting deep “Gran Turismo” gameplay from a web-based game, but Maximum Torque is very slim of gameplay options, offering only three tracks and no real distinction other than aesthetic between racers.  The controls are terribly stiff, and coupled with the extremely touchy physics (which send you soaring into the atmosphere at the slightest tap), makes the game very frustrating.

Graphics: 5.5
While dated and not terribly fancy by any means, Maximum Torque’s graphics are pretty impressive for a Web game.  The game makes some good use of 3D-polygonal techniques, and the environments look pretty good.  There are some nasty clipping issues (my motorcycle got stuck in a concrete sidewalk more than a few times) and you can’t adjust the framerate above 640x480 in fullscreen mode, but the game does look pretty good for what it is.

Sound: 4.0
In a word: barebones.  Simple engine sounds and cookie-cutter techno grooves are pretty much all you’ll find here.

Difficulty: Medium
The frustrating controls are offset by the completely inane AI, so the difficulty balances out somewhat.

Concept: 4.0
The game is very slim on gameplay options with only three tracks, and that severely stifles the replay value. 


Multiplayer: N/A

The game has no real multiplayer modes to speak of, although you can compare your times to other players on the Maximum Torque Web site.


Overall: 4.5

Maximum Torque isn’t a very exciting game, and the gameplay is very simple, short and most of the time very frustrating.  However, the game is free for download, so by all means, give it a look if you’d like to try it yourself.

Below Average

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