reviews\ Dec 9, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Total Immersion Racing - XB - Review

I'm biased. I like Winston Cup racing, and am proud of it! Us southerners are proud of our "race in a circle" style of competition. Total Immersion Racing, however, gave me something new to appreciate. 

It's not as if I have never played any other kind of racing game. I have raced everything from (cyber) motorcycles to pod racers (move over, Skywalker). My thing is that I am truly good at stock car racing, and trying new racers gives me a challenge-- that I enjoy. In fact, of all the games I have for the now defunct Dreamcast, racing games out number all other genres in my collection. It just helps me play a game when I understand the real life versions a little better. Of course, I can't apply that to Pod Racing!

TIR was a pleasurable experience. Though not to the level of many other racers, it is enough fun and challenge to keep me playing long after bed-time. There's enough gear-grinding action and tension to keep you interested long after you might think. The authentic GT car selection is pretty sweet, too! 

There are the typical options for you to choose from: Single Race and Career. In Single Race mode, you compete against the pack racing on various tracks in a variety of situations and elements. You can practice (recommended thanks to odd steering issues) all you want. There is also a qualifying mode for the races, in which you go for your best time to determine your start position. If playing in two-player mode, you qualify while racing against the other player simultaneously, which is odd. In any case, the better you do, the higher you start-- for the actual race. 

In Career mode, as you may guess, you start as a novice driver with a team of your (limited) choosing. The better you do, the farther you go in ranking, and rewards. I you are successful, you will get offers from other managers-- just like the real thing. It's not just baseball players that jump where the money is. Get a reputation in Career mode, and they will be all over you. So will opposing drivers!

One of the interesting things that sets this apart from other racers is the AI's ability to "learn" from how you behave on the track. In addition to the opponents having their own driving styles and personalities, they have added the ability for you to "tick people off". If you slam someone in the wall on a turn, don't think it's forgotten. Watch the replay if you want, but know that they WILL remember your behavior, and wait for the chance to return the favor. That is unique. I can't recall a racing game ever doing that before. It may be the next race, or sometime down the circuit, but you can count on someone trying to get you back. Reap what you sow, for sure. 

There are a lot of tweaks you can do for your car. You can use an engineer to help you lay out your car to maximize it's abilities. Brakes, suspension, etc are all components that are critical to any racing success. Having a pro help you is very nice. This game has real-life touches like that all over it. Little nuances that make it more real, and more fun. 

The graphics look nice, but nothing spectacular. There are the expected reflections and glares, but sometimes there is an annoying "blur" of lines depending on the track environments. The speedways are nice, but not being familiar with the GT circuit, I can not vouch for their authenticity. The cars, in motion, behave as they should, which is surprisingly something that many designers overlook. It's one thing to make a pretty care, but making it not look like it is on ice all the time is different. 

The sounds were good, but I had trouble with the annoying soundtrack. The cars themselves sounded great, however. I guess that's what matters. Some option tweaks made it a better experience. 

This is a low cost game that plays like a bigger title. When the desire to game is bigger than your wallet, it is nice to know that there is something out there that is worth the cheaper price. Though not in the league of some other racers at almost twice the price, this is a good title to add to your library. Good things sometimes DO come in smaller ($$) packages. Total Immersion Racing deserves a place among your collection of racers, or is a great start to a career of arm-chair glory. 

Gameplay: 7
Standard fair in the racing genre. Swerve and collide your way to victory, but watch out for who you anger along the way. It has repeat appeal, and unlocking cars and tracks in Career mode is very rewarding. There is a good feel of realism as you go along. Managers and team members talking to you as they would in real life-- help to enhance the experience. 

Graphics: 8 
The cars look good, even in motion. Something that's sometimes easily overlooked. The tracks look nice and there are some good challenging environments to contend with. Weather and night driving were fun to watch-- even if the actual participation was a challenge. 

Sound: 7.5
Although the music was less than stellar, the cars and other environmental sounds were quite nice. Running through a nice surround system, the game rumbles and makes you feel like you're actually there. Add a subwoofer to the mix, and you better get a seat belt... it will rock (and rumble) you. 

Difficulty: Medium
The steering was a bit of a challenge for some reason, but once I got used to it, it was much easier to handle though never felt comfortable. I did not try a steering module, which would probably require an all-new learning curve. 

Concept: 7.5 
Mostly because of the lack of XBox racing competition, I rate this on the plus side. It's really just a good racing game with the usual options-- but nothing new or amazingly original. The exception is the game's ability to remember past actions and make them part of your character/driving style. Having opponents recall past tiffs makes it unique. An AI with that carries a grudge!

Multiplayer: 6.5
I don't know of any racing sport in which you do a qualifying trial "against" someone else. Maybe it's common, but I am not used to it. A two-player game, but one that would be fun using XBox Live, I would imagine. Playing against a track full of real people would be great.

Overall: 7.5
This is a fun game, though falls short of the thrill I felt when playing NASCAR Thunder 2003. Though a different kind of car, the intensity was missing for me-- but that may be due to my lack of knowledge in this kind of racing. I'm more used to oval tracks and familiar opponents. Total Immersion Racing has some great features that I have not experienced before. The Xbox takes advantage of it's memory abilities and uses them for this game. That's unique for me. Having your history and actions "recorded" and used later in gameplay is amazing and sets it apart from other racers. Still, aside from some flash and good environments, it's a basic racing game with a high-speed attitude. Still, it's a great title for the cost. It could easily fetch a higher price and still be recommended.


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