Vanishing Point Preview
Having being delayed for about a year now, Vanishing Point was one the year 2000's most ambitious racing project on any console. What was so ambitious you ask? Well for starters Acclaim claimed that the developer ClockWork will be delivering a pop-up free engine that will still run at a crisp 30 frames per second, I was a bit skeptical, surely ClockWork had to sacrifice something, and indeed they did. At the start of the game you are only allowed to choose from a '95 Mustang Cobra or a '96 Ford Explorer, the cars look good, but won't really grab you and impress you as much as a game like Gran Turismo 2, V-Rally 2 or Need For Speed 4 did. While the design is solid and everything is pretty much in the right place, the cars look grainy in a pixilated way and just don't look as glossy as I hoped they would. The backgrounds such as mountains, trees and other surroundings don't look organic at all, instead cartoony and very generic. It is no wonder that the game engine has no pop-up and runs at 30fps, it is obvious that ClockWork was aiming at an issue [pop-up] that plagues racing games as if it completely makes them unplayable, and try to completely eliminate it by decreasing more important factors, being car detail and background detail.
Despite having average visuals, Vanishing Point features some enjoyable, albeit very challenging gameplay. Sporting a roster of nearly 35 licensed vehicles from car makers such as BMW, Lotus, Ford, Audi, Alfa Romeo and more, Vanishing Point is sure to satisfy the gamer. The game will only let you pick a 1997 Mustang Cobra and a Ford Explorer in the beginning, using those two cars you have to shoot your way up on the charts placing first in races, trying to successfully maneuver your vehicle without it oversteering constantly. Now I know that real physics are primary in this, but isn't this still supposed to be an arcade based game? How does ClockWork expect us to completely halt at a 120 degree angle turn, when only going 75MPH? If you don't hit the brakes, you will find yourself hitting the analog stick left and right, just to maintain stability on the road before you get back on a straight path.
If you bare with the awkward controls in the beginning and complete races successfully you will be awarded with future cars such as a BMW 325i, Lotus Elise, Volkswagen Beetle, all of that are much easier to manipulate than what you start out with. The stunt mode isn't exactly what you think it is, but it is. As confusing as that sounds there is a reasonable explanation for this. You see the stunt mode is composed of quite a lot of areas, but not all of it is high-flying jumping and spinning, some stages with trials will require you carefully maneuver your car around a little area, never leaving the pavement, if you swerve of to the side, trial's over, it's a lot like the GT1 and 2 license tests.
Supposed to be released last May of 2000, Vanishing Point looks like it is finally nearing completion. The current copy we have is 80% done and pretty much everything looks finalized and available, all that needs to be done for the next 20% is a bug search and approval process. Currently Vanishing Point is scheduled for a mid-February release, hopefully this time it won't be delayed another year.