Vanishing Point Review
A game first thought of as too good to be true, is indeed too good to be true. Acclaim's Vanishing Point proves that a pop-up free game engine with minimal sacrifices isn't possible on a venerable [and vulnerable] console such as the Playstation. Announced over a year ago, for a May 2000 release date, Vanishing Point continued to vanish and appear on the release charts, to the point where I even thought that the game is cancelled. Months and months of agonizing wait has passed us, and finally mid-January comes and PSX Extreme receives their nearly complete copy of Vanishing Point. I didn't care that much because I had the awesome Dreamcast version to keep me busy, but out of curiosity and because it's my job, I popped in the disk, and was utterly disappointed. While I kept my preview clean of any derogatory comments, I did vaguely make a point of the game not-living up to my expectations. And so with this review of Vanishing Point, read what I have to say about this high-hoped game.
I knew from the start that something wouldn't play out correctly. I mean come on, no pop- up and 30 frames per second on a console that includes only 2MB RAM? From the beginning I noticed that the game looked grainy, the cars had their significant 'tell-apart' features, but their overall detail was shabby when compared to the likes of Gran Turismo or even Need For Speed. Now as I as play Vanishing Point, I realize that the graphics did NOT change at all, since first screenshots were released in the beginning of 2000, and I also notice that the track design is cleverly made to hide the pop-up. By featuring blocking objects that would forbid you to see the road when you look to the side, high walls that serve the same purpose when you make a turn and etc. Even though the game runs smooth, it looks downright awful, the environments look as if they were drawn by a seven-year old, they look way too dark and the detail is sparse to say the least. For instance, the rocks in Red-Rock Canyon, look washed-down, grim, and are also a good example of those objects that prevent the view of the track. Wishy-washy environments don't do much for me, and as for the car detail, that area needs work as well. The vehicles look muddy and the grain factor is quite apparent. Aside from the supposed pop-up free engine and 30 frames per second, Vanishing Point is a dull looking game, with below average environments, and decent car models.
Something just doesn't feel right here... The Dreamcast version of Vanishing Point plays tight, the cars react well, although at times do oversteer, but the PSOne version has some oversteering problems. On the other hand, the later cars that you earn have much less oversteering which relieves this problem. Since you start off with a Ford Mustang and Ford Explorer, the beginning is a real drag, because of the fact that these two cars oversteer. Because of this disastrous start, the gamer may be easily discouraged and forget about playing Vanishing Point any further. Vanishing Point doesn't deliver the goods as I thought it would, the stunt-mode can only be described as half-assed and the tournament mode is completely incomprehensible. In the stunt-mode you have to either see how far you can jump, or drive around a mini-track back and forth without going off the boundary, or jump back in forth and pop balloons with your car. Once you get up to the fifth or sixth stunt, you realize that a German Film Festival would be more exciting. Then there is the Career Mode, this is where you advance by placing a first based on time, more like a time-attack. A certain time is set for you to beat in every track, if you don't make it then you lose, if you do make it, then you gain advancement points. The reason for not racing against other cars is because the roads are too thin to fit three or more cars, and if made any wider, that pop-up issue would be more noticeable. What I do like about Vanishing Point is its replay value, if you are patient enough you'll be rewarded with some cool cars, over 35. But I thought the game wasn't too amusing, and it didn't live up to its promises.
The soundtrack isn't half as bad as I thought it would be, the techno beats once again make a racing game's action much more enjoyable. And this is something we haven't seen in a quite a while, you are able to listen to the tracks on your CD player. But the car engines sound awkward, almost as if there's a cat stuck in the tail-pipe. The sound? A mixed bag really, but I like the tunes.
The control feels a lot different than it does in the Dreamcast version. The cars have a greater feel of oversteer in the PSOne version, than the DC version, it's quite weird really. But as I said before, give this game about two hours worth of time and you will be awarded with cars that have tighter control. The simulation/arcade mixture isn't a good one, and should never be done again, the control is plain ol' awkward, and that's the only word to describe it. Surely the control is the most disappointing area of the game, and what makes this game below average.
Well, in conclusion, after all of this waiting and anticipation Vanishing Point is a mediocre game that should only be looked at by racing fans. Casual gamers should be aware and only rent the game. It's shabby graphics, are below today's PSOne standards, and the gameplay just needs more innovation and thought in it, especially the stunt mode, which I dislike in both versions. The control is a big reason of why the game is lacking in gameplay, it got some oversteer problems, that the DC version doesn't. It's obvious that this game was built on hype, and Clockwork Games just couldn't make Vanishing Point live up to it. Maybe next-time on a next-gen console Acclaim.