LeMans 24 Hours Review
It seems like every racing game that follows the release of GT3 is anticipated to be a failure, which is by direct comparison to GT3. There is absolutely no doubt about it that racing enthusiasts, seeking for a console to satisfy their need for speed, owe it to themselves to purchase a PS2. Sony's 128-bit behemoth is the prime console for all racing officiandos. At the moment there are nearly 2-dozen racing titles on the Playstation 2! Two dozen! That's nearly 24 games in one genre, for a console that is just shy of turning one. If I'm not mistaken, the majority of the PS2's library consists of racing titles including: Ridge Racer V, Midnight Club: Street Racing, Smuggler's Run, Driving Emotion Type-S and of course Gran Turismo 3. Well following the release of GT3, few serious racing titles have seen releases, but here comes Infogrames' LeMans 24 Hours. The game is an enhanced port of the DC title -which should be mentioned was highly acclaimed- but how well does this game fare with the competition?
It's been quite sometime since the DC release of LeMans, and while the game looked great for the Dreamcast, today it pales in comparison to the splendor that GT3 has spoiled us with. By no means is LeMans a bad looking game, in-fact it shows off its next-generation roots with various special effects, and great vehicular detail. There are dozens and dozens of vehicles to race with, 70 in total! These cars range from Porsches to Audis, to Dodge Vipers, and even to a McLaren F1! The line-up of vehicles in LeMans and GT3 are completely different. LeMans focuses on car classes that include: Open Prototype, Closed Prototype, and Prototype Enduro. So the cars you'll be seeing in LeMans are decked out, painted up, sports cars. Plain and simple! The detail on these vehicles is quite impressive, don't expect Gran Turismo 3 here, but chances are you won't be disappointed with the solid looking detail that these cars pack.
The track detail isn't much when compared to GT3, while the surroundings are all based on actual environments, the detail seems to be somewhat lacking. The courses still come off looking of next-gen status; so don't run for the hills. What I particularly loved about the visuals were the special effects that Melbourne threw into the game. For example, if you hit the sands and begin skidding, take a look back and notice how much sand you tossed into the air. The same can be said for doing donuts on asphalt. You'll leave a kick-ass flow of smoke around you, which slowly escalates upwards. The third effect is the coolest of all. When your vehicle is equipped with a wide spoiler in the back, and you're traveling at an intense speed, take a look at both edges of the spoiler (left and right) and notice a wind trail that is caused by the aerodynamic piece. The visuals look pretty good. Melbourne did a good job of porting the engine onto the PS2, and enhancing it further.
What made Gran Turismo 3 such a tremendous success? Was it the amount of vehicles? The level of detail each and every piece of the game had? Or the unbelievably realistic game physics? Well needless to say, it's all of the above. But which one of aforementioned makes LeMans a success? There's a lot of question asking going around here. First off, LeMans features a wide variety of vehicles to race with, 70 to be exact, which is 30 more than what the DC version had. As I mentioned the selection of vehicles to choose from is quite vast, they range from Porsches to Vipers to a McLaren F1. The tracks you'll have a selection of choosing from is quite impressive as well. There are 12 real-life tracks to choose from, some of which are: LeMans, Donington National/Grand Prix, Suzuka East/West/Grand Prix, Road Atlanta National, Road Atlanta, Catalunya National, Bugatti, Brno and Catalunya Grand Prix. The locales these courses are taken place within include the United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Japan, and the good ol' USA. The Championship mode will take you through an extensive cycle that will pit you in dozens of races, through the dozen of the courses. As you progress in the career, you will eventually begin unlocking new vehicles, pretty much your basic stuff. As any racing game, LeMans features the typical line up of modes, Time Trial, Quick Race, Championship, Le Mans and Two-player. The game itself is of course within the Championship and Le Mans mode, so every other mode is just basically a form of practicing. If you are a racing fan, and have finished or nearly done with GT3, then give LeMans a look. The title plays smoothly, I could tell you that much. Physics wise, everything is present, so don't get cocky.
Quite possibly a good majority of PS2 games feature a big name soundtrack, games such as GT3, Crazy Taxi, ESPN X-Games Skateboarding and etc. When popping in LeMans into my PS2, I opened up the menu and heard a very cool jazz like tune. It was upbeat, and very cheerful, and for some reason it really set the mood of the game. I question the thought as well, but in fact the menu track sets the tone of the game. Though I must mention, I was incredibly disappointed that the game didn't feature an impressive soundtrack. Instead, just a couple of tunes with a bass beat here and there; pretty boring stuff to say the least. I didn't like hearing the engines either. Some cars sounded right, meanwhile others seem watered down. Overall, the game features average sound at best.
I find LeMans' controls to be a bit more confusing, primarily because I'm so used to GT3's. The sense of speed of LeMans seems to be weaker than the sense of speed found in GT3, therefore making calls on questionable turns that much harder. The display shows a digital tachometer, when it should've been more like GT3s and left as analog display. Also my other gripe is that the speedometer is too low on the screen, once again making precise decisions to corner, more difficult. Controlling the vehicles on the other hand felt more arcadish, per say. I didn't need to center my car back into position like I do in GT3. Then again, the pups I'm racing in this game are demons when it comes to corners. This game does take time to pick up and play. Give it 15 minutes and you are set to go. I should also mention that the analog works very well with the game.
In the end, while I doubt LeMans 24 Hours is going to be winning any prestigious awards on the PS2, I don't doubt this as a fine racing experience that enthusiasts should look into. LeMans 24 Hours is a great racing game, with much replay value, so you'll be getting the bang for the buck. It's the only game to offer an actual 24-hour race and no other game can offer that. With crisp visuals and entertaining gameplay to boot, LeMans 24 Hours deserves a look at if you are a racing fan. 'Nuff said.
9/28/2001 Arnold Katayev