Jarrett and Labonte: Stock Car Racing Review
The racing genre is extremely brutal on the PSOne, we've got the likes of Need for Speed, the decent and yet enjoyable Test Drive series, and then we have the greatest racing series in all of videogaming Gran Turismo. But one less known franchise is the TOCA franchise, the series has already seen two games that were both very well received by the critics as well as the audience, although sales wise I wouldn't say it was the best. But Codemasters knew that their TOCA games can compete with the big boys such as Gran Turismo and Need for Speed, they've already got the press' attention and high grades so all is left is a nice little public commercial or some hype. Sadly it seems as if Codemasters doesn't believe in hype, so they went on the traditional path and slapped a few ads of their newest TOCA game in console magazines. Codemasters' third TOCA game is Jarrett and Labonte: Stock Car Racing, and for the first time Codemasters is publishing and developing their game, see how Jarrett and Labonte does against the big boys, and how well it fares in the books.
It's hard to visually compare a game like Jarret and Labonte to a game like Gran Turismo, while both games are nice in their own right, Jarrett fails to step up to the big boys, but doesn't fail exactly that bad though. Here's the deal, Gran Turismo 2's car models are by far the best looking in any 32/64-Bit game and I'm sure that no other game will come close to GT2, but Jarrett and Labonte makes a good and yet noticeable effort in creating some very solid looking car designs, and on top of that they've [Codemasters] added real-time damage to each and every car. Depending on which side you smash your car that will result in what piece of your vehicle will chip off. Say you go left side first into a wall, don't expect your whole front to be dismantled, instead your fore-light will be shattered and your bumper will be hanging by the right side of car, being dragged on floor as your drive. The way the damage was though out, is far better than any Need For Speed game or other racing games, this is the real deal, and it takes a lot of effort to do what Codemasters' brilliant team of developers did. Now here is my motive for the 7.8 score, the tracks have visible pop-up and draw-in, it may not be as bad as GT2, but it is noticeable. Then we have the somewhat grainy and the somewhat low-res looking environments, but it's all-good, since the frame rate is crisp and the car models are detailed. Sweet graphics, just slightly hampered by the slightly lacking environments.
We all know that the only game that will ever come close to the superiority of Gran Turismo 2 is Gran Turismo 3. It will take one incredible game to accomplish the task of adding 500+ cars into one CD (just the SIM disk), although Jarrett and Labonte may not have 500 cars it still has an impressive 50+ cars ranging from Ford Taurus', BMW 328s, Ford Mondeos, Mitsubishi Lancers and Galants, Dodge Vipers, Plymouth Prowlers, and many, many more monsters. The cars don't handle quite as realistically as they do in Gran Turismo, but there still is a feel of realism present, again, it may not be GT, but it also isn't Need for Speed, it's right there in the middle, overall it's good though. The game modes include the average stuff, Free Race, Championship and Time Trial, it's all pretty self explanatory. Though remember folks, when you start out the game you will be granted roughly 35 of the 50+ cars, the rest such as the Dodge Viper, Plymouth Prowler, TVR, Toyota Celica GT-R, Subaru Imprezza WRX and a variety more will need to be unlocked as you progress through the game. Of course what will you need to test drive your 250 BHP monster on is some tracks, luckily there are plenty of them to go around from countries spanning the globe, from Japan, England, Germany to the US. Some of the tracks include the very famous Laguna Seca, Suzuka (the same track from Moto GP), Surfer's Paradise and over 20 other tracks. Also make note that you can't zip by a track going 150MPH, try doing that and you'll find debris from your car scattered all over the track. Another important thing to know is that the AI can be furiously smart and will try to knock you off the road or even your wheels, it does take some time to get used to the game's learning curve, but it shouldn't take any longer than 30-45 minutes. Jarrett and Labonte may not be GT, but it still is a decent game with a ton of car options to fiddle with such as rollover, suspension and other typical car options. Jarrett and Labonte may not be for everybody, but car enthusiasts, especially stock car racing fans should check out this title from Codemasters.
The soundtrack is better good than bad, but there are some annoying things that can really tick you off. The soundtrack is decent and isn't completely terrible, but there are some songs that sound like old 80s rock, which is incredibly bad that it hurts my ears. On the other hand the remaining tracks are decent and not as much of a pain to listen to as some of the other tracks. The menu music is quite good with techno beats playing as you make your car, track and other selections. The engines sound nice too, a lot like what their real life counterparts sound like. Jarrett and Labonte's soundtrack can't compare to GT2's old-school and new age rock soundtrack, but honestly the game just can't compete with GT2 at all.
It's no secret that Gran Turismo 2's control was by far the most realistic of any game out there, and once again the only game that can beat it will be GT3, but you can't blame Jarrett and Labonte for trying though. Controlling your vehicles in Jarrett is a lot like GT2, but the physics feel a bit more sided towards an arcade feel, if you feel that way you may want to switch the analog sensitivity around from low, middle or high so that you get a more realistic feel for your car and from the analog controller. Speaking of the analog controller, Jarrett and Labonte lets you use both analog sticks for accelerating, braking, and turning. The Dual Shock is strong and with the games damage, it really lets you feel the force.
While it may not be Gran Turismo 2, Jarrett and Labonte still holds ground but only for stock car racing enthusiasts. I can't really recommend it to anybody like I can GT2, but you may want to at least give the game a rental. Jarrett and Labonte: Stock Car Racing has nice visuals, the gameplay to go along with it that features over 50 cars, 20 tracks and a ton of other options that let you customize your car and race, although the soundtrack was somewhat of a let down, but the control on the other hand is nice, you can adjust the sensitivity to how you want your car to handle based on the analog sticks.