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Review by: Mike Laidlaw
Published: April 2, 2001
Motorcycles are as much a part of the American mythology as baseball and mom’s apple pie. The image of the lone rider cruising down endless interstates haunts our television and movies, while novels like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance have become cult classics. The archetypical cruising cycle may be the Harley Davidson, but in the performance world there’s just as rich a history surrounding the Ducati name. An Italian manufacturer, Ducati has been improving on the basic performance cycle design since the ’40s, and countless models have rolled off the assembly lines and into the eager hands of speed enthusiasts. Needless to say, the bikes aren’t inexpensive by any measure, so developer Attention to Detail and publisher Acclaim have teamed up to offer the gaming public a small measure of the experience with Ducati World Racing Challenge for the Dreamcast.
At its heart, Ducati World Racing Challenge is, predictably, a racing title. Those looking to leap right into the action will appreciate the Quick Race mode, which provides a pretty standard assortment of sub modes to keep players entertained. Two-player, single races and time attacks are all available, and there are a total of eighteen unique courses waiting to be run. As races are won, new bikes and tracks start to appear in the rosters, including a full set of mirrored layouts on which to race. A variety of bikes are available in this mode, and they come in the two basic flavors of vintage and modern. Fortunately for the older models, the AI opponents race with bikes from the same time period.
Ducati World Racing Challenge goes beyond the standard racing game model by providing an alternate mode called Ducati Life. Living in this world should be pretty appealing to the average motorcycle racing fan, as it consists largely of buying, upgrading and racing a large selection of the famous line of bikes. Sadly, even in a simulation it’s money that makes the world go ’round and as a result the starting grant of five thousand dollars will seem severely limited. After picking up a starter bike, however, a string of victories will start to fill out one’s virtual wallet again, though there’s no shortage of goodies on which to spend it.
Before leaping into the races it’s advisable to try one’s hand at the basic licenses. A series of five tests make up each license, with Basic I and Basic II essentially consisting of a tutorial on motorcycle racing. The Full and Advanced Licenses are significantly more challenging, and many players will leave them at first. Eventually, though, the tougher tasks will have to be overcome should you wish to explore the entirety of Ducati Life. Some of the races carry special restrictions on bike types and license levels and failing to meet either requirement voids the player’s entry. As might be expected, the more lucrative and faster races require greater qualifications for their participants.
Other races are restricted according to the classification of bike your character is currently using. There are two basic classifications rated as vintage and modern, and within the modern group are several subclasses, some of which are required to participate in class-specific events. Purchasing a new bike doesn’t automatically sell the old ride, though that is an option through the game’s three second-hand dealers. Similarly, those looking for a price break might be able to find a great deal through the dealership’s trade-in lot, Ducati Magazine or even the local classifieds. Of course, there’s always some risk involved when buying a second hand vehicle and there are a few lemons on the market. Even the high-quality used bikes have slightly lower statistics than their brand-new counterparts; this will translate into slightly degraded grip, handling or engine performance. As new Ducatis are acquired, they are stored in your character’s garage, where they may be viewed and selected at will.
Those looking for a competitive edge will surely frequent the parts store in Ducati World Racing Challenge, as everything from the tires on up to the engine kits may be enhanced for the right price. Each part has multiple levels of upgrades, such as moving from street racing specifications on the tires to track racing specifications; the end result is better handling and more speed with a higher price tag. Two engine sets, the tires, clutch, rims, exhaust, transmission and more may all receive upgraded hardware, and since the items are bike specific, a complete collection of fully modified bikes could range upwards of a million dollars. These upgrades, however, are restricted to the modern bikes. Vintage models aren’t equipped to handle the newer systems, but more importantly, a brand new muffler or suspension would destroy the authenticity of a classic Ducati.
All this wheeling and dealing won’t be possible until the player starts earning their way through Ducati Life; there are three ways to test your mettle: the basic racing mode enters you in a circuit for cash prizes; a one-player challenge pits you head to head against an AI opponent, and allows the drivers to ante up their current bikes; finally, the two-player challenge invites a friend along to put their vehicles on the line, as loaded off the second controller’s memory card. Acquiring a new bike this way provides the greatest reward, but also carries the greatest risk, making it an unpopular choice among rookies. Some of the offers on the single-player challenge board may be gone by the time you feel comfortable putting your wheels on the line. Each race ticks the Ducati Life clock ahead by one day and after a set amount of time a challenge may simply expire, but will surely be replaced by another toss of the proverbial gauntlet.
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