Review by: Ryan Newman
Published: June 20, 2000
What does a developer do when the genre they are interested in has been increasing in popularity ever since the dawn of the 32-bit era? In the case of Roadsters by Titus Software, they try to put in every trick they can think of. While certain racers have made their own individual mark, such as San Francisco Rush with its shortcuts and Speed Devils with its wild amusement ride style courses, it is hard for a game to stand out in the racing market today. In an effort to create a racer that is addictive to play and a must for every Dreamcast library, Titus has incorporated many of the features of past popular titles. With recent racers that are more sim oriented, such as Flag-To-Flag, F1 Grand Prix, and Sega Rally 2 the action-packed arcade market seems to be running in the back of the field for the moment. The genre is ready for a title to come up and take the reigns as a true benchmark, and Titus intends on making that game possible.
When starting Roadsters, many of the standard racing options are available. The quick race is nice for getting a feel of the tracks, while the time trials are useful for brushing up on technique in hopes of gaining a higher mark and earning more money in the races. The multiplayer mode is a bit unique in that it features four players via a split-screen instead of the regular two. The roadster trophy option is where the majority of time will be spent though. Gamers pick a racer and proceed through the ranks earning enough money to advance to the next division and purchase better cars.
The courses themselves are broken up into divisions — one through three, with three being the easiest. They are then separated into smaller divisions using an A-B-C formula. The tracks get progressively harder through the addition of extra portions and introducing faster computer-controlled opponents. To complete a course, players must finish in one of the top three positions, but you can place in the top six to earn money. After earning some cash, players can upgrade their car from the basic model to the sports package and eventually to the formula conversion kit. The upgrades are nominal with slight differences in control and design, but their main use is for the extra speed boost. The cars are not cheap and money must also be used as the next division’s entry fee, so buying every car is not recommended. The option of re-racing older courses is provided to keep gamers from getting stuck, however. The ability to proceed and attain higher positions allows for a greater payroll to continue the race with.
While the track design is standard fare for arcade racers, Roadsters’ backgrounds really stand out. When driving through a countryside road the appearance of windmills on a hill and small cottages off to the side help to set a good ambiance for the player. However, these might be overlooked due to the game’s often tricky shortcuts and intersections that will have cars flying overhead onto a different part of the track. Instead of having a standard oval track with stands for the backgrounds, Roadsters opts for the back-country and an imaginative, outlandish approach. Aspiring drivers will find themselves cruising through a rocket base or the mysterious Area 51. Disasters will also play havoc with these courses: A tornado might put your car behind others, but the driving lane is wide enough to make for easier passage while an earthquake could strike on a small road causing pillars to fall, blocking a majority of the track. This certainly does not make it any easier for the player to get their hands on the awe-inspiring formula conversion.
It should be noted that Roadsters is far from being a sim. Those of you out there who are not fond of having to tune all aspects of a car before racing should be in luck. This is also of use because it gets races started quickly and makes the game playable to those without a lot of technical knowledge about cars. There is, however, an option for steering; aside from this option, winning depends upon the player’s skill. The selectable cars are set up for ease of use as well. There are some, such as the Lotus, that will be easily recognizable, but others such as the Vortex, are familiar only by bodystyle and not by name.
When the courses have become a snap to beat and all the challenge appears to be gone, in steps the multiplayer mode. There are few four-player racers on the market, so a new addition to the list of party games is always welcomed. With a few controllers and friends, this adds some longevity to Roadsters replay value; this is also a good way to try some of the untested tracks. Unlike the roadster trophy, all the courses are open and none require previous runs. All the cars are available, too, with all of the various body and paint designs. Even if the player has yet to win the trophy, multiplayer offers all the unseen car designs and courses. This adds some incentive to continue playing if interest dwindles; the thought of lapping the computer in a high performance car is always a racer’s dream.