Review by: Mike Laidlaw
Published: April 26, 2001
Spend enough time hanging around artists and you’ll eventually hear about the “vanishing point.” An imaginary area of space that exists on the horizon, perspective drawings rely on this point to create the illusion of three-dimensional area. While the overall process is different, the basic technique is still used today to render first and third person shooters, sports games and, of course, driving titles. As such it’s wholly appropriate that Clockwork Games chose Vanishing Point as the title of their latest racing offering, which was designed around the concept of an arcade port that never existed in the arcades.
When you first start up Vanishing Point, the interface does its best to mimic that of a port, going so far as to appear somewhat bare. A simple menu includes options such as Arcade, Internet Challenge, Head 2 Head, Extra and the Tune Up Shop. Not all of these options are initially open, however, as a staggering amount of goodies have to be unlocked before they can be put into use. Arcade mode offers the chance to open these features by competing in several different events, with the primary mode appearing under the moniker of Tournament.
Tournament races are run against the clock, though the closed highways are littered with other drivers who are also vying for your title. Knocking them around serves little purpose, however, since each race features a rolling start and thus it’s impossible to tell exactly where any particular car is in the race. Amidst the challengers, there are also a healthy group of witless drivers whose only interest involves staying clear of the cars whipping past them. While you may not have any interest in NASCAR style bump and grind passing, your competition will often drive unpredictably as they try to avoid other cars, which generally means that sprinting through a huddle can be a harrowing experience. Tournaments award points based on your time around the track, and each race has a minimum point score necessary to qualify for the next round. The points total after each round, and placing first at the end of the day qualifies the car you were using as a winner of its heat. Each car has three heats to complete, color coded in the traditional manner with bronze, silver and gold markers; and with most completions a new element of Vanishing Point will be unlocked.
In total, there are 16 tracks, all with mirror, reverse and mirror-reverse versions, though only one is available at first. Additionally, the initial complement of two cars expands out to include more than thirty licensed and highly distinct vehicles. Among the roster are the BMW 325i, the Dodge Viper GTS, Ford Ranger Pickup, Toyota Supra, Alfa Romeo GTV 3.0 and the Audi TT. Even the humble Volkswagen Minibus and Mercury Sable Family Wagon are available, though they aren’t particularly adept at racing the sportier vehicles. At first these cars are stock models, with their paint job as the only adjustment possible.
After enough hard work, the Tune Up shop will open up and allow you to adjust tire pressure, ride height, the brake bias and a slew of other options that allow you to customize your ride and typically improve its performance. After modifying your vehicle you can even take it out for a spin on the test track, which is designed to present the full spectrum of road environments. Running through this special track lets you test out every modification without worrying about lap times or changing modes.