Review by: Scott Steinberg
Published: July 13, 1999
When it comes to racing games these days, there just hasn’t been too much innovation in the gameplay aspects of these titles. Though some developers opt to put the focus on intense, pedal-to-the-metal type arcade action and an over the top gaming experience, others have chosen to accurately model a number of vehicles ranging from motorcycles to boats and everything in between. Players have been treated to a number of audio and visual enhancements with the latest crop of products on the market, but are these enough to interest the discriminating gamer? Midway and Boss Studios don’t seem to think so, as they’ve teamed up to bring N64 owners a racing experience with a twist in their latest offering, World Driver Championship (WDC). Whether or not they’ve truly succeeded in creating something that’s novel enough to warrant players to part with their hard-earned dollars is, however, up for debate.
First and foremost, it’s important to consider the driving principle behind the game, that being to compete to become the numher one ranked driver in the world. While most games would simply set the player out on a championship circuit where they participate in a series of races to reach the top, WDC takes a slightly different approach. Players must compete as professional drivers in a number of different events, but in order to do so they must have a sponsor.
Sponsors play a key role in that they are the ones who will provide you with new vehicles to race and the entry qualifications that will get you into each event. When you start out, only two sponsors (Speedcraft RaceLabs and Kohr Racing) are available, but as you compete in various events and gain in stature, more sponsors representing domestic and foreign teams will begin to make you offers in the hopes of swaying you to their side. Players must look at the offer being made by each sponsor, which takes the form of one or more cars that will be made available to them for each race, and decide which one they are best suited for. The higher the player’s ranking and the greater his or her experience, the better offers he or she is liable to get and the more cars they’ll be able to drive.
Representing a sponsor is not only a matter of personal preference, there’s some logic to it as well. As you race, rank and compete in events, you’ll gain what are known as “career points,” which serve as a measure by which your worldwide rank is determined. These career points are directly related to the offers and cars made available to you, and, obviously, the more you’ve got, the better. While it may pay to switch sponsors now and again when a special offer comes your way, sticking with a sponsor over a long period of time will grant you a loyalty bonus that allows you to access that particular team’s cars much earlier than you would under other circumstances. Some teams actually frown upon players who show little loyalty and will be extremely hesitant to extend them juicy offers, so it pays to think twice before deciding to sell out to the highest bidder.
While the player’s focus in Championship mode is to gain a sponsor, compete and win in a number of events, and reach first place ranking in the worldwide circuit, it is not always a simple matter of moving from one race to the next. Sometimes you’ll be faced with a challenging track that you just can’t tackle, and the only way around it is to backtrack to earlier events and replay them in order to earn more career points, allowing you to access better offers and cars that may prove to be all the difference on the tough courses. Thus, one can see that the core of WDC offers the player some unique options that extend the replay value and ensure that a racer’s career is not a linear and repetitious experience.
As far as other play options go, WDC offers pretty standard fare. If you’re itching to get right into the thick of things, Quick Race mode allows you to hit the street quickly for practice races, arcade-style speedfests or time attack crunches that pit you against the clock and a ghost racer, if so desired. A training mode is available for players who’d like to learn the mechanics of the game, as is a two player split-screen racing mode for those who’d like to compete against an unsuspecting friend.