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Review by: Bob Mandel
Published: October 31, 2001
After a deluge in the late 1990s, the arcade racing scene on the personal computer has been mighty sparse of late. After having been spoiled by Psygnosis’ Wipeout XL and Rollcage, Ubi Soft’s POD, Digital Illusions’ Motorhead, Beam Software’s Dethkarz, Crave Entertainment’s Killer Loop, and even Electronic Arts’ more mainstream Need for Speed: Porsche Unleashed, my expectations in this most exciting racing niche have been raised to a sky-high level, and nothing coming around the bend has seemed to stack up. But now the Swedish company GRIN is just in the process of releasing the much ballyhooed futuristic arcade racer Ballistics — so are my long-unfulfilled cravings finally about to be satisfied?
The setting for the racing is the year 2090, a time of economic boom, excellent personal health, sophisticated technology, and political stability. As a result of this peace and prosperity, people turn to a desire for entertainment. This lust for fun led to the development of extreme sports, of which Ballistics races — evolved from Formula One — are the most notable. You play the role of a Ballistics pilot, prepared to engage in the fastest competition imaginable. While this plot rings awfully familiar — I have seen similar storylines in numerous other games — it does just enough to set an appropriate context for the speedy competition.
Instead of the normal racing you expect on flat surfaces, the Ballistics pilots travel on magnetic fields inside tracks that allow full 360 degree movement. This is accomplished through race courses that are like spiraling tunnels, twisting every which way as you zip through them. Having this kind of racing environment adds a whole new dimension to the experience, making it much more enjoyable and challenging. To withstand the extreme G-forces, Ballistics pilots use electronic enhancements, replacing some of their skeleton with titanium and wearing gel-filled lungs and pressure suits similar to those worn by fighter pilots.
Ballistics contains seven tracks, each with a distinctly different course design placed in a unique surrounding environment. The tracks are in Belize; two parts of Houston (sky town and sewers), USA; Tokyo, Japan; Grand Canyon, USA; Novosibirsk, Russia; and Sharp Reef, Jamaica. Only two tracks are open initially in the single race mode. While many of the tracks contain a dark, closed-in, urban Blade-Runner-style look, others are quite different, depicting, for example, bright snow, water, and jungle environments. Although each track is several kilometers long, because of the incredible speed (a thousand kilometers an hour is not at all unusual) it can take you a very short amount of time to complete one lap.
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