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Review by: Bob Mandel
Published: July 4, 2000
Many racing titles offer you so little choice that you tire of them quickly. With just a few cars, a few tracks, and a few different kinds of racing, a sense of déjà vu can set in even before you remember to toss the shrink wrap into the waste basket. Well, a little-known German company, Synetic, is out to change all that with its game, BreakNeck. Published by THQ and distributed by Southpeak Interactive, this offering includes a truly staggering array of racing options from which to choose. Based on N.I.C.E. 2, a racer that has been out in Europe for a while, this international edition adds cosmetic changes with the hopes of appealing to an even wider audience. Without question BreakNeck‘s versatility is greater than any racing release I have ever encountered.
So when it comes to vehicles, tracks, and racing options, BreakNeck is completely consistent in deciding that more is always a lot better than less. There are 43 different vehicles available, representing virtually every kind of private ground transportation, including fun go-karts, elegant classics, mammoth trucks, and, of course, speedy modern race cars. All the vehicles not only look different from each other but also possess distinctive handling characteristics. Pursuing the championship involves racing in three different classes of cars (or a special all-class championship): in Premium you drive the best modern sports cars, in Classic you drive classic roadsters, and in Bonzai Racer you drive inexpensive dream cars. Each vehicle is imaginary, as no licensing of real models from auto manufacturers is involved, but all are quite attractive and remind me of hybrids of real-world models. I could not imagine a more satisfying set of racing vehicles for me, or you, to tool around in on the virtual countryside.
There is also a wide choice of 24 tracks (with numerous variations) set in close approximations of real-world locations. The settings include such diverse spots as Austria, Corsica, Germany, Arizona, Hawaii, Australia, Belgium and Egypt. Plus, you encounter freezing mountainous areas, arid deserts, winding country roads, and paved urban superhighways. In addition to the diverse scenery, you may race in inclement weather conditions such as rain, fog, and snow during both the day and the night racing. Rather than bare tracks with a few items along the side, each environment is fully detailed with tons of close and far objects and highly differentiated terrain surrounding the roads themselves. The tracks have such differences in the nature of the roadways that they require quite different types of driving skills, and they are quite long so that there is a lot to absorb you in each one.
Two primary racing modes are present in BreakNeck, and each incorporates several kinds of driving experiences. The primary play mode is called Expert, offering you the chance to participate fully in every detail of a complete racing season. In this mode, you not only have to be the best driver on the track, you also have to strategize ways to maximize your resources and minimize your losses to have a winning season. The second racing mode — Arcade — was a later addition to the game (it feels like an add-on, as you do not even get to see the introductory video if you choose this option), perhaps in response to concerns about the complexity of Expert mode. In Arcade you can just get in your car and start racing without much muss or fuss, giving you a chance to gain some experience driving the cars and handling the race tracks before you start complicating your life with the staggering choices provided by Expert mode. To tell the truth, however, outside from saving you from navigating lots of menus and making lots of choices within them, the Arcade mode does not really expand the play value of this release much beyond the main Expert mode, as driving in the two turns out to be an similar experience.
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