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Review by: Bob Mandel
Published: December 21, 1998
When it comes to automobiles, aesthetics really matter to me. Whenever I buy a car, I care not only whether it runs and is affordable but also how it looks. When it comes right down to it, I would rather drive a car that looks nice and handles poorly than one that is ugly yet performs like a dream. So it is only natural that when I evaluate car racing games I would take heavily into account their physical appearance. If the vehicles on my screen do not look attractive, then no matter how realistic and smooth they may be I just do not feel like spending much time tooling them down the road.
The designers of Dethkarz, developed in Australia by Beam Software and published by Melbourne House (distributed by GT Interactive in the United States), were clearly trying to cater to someone like me. The highly futuristic ultra-cool vehicles (the setting is the 25th century) in this game are simply gorgeous to look at; since they bear no resemblance to any existing automobiles, it is clear that the designers pulled out all the stops to make these race cars the fulfillment of every driver’s wildest fantasies. While visually the game reminds me a lot of Psygnosis’ classic Wipeout XL, I went back and played that to make a direct comparison, and to tell the truth Dethkarz is in a class all by itself. While Electronic Arts’ Need for Speed III has set the standard of graphics excellence for conventional car racing games, after driving in Dethkarz the vehicles in that game feel stodgy, boring, and unimaginative.
The tracks in Dethkarz are perhaps the most complex and graphics-intensive I have ever seen. Counting the number of different tracks is a bit tricky. There are only 4 different racing environments in the game: Metro City, Grand Keys, the Pole, and Red Planet. But each has a short, medium, and long track, so the product claims to have 12 tracks. Given that most racing games have at least 6 to 8 completely different track settings, this selection leaves me wanting for a bit more (especially since no additional tracks downloadable from the web are planned at this point in time).
Although the tracks available seem a bit scanty, such is definitely not the case with the cars. You have 12 very different cars to choose from, each with distinctive handling, combat, and racing characteristics. My personal favorite is called the Blitzwagon, a large vehicle full of armor, powerful weaponry and oozing belligerence. But what I really like is that you race against 19 other cars, making it much more fun and challenging to have to try to pass that many vehicles and stay in the lead. Most racing games have only 6 to 10 vehicles vying to win, and here I love the increased range of competition.
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