Driving games are fast becoming the standard way to show off the capabilities of a new system. Ridge Racer, on the Playstation, Daytona for the Sega Saturn and Crusin 'USA for Nintendo's Ultra 64 are all designed to put their respective machines on the map.
Ironically, the 3DO has been around for almost a year now but still can't boast a Ridge Racer or Daytona. It does have Crystal Dynamics' Crash 'n Burn and will soon be treated to Off-World Interceptor, but neither of these games are driving sims in the traditional sense. Canadian programming Pioneer Productions are determined to remedy that deficiency.
Pioneer aren't newcomers to driving games, but The Need For Speed is their first attempt at a texture-mapped racer. The game's producer, Hanno Lemke, assets that The Need For Speed `was produced to bring a new level of resolution and gameplay to the 32bit platform.' Visually, The Need For Speed wouldn't look out of place in an arcade; from the gorgeous digitised backdrops to the texture-mapped cars and scenery, its graphics are stunning. `All the surface bitmaps are digitised from real photos and then wrapped over a polygon skeleton,' explains Hanno. `This creates a rich and realistic environment. We have also developed a unique 3D road rendering system which allows us to draw the road out to infinity. Using this system, we can achieve a very realistic vanishing point on all the roads.'
Pioneer, in collaboration with US magazine Road & Track, have also gone to great lengths to make all the cars in the game perform exactly like their real-life counterparts. According to Hanno, this was achieved by means of `a very sophisticated physics model which uses statistical information recorded by Road & Track to accuretly simulate the performance characteristics of all the cars, covering aspects such as acceleration, braking, handling, top speeds, etc.'
In addition to the main game, which involves driving some of the fastest production cars in the world around three exotic locations, The Need For Speed includes a feature in which you can recreate Road & Track's test, determining data like 1/4 mile times and top speeds.
Although Daytona, Ridge Racer and Crusin' USA are the firm favourites on the next-generation starting grid, The Need For Speed could well catch them napping when the lights turn green.