First and foremost, I’m not a racing fan. Where most men take pride in leveling-up their real-life cars, purchasing strong, muscular vehicles that say to the women of the world, “I’m a dangerous, rugged and unpredictable rogue,” the car I own is a 2007 Nissan Versa that quietly asserts that I’m a safe, sensible driver on a budget. That I can distinguish Gran Turismo from Grand Theft Auto is only by virtue of my frustration that Gran Turismo won’t let me exit my vehicle in order to murder prostitutes.
That said, I know a deal when I see one, and Superstars V8 Racing is poised to offer racing fans an affordable, fun and downloadable experience via the PlayStation Network. We recently had a chance to go hands-on with this racer and came away with some fairly positive impressions, the first being that for a scant $20, Superstars offers a fairly robust and well presented racing experience. While it’s clear that this isn’t a title to rival the upcoming GT5 – or really any hardcore, fully-featured racing franchise – what is here seems to be an enjoyable appetizer for serious racing fans weary of the over-the-top Need for Speed series.
Focusing on real-life drivers in the European circuit, Superstars is serious enough about the sport not to let players customize the look of their cars. Choose your vehicle from the 11 teams and 19 drivers and they’ll come equipped with their actual cars – BMWs, Audis, Jaguars, etc. – complete with paint-jobs and sponsor logos. Just as you wouldn’t fiddle with the color of the uniforms in a Madden game, this title aims for a relatively authentic experience. Or maybe they simply didn’t want to include the feature in budget title…
There is, however, a full telemetry system that allows players go deeper into how their car will handle on the 10 real-life tracks included with the game. Racing enthusiasts will no doubt recognize circuits like Monza, Magione, Portimao, Kyalami and Valencia. The game’s simulation mode will offer the more robust, mico-managed experience – how much pressure do you want on your suspension, etc. – while a straightforward arcade mode will let you jump in for a quick, speedy experience. First-time players can access a training mode that’ll have you doing endless laps while you fine-tune your ride.
Controls are incredibly easy. R2 accelerates, L2 breaks and the square button slams the E-brake…Arrows will give you a heads-up about the lay of the track ahead, prompting you to break as you zip into an oncoming turn. That said, the AI on Legendary mode is intensely aggressive and left me behind in a carcinogenic cloud of fumes.
The graphics are sharp and the cars intricately modeled, but the game seems to pull punches with regard to the small details that full, retail-priced franchises add to enhance the experience. But at $20, Superstars is shaping up to be well worth the investment.