Windows - 2001
Description of Ballistics
Racing games come in all shapes and sizes. The traditional NASCAR simulation features accurately rendered vehicles and real-life locations. Bump-and-grind off-roaders put you in the cockpit of a monster truck that can pretty much roll over anything, including your opponents, trees, and small houses. But up until the release of Ballistics, there has never really been a racing game that provided such a raw adrenalin rush that it almost leaves you breathless. Rolling around a circular track at insanely high speeds is certainly a thrill that everyone should share, at least for about five minutes.
Hyped up as one of the first games to take advantage of the GeForce3 video card, Ballistics is never lacking for a quick, cheap thrill. Unfortunately, the gameplay is actually skin deep, it crashes often, and ultimately doesn't deliver on its eye candy promises.
We'll address the eye candy deficiencies first. Obviously, some of the problems have to do with the big build-up. Previews raved about motion blurring techniques, bump mapping, and incredibly high polygon counts (up to 110,000). Like any good technology demo, these features actually do exist in the game and do raise the bar for graphics excellence. Unfortunately, they don't really make the game all that exciting. Since you're racing in a futuristic hovercraft inside a huge pipe that runs through various locations including New York and the Grand Canyon, the typical view is a metallic-looking brown tube. Occasionally, you'll see a skyline or building flash by when the pipe is exposed, but that's actually an infrequent occurrence. One viewing angle lets you see the bike itself, which is cool - except that it's much more difficult to steer your vehicle.
Objects in the game do have high polygon counts, but you never have time to enjoy them. In fact, since you're racing at 1000 miles per hour, you can barely see where you're going half the time. Using a booster, you can jump to Mach 2 where the sound dissipates and all you see is a blur of color. It's impressive the first time, but sort of nauseating every time after that. And who cares if the game pushes the graphics boundaries if you can't enjoy playing it because it all goes by too fast?
Worse yet, Ballistics just doesn't offer enough gameplay. Championship modes allow you to compete for cash, which you can use to bolster your hovercraft. Once you win the race, you can move on to the next track. During competition, you basically just mash the accelerator key, move from side-to-side, cooling your vehicle so it can handle occasional speed boosts. Despite how the manual describes "detaching" from the track to collect power-ups, it's little more than a momentary jerk that catapults you to the other side of the tube. And that's it. There are no alternate routes, you can't shoot or impede other players, AI is extremely week (especially once you build up a higher-end racer and just leave them in the dust), and all the tracks look remarkably similar. At least, that might be true... some of them just refused to work, which brings us to another problem.
Crashes to the desktop were common, even after loading the recent patch. Three tracks wouldn't load at all, sometimes crashing right away and sometimes waiting five minutes later when the track was almost loaded. It's too bad, too, because the Grand Canyon map looked like it might have been the coolest ones in the game.
There are a few positives that should be mentioned. Speeders can be upgraded using 40 distinct parts, and these additions do seem to effect the handling and speed of your vehicle. A multiplayer mode for eight players over a LAN is handy, at least if you can find seven friends who have high-end rigs. Supercharged music does add to the futuristic, thrill-seeking mentality of the game. And, the fact that you can hit such insanely high speeds is at least something you can show your friends and brag about. Plus, it might give you just the extra purpose you need to justify buying a new graphics card.
But in the end, all the bells and whistles in Ballistics just seem like icing on a cake that leaves a dissatisfying after taste. Does the world need another racing game with fancy graphics but barely any other reason to keep playing? Probably not.
Review By GamesDomain
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