Windows - 2000
Description of Warm Up!
Does it ever seem like racing games are a dime a dozen these days? There's Formula 1, motocross, muscle cars, big trucks, little trucks - you name it. Although they're known for graphically rich adventure games, the French development company Microids has released a handful of sports games over the years. Warm Up! is their first true "professional" racing simulator, although it's the arcade mode that might appeal to the majority of racing fans.
Formula 1 simulators have a lot of competition. There's Psygnosis' Formula 1, EA Sports' F1 2001, Microproses' Grand Prix 3, plus a host of lesser-known titles on the PC and some big name console titles. Microids probably knew that competing feature-for-feature with these games was a losing battle, especially when it comes to accurately simulating this popular racing platform. Instead, they pulled out all the stops graphically, included a default arcade mode, and added fairly robust network support and split screen viewing for racing with friends.
Not since one of the early Need for Speed versions has a racing game offered such a useful split screen mode. This feature has lost popularity over the years, usually because it's pretty cramped around most computers, even if you have a multiport gamepad device. And, watching split screen can cause some slight nausea because your eye tends to focus on the whole screen, not just your own vehicle. Still, for those with slow Internet connections or friends who like to party at your house, it's a handy feature.
Playing Warm Up! can be a blast in arcade mode. It's a real thrill to just dodge other cars, go for speed records, and drive as insanely as you can at high speeds. An afterburner adds to the excitement, although you only get three short-lived speed bursts. There are 17 real-world locations to choose from, including Indianapolis and the tight streets of Monaco. 22 racing teams are represented, allowing you to pick just the right car for racing. Other than paint, the vehicle handling was fairly generic.
The only incentive in arcade mode is achieving speed, lap, and other goals so you can advance to the next track. While this may not seem too compelling, it actually works pretty well, especially if you haven't tried out the tracks in simulation mode (which allows you to pick any track you want). Crashes and errors take on a new meaning when they might prevent you from advancing. You can also use credits to advance, which are accumulated as you pass other vehicles.
Simulation mode has three different levels of difficulty, but even at the basic level you'll need to watch your speed carefully and brake as needed. Six driving aids, such as a handy driving line, will help novice drivers, but in my experience, there is a world of difference between the easy arcade mode and the challenging simulation. Steering assist is almost like cheating, though -- your car will slow down to the correct speed for cornering.
Ghost mode is the best feature here. After each lap, a ghosted vehicle appears showing your previous lap. As long as you stay ahead of the ghost you're fine, but the game will end if you get far enough behind...yourself. Ghost races can be exchanged at the game's official web site for bragging rights.
Other modes, including a full Formula 1 championship season are interesting, but none of these modes really help the biggest problem with the game. If your real motivation for playing a Formula 1 racing sim is to experience the most realistic race you can, there are several other games that reproduce the experience better. EA Sports just seems to have mastered all the details with F1 2001 (read our review here), not so much with photo-realistic graphics (which both games have in good measure), but with the handling of the vehicle. Even in simulation mode, Warm Up! still has an arcade feel.
Warm Up! suffers from the age-old boxcar on rails syndrome. Your vehicle stays relatively straight on the track with very little slippage or movement, unless of course you trigger one of very few crash animations in the game. Because of this, the vehicle doesn't seem to be moving as much as the track itself. All the cars around you are also very static and will either speed up or slow down but never really appear life-like. The cars themselves look incredible, while everything else in the game -- from the blurry crowd to the sparse surroundings -- are poorly detailed.
Viewing angles are another issue. Cockpit mode is functional but not as well implemented as some racing games. There's very little vibration or side-to-side movement that would make it seem like the car was moving. And, while the camera position can be rotated and adjusted anywhere around the vehicle, there's really only a couple angles that work that well. In fact, most of these camera settings are useless (who can drive a car when you're looking at it from a side view?). Still, they're cool to look at, especially in replay mode. Undocumented keys allow you to reposition the camera at absurd angles (like upside down), watch the car from a distance, or ride in front of the steering wheel.
The aural sensation of high-speed racing just isn't represented well in Warm Up! Most cars sounds like someone going "Brrrrrrr" with their mouth. You only hear other cars when they are right next to you, and even revving the engine sounds less like the thunderous roar of a 700hp monster and more like a stalling Yugo. Worse yet, there's really only the revving and racing that you'll hear -- the crash sounds are pretty lame, and other than the pit crew announcing that they are ready for you, there's very little jabber.
Network support requires a LAN connection, and you can compete with up to ten people. Once you're in the game, racing is fun -- although as with any sports game, it's not that different from single-player mode if you take it seriously. Even in split screen mode, it's a blast to try and run your neighbor off the road or leave his puny roadster in the dust.
With all the racing games on the market, it's easy to see where Warm Up! speeds by the competition, and where it lags behind. In some ways, it's stuck in the middle of the pack: not as visually appealing as Gran Turismo on PS2 or Nascar 4 on the PC, nor as accurate as F1 2001 from EA Sports. In the end, it will appeal to racing fans looking for specific modes of play such as split screen, ghost, and arcade, or anyone who just can't buy enough racing games.
Review By GamesDomain
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