Le Mans 24 Hours
After installing Le Mans 24 Heures, the chills ran over my back. One of the intro screens mentioned that this game was a PS2 conversion. Experience taught me that when a game has it’s roots on a PS2, you can be sure that there is absolutely nothing realistic about it. It’s arcade, it’s action, it’s the American way: a lot of show but with little depth.
Now in 1999 Infogrames already released a game called Le Mans 24 Heures. That’s right, same distributor, same title. Electronic Arts is so helpful to add the year to the title so we players can tell that it actually is a different game. Because Infogrames didn’t bother to put some indication in the title (e.g. Le Mans 1999, Le Mans 2002), I’ve been wondering wether this version actually is a new program. Or is it a re-release of the 1999 game? Looking at the graphical quality, I would say it is the same game from 1999. In a PC game these days, we could expect some damage engine (for collisions),… O, wait, this is a PS2 conversion. Ok that explains why there is no damage engine. It would ruin the arcade character.
To be serious, the graphics are really outdated. When you are racing at night (this is one of the elements bound to happen in a 24 hour race), you will notice that your car doesn’t have front lights. There are no light beams illuminating the road ahead. In stead, you’ll get a view as if a helicopter with a spotlight is following you around the circuit and illuminating the track around you. Cars far in front glow like some sort of UFO in the distance. Your car is brightly lit in the dark night. This problem gets more obvious because the cars don’t get dirty. Take any rally game, even on PS2 and the cars will become muddy during the stages. Here in LM24H you could drive for 24 hours (if anyone is so stupid to do so) and at the finish, your car is sparkling clean.
But before you can see this, you’ve already encountered some other serious problems. Setting up the controls e.g. Call me stupid, but when you play a racing game, you might expect that you can use a steering wheel to control the car. Well, LM24H didn’t like my USB steering wheel (ActLabs). Steering left/right is no problem, but the pedals are. Even when I combine the pedals as one Y-axis, the game didn’t detect the input from the brake pedal (it did detect the throttle?). With my older steering wheel with a gameport (MS Sidewinder), all the controls could be defined without problem. But in the game, there was a huge time delay between my input (e.g. steering to the left) and the actual result of the car (turning left). No matter what I did with the settings (response, scale, deadzone, …) no improvement. I think that the game is converting the analogue input from the steering wheel, to a digital so that it can use the same algorithm as with a keyboard or a gamepad.
So I decided to test the quality of the support that Infogrames offers as stated in the back of the manual. I sent various e-mails, clearly stating my problem with my steering wheel. I waited more than 14 days, but no reply. So, don’t count on the support of Infogrames, it sucks big time! That’s why I had to use my keyboard to steer my car in LM24H. I’ll send Speed the bill from the chiropractor.
When you play the game, you will notice its mediocre quality in various elements. The car behaviour. Although all the cars are rear wheel driven, they all have a very understeered character. Go into a corner too fast and your front wheels will slide towards the outside. And all you can change to the settings is how much downforce, what tires and which gear ratios you want (of course all in general steps :low, medium or high). On second thought, the entire physics engine is ridiculous. I can get the same (or better) lap times in the rain (with the same car) as on a dry surface. We also know that when you use wet weather tires on a dry surface, that those tires won’t last very long. But in LM24H your slick tires will wear down in 2 laps when it’s raining! They probably use the same formula : “when tire spins, wear will increase by 10” and it doesn’t matter what the actual conditions are. If you want I can continue like this for a while: grass is sticky, tires don’t get dirty when on grass or sandbox, there are no marshals or flags, there are max 24 cars on the track (in reality this should be around 50), there are no breakdowns (thus no retirements), the smoke you see when breaking or steering shows more resemblance with the water vapour you’ll see on the water cooled brakes on truck racing and so on.
I still don’t know if this game is a new game or a re-release of a game from 1999. All I know that the quality in far below the current standard. The only thing this game offers is some no brainer fun: just push the buttons and drive around the various circuits.