SCAR – Squadra Corse Alfa Romeo
can be mind-blowing enthusiastic or plainly not interested but usually there is no way in between. When I saw that SCAR had to be reviewed, my heart started pumping in my throat so it was clearly a case of mind-blowing enthusiasm which I wanted to make clear by stating that my heart started pumping in my throat when I read about this title having to be reviewed. The reply I got was: “I hope it will be pounding while you are playing it too.”. It is only now, after seriously testing the ‘racing sim’ that I realize the dubious meaning of that phrase.
My heart kept on bouncing up and down my chest when looking at the cover, which has two battling Alfa GT’s on its front and a promising list of features accompanied by some tough looking screenshots on the back. Even after the promising intro, it was still too early for me to loose my naïve ideas about Italian cars because I was blinded by their beauty.
The second I got to drive one however (quick race), my eyes opened up instantly and my mind became extremely critical as did my heart because the healthy excitement soon made way for shear frustration which, I was afraid would lead to a heart-attack. It all starts with the driving point of view. Now, as the cover promises a simulator, I do not expect to drive the car around looking at its rear bumper without seeing the road ahead of me. Neither do I like a birds view because then I would play Micro Machines on the old Super Nintendo. The third settings puts the camera on the front bumper causing you to now see only a few metres ahead of the car. Finally, there was the hood camera but that did not seem work for me either.
The four cameras have more things in common besides being lousy though: they all make the tracks and the environments look outdated. Not that everything looks so ugly I would like to puke (the lack of anti-aliasing took care of that) but I am used to more photo realistic scenery instead of the painted, cartoon ones one admired a few years ago. Neither does one point of view succeed in transferring a sense of speed which is especially irritating with the slower cars in the beginning of the game (all, and I mean all, the other stuff is still locked then) because it is so boring that you will keep the throttle completely open and start daydreaming. Obviously, as there is no sense of speed, there is none of danger either. However, half passed the bend it will strike you that it was necessary to brake before it. After a few laps, when you have assembled enough empiric evidence that proves the necessity of breaking, you’ll notice that just as there is no accelleration feeling, that there is none of breaking either and that is a real pain in the ass, let me assure you.
Until you are used to the lack of decent visual effects for actions like breaking and even turning, you will be dating a lot of ugly bitches like Miss Concrete Wall, Miss Pile Of Tyres or Miss Gravel Lane. They all destroy you and your car point by point until you learn tricks to avoid these ladies. Unfortunately, for the reality factor of this game, this damage is only visible to the outside of your car and is in addition limited to a detached bumper, shattered windows and smoke coming out from under the hood, not the realistic damage model that will even come close to the minimum standard.
Driving simply sucks, so in a desperate attempt I switched the ABS, traction control and automatic gearbox off. Especially handling gear manually helps a lot because it keeps you occupied and more importantly, the crappy automatic one can’t annoy you anymore. After bumping into another car, I was down to doing twenty but I had to puff all the way to a hundred in fourth and even while cornering, the engine (game-engine of course) never chooses the gear that feels right. To be quite honest, even with ABS and traction control turned off, handling was no fun what so ever. I am wondering too, how it can be possible with the electronics disabled, that a car does not generate any wheel spin when the needle flirts with the red zone before letting go of the clutch.
When I said that the cover looked promising, I did not mention the now ironic slogan it mentioned: “It’s yourself you have to challenge”. So very true, because the AI is nothing but a bunch of retard inbreeds that don’t know the difference from chocolate pudding and cow shit if I explained it to them. That results in being rammed on a wide, long straight road or being overtaken supernaturally only to speed them by a second later without any special effort at all. A small, electric model train has more AI than those opponents.
So, it is not the simulation it claims to be and it is no arcade fun either and the online play is nothing but the possibility to up and download ghosts. The so called CARPG is a euphemism for earning points by racing which you can use to improve your skills (Tony Hawk series already did this appropriately five years ago) ago but the system is poorly elaborated and enervating. Instant action is no option either because you have to unlock everything first, three tracks and three cars of varying classes instantly unlocked would have given one a chance to perhaps enjoy the game for three minutes. At least, if you had muted the music because those monotonic, repetitive auto-generated tunes remind of Grand Prix from 1989 with that difference that in those days they used the little technology they had to create something catchy, while now it is vice versa!
This is certainly no publicity for Alfa Romeo, in fact after playing this game no one will even consider to think about perhaps buying the Italian Steed. Enjoy the looks of it when it passes and buy a cart horse yourself: it lives longer, doesn’t fall through its legs when you don’t expect it or when it shouldn’t and it is better value for money. In fact, the only reason I can think of for this game being released, is Fiat* wanting to eliminate the competition. They will sure be toasting, celebrating and drinking champagne now!
*Names and brands in this review are fictional. Similarities with real-life cases are completely coincidental.