MEGARACE from Software Toolworks

Reviewed by Harry Chow
          Computer        Graphics        Memory          Disk Space
Minimum   386 33MHz       MCGA/VGA        2 MB            100 Bytes
Max/Rec.  486 +                           4 MB

Control:  Keyboard, Mouse, Joystick (recommended)
  Sound:  Adlib, Sound Blaster, SB Pro, Pro Audio Spectrum
  Notes:  Need MPC1 compatible CD-ROM drive (150 KB/sec transfer rate)
          The program runs better if you use EMS memory.

Reviewer recommends: 486 dx2-66 MHz, SB-compatible sound card, joystick,
                     double speed CD-ROM drive, 4 MB RAM.

In the future, the world's most popular sporting event is the MEGARACE. This race is sponsored by the VWBT (Virtual World Broadcast Television) network. They have chosen you to be the new Enforcer in the Megarace competition. Your host and guide, Lance Boyle will introduce you to the game as well as provide you with information on each track and the denizens inhabiting the them. As the Enforcer, you will be racing against five of the most vicious speed gangs around, each one with the primary goal of helping you to achieve an earlier demise.

Software Toolworks, makers of the popular Chess Master series has succeeded in bringing the thrill of the chase to the PC. Winning a race involves overtaking the lead car called the, "Pack Leader". At the start of each race, you are in last place. When the race roars to a start, you will come up against each of the Pack Leader's sidekicks, whose job is to keep you from advancing further into the race. You will be able to get past the opponents in one of three ways. First, you can pass the opponent's car. After gaining sufficient distance from the car, it will explode. Secondly, you can ram the car into the side rails or from behind. Once you do enough damage to the opponent's vehicle, it will explode. Finally, you can use your car's weaponry to blast the opponent's car to oblivion! The last method is by far the most effective. The only problem is that your ammunition is limited, and if you use all your bullets on the sidekicks, the Pack Leader becomes a really big problem at the end. His/her car is usually armored better than the others and is faster too. Each race lasts for three laps. You must defeat the Pack Leader by the end of the three laps or the race is lost.

The Megarace includes an impressive fourteen tracks as well as several bonus tracks. Each track is situated in a unique environment. Your races will take you from the city streets of futuristic San Francisco to undersea worlds to outer space. There are 360 degree loops, spiral twists, monstrous hills, and some of the most deadly turns you awaiting you on each track. To make matters more challenging, each track contains a series of special zones. A zone is activated by running your car over the zone symbol. Some of the symbols provide your car with power-ups such as turbo boost, more ammunition, and shields. Others are less generous, causing your car to slow down, skid into a 360 degree turn, or lose valuable energy. You lose the race if you fail to destroy the Pack Leader by the end of the third lap or your car's energy depletes to zero and explodes.

Megarace is very impressive graphically. The introduction sets the mood for the game and introduces you to the game's host. This is one of the most incredible introductions I have ever seen in a computer game. The story reminds me of the movie called "The Running Man" which came out several years ago. The setting is sometime in the distant future. Television has become the main source of entertainment and the Megarace is the hot trend everyone is interested in seeing. You get to play the part of the hunter in this game and the speed gang is the prey. There is a gauge on your car's electronic display called the "Thrillometer" which is used to detect how excited the audience is with your performance in the race. Megarace uses the standard 320 x 200 VGA resolution. The performance of the actor who portrays Lance Boyle is very credible. He is very entertaining to watch and has a wicked sense of humor. All the speech in the game matches the lip movement of the animation perfectly. There is also an option to include subtitles with the speech for those who are hearing impaired or speak a different dialect. The subtitles can be displayed in either English, French, German, Italian, or Spanish.

The graphics for the tracks are amazingly detailed. An example is the first track called Newsan (the futuristic San Francisco). You are able to see the buildings speeding by as well as the bridges when your car passes underneath them. On another scene, there are huge satellite dishes which slowly rotate as you are speeding pass. The actual car graphics are a little less detailed but do not detract from the overall effect of the game very much.

Sound in Megarace is equally impressive to the graphics. On the introduction, when the scene switches from an indoor environment to an outdoor environment, you can hear the change in sound. The outdoor sounds have a greater echo effect. The introduction music sets an eerie mood for the game and the tunes during the races really rocks and adds to the overall excitement. Sound effects are plentiful throughout. You hear digitized sound of your machine guns, car explosions, screeching tires, and even the grating sound as your car scrapes against the side railings on the road!

Some other impressive qualities of Megarace include the amount of hard drive space required. The game runs completely from the CD-ROM drive utilizing the hard drive to store only the initial batch file, high score table, and the save game files. Combined, this takes up under 200 BYTES! For a game that runs so smoothly and is so graphic and sound intensive, the minimal use of the hard drive space is amazing. Megarace offers player control using the keyboard, mouse, or joystick. I personally found the joystick to be the best in terms of control and responsiveness. There are three difficulty levels. The player starts the game with the option to choose from three different cars. Each time the leader of a gang is beaten, his/her car is confiscated and added to the list of cars the player can select. Overall, Megarace provides many hours of heart pounding action with extremely effective use of graphics and sound.

As amazing as Megarace is in the graphics and sound department, there are a few things the buyer should consider before rushing out to buy it. The first is that Megarace is an arcade type game. It is not a car racing simulation nor was it meant to be. You also need at least a double speed CD-ROM drive in order for the game to be playable. A slower drive causes the speech to become choppier. A 486dx-33 is fast enough to run the game, but a faster machine will provide the best gaming experience. I played the game on a 33MHz and found myself barely able to keep up with the other cars. I had to keep hitting the turbo boost zones just to stay close enough to shoot the opponent's car. On a 66MHz, I found my car ran faster than the other cars and could easily keep up with them without using a single turbo boost. In fact, the turbo boost usually propelled my car right past the opponent's car. I do not understand why this is the case. It seems if the processor speeds were different, then the program should have slowed down the opponents' cars to match the speed of my car on the 33MHz machine.

A good example is the first race on the Newsan track. I was able to get to the Pack Leader while still on the very first lap when using the 66MHz machine. On the slower 33MHz machine, I did not reach the Pack Leader until the final lap. Both machines were running similar memory configurations and had double speed CD-ROM drives. The only difference was the CPU. Another problem I encountered involved using the Flight Control stick from Thrustmaster. The program appeared to calibrate the joystick without any problems, but when the game started, the program began to start highlighting various selections without my interaction. Perhaps this is a program bug since I had no such problems when I attached my Gravis joystick to the same machine.

In conclusion, Megarace is as good any arcade game you will find on the market today. The races are fun and challenging and the cut scenes in between each race are a joy to watch. The utilization of graphics and sound effects really help to mold the story and help to enhance the realism in the game. There is finally a PC CD-ROM based arcade game that is fun to play as well as watch. Let the races begin!

This review is Copyright (C) 1994 by Harry Chow for Game Bytes Magazine. All rights reserved.