Atari Jaguar

from AEO Magazine, Volume 3, Issue 13


 |||   Club Drive
 |||   By: Eric Michard
/ | \  GEnie: E.MICHARD
       -----------------------------------------------------------------

In the year 2098, where do you go on vacation? Club Drive, of course -
the most exciting theme park of the 21st century.

Club Drive was opened just after driving was once again legalized.
Driving had been illegal for safety reasons for more than 50 years,
until Doctor Lawrence Phosphorus' breakthrough discovery.

In his distributive processing study involving safety and smart
materials, the doctor developed algorithms that could be
mathematically proven to be safe. Thus, the driving ban was lifted for
these indestructable vehicles, and Club Drive was born.

Take Old West Exit and chase down your opponent in a fast-paced game
of tag through the main streets of areal ghost town. Get off on
Hairpin Drive and test your wheels in a skateboard park - for cars!
Turn on 2010 Century Court and race through San Francisco. Then take
HO Scale Lane and experience what it's like to be a toy car and race
through your neighbor's house.

It's your chance to do stuff with a car you've never dreamed of!


=-=-=-=-=-=-=
//// The Game
=-=-=-=-=-=-=

It's hard to compare Club Drive to any other game out there. It's a
polygon-shaded 3D racing game, but that's where its similarities to
other games in the genre, such as Virtua Racing, and Hard Drivin',
end.

The game is comprised of 4 gameplay environments. These are Velocity
Park, San Francisco, The Old West, and Jerome's Pad.

Within these 4 areas you can choose from several distinct games.
These include Collect (or Powerball), Tag and Race.

In the Collect game, for 1 or 2 players, you're against either the
clock or another player, driving throughout a small 3D environment in
any one of the 4 worlds. The object is to collect a set number of
rainbow-colored "powerballs" as quickly as possible. They appear to be
randomly placed one at a time. This game, as well as Tag, keeps you in
a smaller play area.

Tag pits you against a second player. You are given a set amount of
time not to be "IT" for. If you're "IT" for that long, you lose. Tag
is played in the smaller play areas.

Finally, there is the "Race" game. This is probably the best game of
the lot. You can drive through some pretty large 3D environments,
racing against the clock or a second player. You can choose the number
of laps (1-6). Each world has a starting and finishing point, and a
lap consists of passing once over each line. The route between these
points is wide open with no real barriers, so you can choose whatever
route you like, in most cases.

Game Options include separate Music and SFX volume settings, car color
setting for each player, engine noise toggle, Fast setting (max speed
over 100 mph), Slow setting (max speed 60 or so), and user selectable
button settings. You can change "Radio stations" by hitting * or #.
There are 6 tunes played throughout the game. Nothing to compare to
Tempest 2000, mainly instrumental tunes with a lot of percussion.

During actual gameplay, you have several different view settings.
This is where the game really stands out.

In the normal Race game, you have the obligatory "Inside of Car" view.
You can also choose from "Camera on a stick" which appears to be a
camera fastened securely 6-10 feet behind your car, always pointing
towards the front of the car. This view often obstructs your view of
what's coming at you.

Then there is the "Chase Camera", which is probably my favorite.
When sitting still, the camera shows a close-up of the top of your
car. As you accelerate in either direction, the camera rotates to
follow the car behind the actual motion. As you speed up, the car
zooms ahead in view. The camera keeps up, but from some distance back.
As you slow down, the camera catches up and zooms in closer.
Sometimes things can get confusing when you're changing directions
quickly or doing a quick 3-point turn, and the camera is switching
back and forth from front view to back view. In this game, at least at 
the start, you do a lot of 3 point turns.

The collect and tag games, being in smaller game areas, also allow a
very nice "Drop Camera." This is a fixed camera in each room or area
that shows a long shot following the car while it's within view. When
the car leaves that camera's view, the shot quickly changes to the
next camera where the car is in view. This allows for some very nice
TV broadcast racing type shots. It's a lot like the end of race replay
shown in Virtua Racing. At times, though, you are out of view behind a
couch or piano, or going through a tunnel. It's as easy as hitting 
another keypad button to change your view when the current view isn't 
optimal.

Speaking of replays, after you finish a race, when the Best Time
screen is shown for that particular race, you are treated to a great
instant replay of the last 1 or 2 laps, using the "Drop Cameras" which
are not user-selectable in Race mode. This is especially effective in
Jerome's Pad, as you can see what amounts to a human's eye-view of a
little matchbox car zooming throughout the house, jumping ramps,
dodging the cat and mouse running around the house. This really helps
you to get a feel for the layout of the individual worlds, and allows
you to see what all of those crazy crashes, donuts, sliding turns and
flying jumps look like to a viewer outside of the car.

Now, some description of the 4 separate worlds.

//// Jerome's Pad

This is probably the most fun of the 4 worlds. Jerome's pad is a
polygon-shaded 1 level small house or apartment. It has a living room
with couch, coffee table, fireplace, piano & bench, 2 bathrooms with 
flushing toilets, kitchen with table & chairs, fridge, counter, a 
spilled milk carton (for the cat, I guess), cheese wedge on floor. 
There is also an entry hall, and a dining room.

Connected to the kitchen is a TV room with another fireplace and 
furniture, and a TV which usually shows the same view you see on your 
monitor. End tables and stoops have ramps (which look like HotWheels 
tracks) so you can drive up on the table or up on a step to the next 
room. In the kitchen, you usually will run into an odd-looking polygon 
mouse with a cat hot on its tail. Hitting either one will usually cause 
you to spin out of control, although you can get away with driving over 
the mouse's tail. The cat lets out a loud, good quality yowl when you 
hit it, and the mouse squeeks at you. The toilets flush when you hit 
them, and doors squeek. There are several routes through the house that 
you can choose from when racing between the 2 endpoints.

The smaller area used in the Tag and Collect games must be the
upstairs bedroom. It's just one room with a TV playing Pong, a bed,
bookcase, cabinets, table with ramp, a bathroom with toilet, and tub &
sink. In the bathroom there's a picture of a bunch of odd-looking guys
which I assume are the programmers.

//// San Francisco

The Race segment of San Francisco is probably the most elaborate 3D
city in a racing game yet. You start out at one end of the Golden Gate
Bridge. No flat bridge sections here, like in Virtua Racing Deluxe.
Past the bridge, you enter some nice hilly streets in the actal city.
You have complete freedom of movement throughout the city streets.
There appear to be both commercial and residential sections to drive
through. Everything is modeled from shaded polygons, with houses, 
skyscrapers, hilly streets, sidewalks and trees. Watch out for the 
trolley slowly making its way throughout the maze of hilly city 
streets. Skirting the city, you follow the coast and signs pointing to 
the beach. This leads to a tunnel through the hills. Just past the 
tunnel, you encounter a very difficult twisting cliff road, with water 
far below you. One wrong move and you head careening off the cliffside.

This cliff road goes for quite some time, then does a quick 90 degree
right turn when you reach the coast. The road then follows a beach
until you reach another tunnel. You can head down to the beach to spin 
some donuts in the sand, if you want to. Past the tunnel is more beach, 
a large grass field, and a long dock which contains the finish line. If 
you're playing more than one lap, you need to do a quick 180 and head 
back the way you came.

The 2 player Race, Tag, and Collect games in the SF world all take 
place in a 2 level parking garage. In the background you see digitised 
shots of what I assume is the SF skyline, but you are unable to leave 
the garage. Not much to see here, but it's fun to race around a parking 
garage at over a hundred miles an hour.

//// The Old West

The Old West Race area starts out in an old west town, and heads
through twisting canyons and old mine tunnels. The canyons have
multiple levels you can drive through. Head up a ridge and there's
another more difficult track 10-20 feet above the main track. This one
is more of a maze and it's easy to get lost if you don't pay attention
the the overhead map view below the main view. At the other end,
there's another old west town and the finish line. The track, I
assume, is supposed to be sand, and you seem to have less traction
than on the SF roadway.

The Tag and Collect games take place just within one of the town
sections.

//// Velocity Park

The Velocity Park Race section resembles a large 3D track, much like
the old ST game - "Stunt Race" I believe it was called. The track
looks like a big roller-coaster track constructed of HotWheels tracks.
This one most resembles the traditional, basically circular or oval
racetrack, though it's all 3D rendered, with banked curves. There's a
digitized city skyline in the background.

The Tag and Collect area of Velocity Park bears no resemblance to the
Race track. It looks like a Skateboard park for cars, with a big
half-pipe on each side, and various ramps and tunnels in the middle.


=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
//// In Control
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Now, about the actual car controls. The car control takes some getting
used to. The controller is set up with E and W on the D-Pad being
standard left and right turns. NW and NE are "slow turns" and SW and
SE are "quick turns." The buttons control Accelerate, Brake, and
Reverse.

Luckily, you don't appear to have any type of normal transmission, as I 
frequently hit full reverse when going full speed forward. It works 
like an automatic transmission, normally. Thank goodness for Doctor
Phosphor's amazing discoveries.

At the fast setting, the regular turn is often much too hard,
causing you to spin out of control and end up pointing in the wrong
direction. I haven't really played at slow setting, as it seems much
too slow. It would probably be a good idea for newer players or those
unfamiliar with racing games to use the slow setting until you get the
hang of the controls and learn the basic layout of each area. Fast 
setting is really _fast_. The car does 0 to 100+ in 3-5 seconds. Doctor
Whas'hisname sure knows his stuff.

There is also a Pause, and the Option key "rewinds" the game as far
back as you want to go, Unfortunately, it doesn't rewind the clock.

The car seems to cling easily to VERY steep inclines. There are times
when you find yourself climbing an almost 90 degree incline by
accident. At one point, when I found myself sliding down the huge
cliff in the SF race area, I hit full throttle reverse and found
myself backing -up- the cliff at 60 mph or so. This is a very odd
feeling, but it looks really cool in the replay. Most of the time, if 
you take a dive off the cliff, your car goes flying and flipping end 
over end, so this isn't usually an option.

Two player split-screen has a definite slowdown, but not really enough
to prevent you from playing. What is probably more problematic is the
thin slice of view-angle you see in 2 player mode.... It's a lot
harder to see things in the distance. The Tag game is a lot of fun,
but my friends and I much prefer the 2 player races. Having no set
path to follow, it's a lot easier to sneak up on the other guy and ram
his car broadside. Or, find a shortcut and appear from nowhere far 
ahead of your opponent.

The Tag and Collect games restrict you to a much too small of an area 
for my taste.

There is no real demo mode on this cart, it just shows a coastline
road scene with a billboard cycling through all of the best times.
This brings up another small complaint about the game. Each Race area
has it's own "Best Times" list saved on the cart. Unfortunately, it
does not differentiate between the different number of laps. So if you
get a really good time racing 1 lap in SF, it will be put ahead of the
top times for 2 or more laps, on the same list. The Powerball game has
only one list for all 4 areas.


=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
//// The Details
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Some may complain of the lack of texture-mapping, but I've found that
this game really doesn't need it. There is enough detail and variety
in the different environments as it is. With a large city section,
fully furnished house complete with pets, a nicely modeled old west
town with mountains, canyons and old mine tunnels, and a dangerous,
vertigo-inducing twisting mountain cliff road, it certainly provides a
lot of variety. The only complaint is a slight slowdown in the
split-screen mode. In single-player mode it is FAST and FULL SCREEN.
No real jerkiness like you're probably used to in polygon games.
Those who have printed elsewhere that this game could be done just as 
well on a 16 bit system are sorely uninformed.

You can choose from 6 different tunes on your "radio", but some of
them were a little too bizarre for me. There is a nice ragtime piano
tune, though. But some wierd funky tune with farting noises and
scratching records? Change it! Quick!

Sound effects are a lot better, with a lot of digitised sound efects,
such as door creaks, cat meows, flushing toilets, and so on. The
engine revving sounds pretty good, and it does help to judge your
speed and status of the car. Add to this screeching tires, jarring
collisions and assorted other sound effects.

The car control takes some time to get the hang of, but once you
master it, it's quite easy to do controlled power-slides and fast
braking turns when racing by at over 100 mph. It helps that the car is
indestructable.

On the negative side, in certain views it's really easy to lose track 
of your car when you're flipping about after a jump or minor collision. 
When this occurs, the car moves so fast that even the normally quick 
frame-rate seems to skip forward too quickly, and you can't tell how 
far you've actually turned. For this reason, I prefer to use the 
various "outside of car" views.

Over-steering is a big problem when going at high speeds. Often a 
slight nudge will cause you to spin out of control. It's easy to send 
the car flipping and spinning off course with a slight over-steer. The 
fact that this is all shown in 3D out of your default "internal" view 
makes the game somewhat frustrating to beginners.

There are also some tight corners you get stuck in at times. I got 
stuck once between the railing and bridge, hanging half off a smaller 
bridge in the SF area. Had to restart to get free.

This game is a lot of sheer -fun- to play, once you get over the
learning curve with the controls. The large number of different games
and 3D environments to race through provide enough variety. The first
time going through each area, it's fun to discover what's in the next
room, or around the next curve. Each area has several different routes
to travel and explore through, so you can always go back and attempt a
new route to shoot for a better time. 2 player split-screen provides
some exciting 2 player competitive games, without the need of 2 TV's,
Jaguars, Catboxes, and cartridges. There's also at least one secret
area that I've found, so far. A nice little castle on a hill
surrounded by a moat. Who knows how many more secret areas are hidden
in the game?

Fun gameplay and a large variety of options make this an excellent
game. I may be biased as I really -love- 3D polygon games, but it's
really a great game. I played an early version at the SCES, but the
final rendition is a much more polished effort with a lot of
surprises. If you like polygon simulation games or racing games, I'd
definitely recommend this one. I find myself playing it over and over 
just to watch the cool drop-camera replay at the end of a race.
The best thing about this game is the total freedom of movement. No 
pre-recorded texture-mapped "on rails" action here. Just good, fast 
polygon rendering and interesting 3D terrain and obstacles.


=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
//// Final Ratings
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

       Title: Club Drive                JagNet: No
      Design: Atari Corp.              Players: One or Two
Published by: Atari Corp.            Available: Now (US)
       Price: $69US


 Here's the summary ratings:
              "*" is a whole
               "+" is a half
             5 stars maximum


Graphics - ****   The graphics, in my opinion, are very well done for
                  a 3D polygon game.
   Audio - ***    Nice sound effects, with really odd music, makes
                  this a mixed bag.
 Control - ***    Easy to get used to, but an analog controller would
                  make it easier to avoid overcorrecting.
Gameplay - *****  Lots to do, and lots of fun in both doing it and
                  watching it over again
 Overall - ****   A great polygon racing game. I'm glad I bought it.



Pts Stars  AEO Ratings
""" """""  """""""""""
 10 *****  GAMING NIRVANA!!! - You have left reality behind... for good.
  9 ****+  Unbelieveable GAME!! - Your family notices you're often absent.
  8 ****   Fantastic Game!! - You can't get enough playtime in on this.
  7 ***+   Great Game! - Something to show off to friends or 3DOers.
  6 ***    Good game - You find yourself playing this from time to time.
  5 **+    Ho-hum - If there's nothing else to do, you play this.
  4 **     Waste of time - Better to play this than play in traffic.
  3 *+     Sucks - Playing in traffic sounds like more fun.
  2 *      Sucks Badly - You'd rather face an IRS audit than play this.
  1 +      Forget it - ... but you can't; it's so badly done, it haunts you.
  0 -      Burn it - Disallow programmer from ever writing games again.


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