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Test Drive Le Mans (DC) Review

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Screens (6)
So many racers, so little time. The Dreamcast has become a race fan's dream machine with the recent release of Sega GT and F-355. Now another racing game has just been produced by Infogrames for the Dreamcast called Test Drive Lemans (TDL). Usually I'm a bit skeptical when I see a game with the words Test Drive in them. This time though, I am glad to say that I was pleasantly surprised. So sit back and let me take you on a stellar journey of a game that will delight all your senses. Well, all of them except for maybe taste and smell of course, unless you've downed a whole can of easy cheese and a frozen burrito right before race time.

Presentation/Graphics : 93
Attention to detail must have been the motto at Infogrames because this is one of TDL's highest attributes. The cars are very accurate models of their real-life counterparts and are just as nice looking or even nicer than the ones in Sega GT. The cars have a high polygon count and are very realistic looking. Also the back glass actually looks like glass and is very reflective. Another very impressive detail is the red-hot brake discs. Yes, you can actually see your discs glowing when you are braking at higher speeds. Now, I don't want to downplay the way each car looks, but what really sets this game apart graphically is what's going on around your car. Once you've reached speeds in excess of 180 mph, you will notice something never before seen in a racing videogame, an actual visible con-trail coming off of your rear spoiler. It's so freakin' cool that it's almost worth playing the game just to see this.

The surroundings are beautiful with realistic-looking asphalt and rolling hills among other aspects that make TDL great. On long straight-aways it seems like you can see for miles with absolutely zero pop-up. Lighting is another aspect that makes this game graphically great. Sunlight is very realistic and is equal to the standards that F-355 set. One area that is even more impressive than in F-355 is that the clouds actually move across the sky where as in F-355 they were just like a picture. Another great aspect of TDL is the nighttime racing. In the foreground you could see brightly lit buildings and grandstands coming a long distance away. The whole lighting portion of the game was done perfectly except for one area. When you're racing into the bright, dusk sun, it looks like your car is glowing. It's a little strange looking but doesn't detract from the fun of the game. It just makes you say, "why the hell is my car doing glowing" so I just pretend that I'm going so fast that my car is about to catch fire. See, just use your imagination like in the old Atari 2600 days.

Presentation/Audio : 95
The majority of the time when I play any racing game, the first thing I do is turn off the soundtrack no matter if it's good, bad, or ugly. But if you've just gotta know, the in-game music in TDL is actually pretty good. If there is such a thing, it might be categorized as a soft-core techno beat. The game's sound effects are all quite smashing. Each car has its own unique tone and is very realistic. Revving the engine and cycling through the gears is impressive. You'll definitely know that there's more under the hood than two hamsters running on a squeaky exercise wheel. When you reach 180mph and your car sounds like it's about to lift off into orbit, it's an intense feeling. Also when downshifting, it'll sound like a fireworks show because of all the backfiring going on from your tailpipes. There's some great tire squealing going on when cornering and it's not overdone or just an afterthought like in some games. And finally, if you need some self-assurance of how great of a driver you really are, the crowds will wildly cheer for you when you pass them in the grandstands. There's really nothing to complain about in this category.

Interface/Options : 92
Test Drive Lemans features four different single player game modes. There's the quick race that has ten ACO approved tracks. You can also compete in an eight multi-course championship. My favorite is the title race which has five different Lemans challenges: 10 and 30 minutes, one hour, six hours, and a 24-hour, yes that's right, 24-hour race. No, you don't have to race it all in one sitting; thankfully you can save at any pit stop. Lastly, there is a time trial mode that has you racing against the clock. If you beat the track's best time, you will unlock a new car. Let me just warn you, it's tough. To help you out there is a workshop that you can go into before each race. You can adjust fuel, down-force, gearbox, and tires. Four different camera angles are available and they all do the trick quite well. TDL also supports up to four players with a split screen mode.

Gameplay : 97
If you want a good balance of simulation and arcade racing, you have come to the right place. Test Drive Lemans is not as hard as F-355, but not as simple as Speed Devils, and it also has characteristics all of its own. There's some cool in-game stuff. While playing the 24-hour portion of the game, day turns to night and then back to day again. This really enhances the game a lot. And man, when you get up to your car's top speeds, you'll notice the whole body will start to shake and vibrate and it's just another one of those added touches to TDL that other racers lack. Hey, how about a little gameplay tip: One thing that you need to be careful about is too much red line shifting. This will cause you to consume more fuel than the other cars. This, in turn, will leave you on pit row fueling up while your competition is crossing the finish line.

There are 6-mile long courses and straight-aways that seem to go on forever, giving you the chance to reach speeds up to 200 mph. "Oh my god, how do I know when to brake so I won't crash into those barriers?" Great question. There are these wonderful markers that show up starting at 300, 200, and then 100 meters away from each turn to help you time your braking. If you get frustrated and are getting whipped up on by your computer competition, just turn on the brake assist mode and leave the braking to the game. Yes, it works the same way as in F-355 and it might be the cheap way out, but you will be feeling good when you see your name in the first place lights.

Replay Value : 91
With quite a few challenges and up to 40 cars available, (some need to be unlocked) Test Drive Lemans will definitely keep you busy. Do you want another 24 hours worth of gameplay? Try the true to life, 24 hours of Lemans challenge. Day turns to night and then back to day again in real time baby. That will keep you going for sure. There are a total of 10 tracks. While that might not seem like a lot, but some of them are over 6 miles long, and you will be racing for a steady 3 minutes without seeing the same thing twice.

Overall : 95
You can have all the great graphics, a trainload of cars, and tons of tracks in a racing game, but if the game isn't fun, what's the use? This is what sets Test Drive Lemans apart from other racers. It's just flat out fun to play. Is it better than Sega GT? Yes. Is it better that F-355? Yes. I can honestly say that it's the best racer on the Dreamcast and on any system for that matter. "Whoa! Man, are you saying this is the best racer of all time?" Yep, that's what I'm saying. Oh, by the way, did I mention that the sticker price is only $29.99 brand new. Enough said.

By: Michael Wicks 12/11/00

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