An arcade classic is reborn via Playstation Network
Back in the nineties the only place to play top notch racing was at neon illuminated arcades – Console racing games didn’t really start emulating the quality of arcade racers until Gran Turismo was released in 1998. Ok some history; Arcades were buildings solely lit by the light that emanated from the gaming cabinet, where shifty characters would hang around the penny pusher machines waiting to pounce at the money that dropped under its own fruition and a place where people with questionable hygiene would hand out titbits of gaming knowledge.
Now I can’t say I ever remember seeing GTI Club Plus Rally Cote D’Azur at my local arcade but the majority of my time was spent playing WWF Wrestlefest and Mortal Kombat, if i did fancy playing a racing game it would normally be Daytona.
With the arcade scene surviving only in Airports and at the London Trocadero, that instant gratification of an arcade game has now moved into the living room and onto your PS3.GTI Club Plus Rally Cote D’Azur is a real throw back to how racings games once were. There is nothing overly complicated about GTI Club, you speed from checkpoint to checkpoint around a small picturesque Mediterranean harbour town, attempting to be the first car over the finish line. Taking control of various superminis you will race up to eight competitors. Your vehicle selection is limited to 5 of the period’s iconic super minis (Mini Cooper, Renault 5, Golf GTi, Lancia Delta and Fiat A112 Abarth). Each vehicle has its own individual pros and cons although these aren’t instantly recognisable via any simple to read car rating.
To bring the nineties game into the High Definition age, Konami has wisely hired Sumo Digital. Sumo digital have an established pedigree with arcade racers, having success with both TOCA race driver and the Outrun series. Working their digital wizardry on the ten year old arcade port they have managed to bring GTI Club crashing into the HD age. The game runs at a slick 60 frames per second and is rendered at 720p. Colours are vibrant, reflections are real time and the cars get dirty when you are bouncing across muddy short cuts or crashing through tire walls.Disappointingly (or staying true to the original arcade game) there are minor consequences for hitting walls at speed. The vehicles show no damage what so ever. The game also suffers from the odd invisible wall which sends you veering off course, or stops you from flying off the hillside, however this issue can be overlooked for what is a pure arcade racer.
Race modes are limited, all races are situated in the same location albeit on different track layouts. Outside of the games easy mode the racing takes a little strategic twist, the race track opens out into the larger area of the town and once blocked off side streets and alleys are now open to allow crafty shortcuts which shave off those seconds to guarantee that first place finish. But with the openness of the town comes additional obstacles, roads which were empty in easy mode now contain mopeds, cars, buses and a train. For the ultimate challenge up the difficulty to hard. You will now be punished for almost every single error you make. Where in the easy and medium mode brushing a tire wall would only slow you down, in hard mode the smallest mistake will result in you being set adrift in last place.
Racing is challenging and competitive but it is online where racing becomes cutthroat and extremely addictive. On top of the race modes available in single player there is a multiplayer only Bomb tag. In Bomb Tag an explosive is transferred between opposing cars on contact. Despite bomb tag feeling somewhat tagged on it is an extremely addictive addition. With the cars nimble and nippy actions allow for high-speed pursuits through crate laden alleys. The Scalextric’s like cornering through use of the hand break allow for last minute evasion.Other than Bomb tag mode the only other new feature is the ability to give your vehicles a custom paint job. The tools are straightforward and fairly unsophisticated. You are limited to various numbers, shapes and flags along with a rainbow of car base colours. There is enough variation for you to create a unique looking paint job, with the ability to download any paintjob of a racer you race against. But having spent spending hours crafting something special, only to have it copied, may feel like wasted time.
The biggest disappointment with GTI Club is its omission of a local split screen racing mode. Therefore the period of time you will spend with this game really depends upon how devoted the online community is. At present the online community is buzzing and competition is fierce. With Konami recently announcing a car pack featuring the modern descendants of the classic five cars. This content is to be released in early 2009 and that they have plans to release new locations to race. With the future downloadable content this little arcade classic has every possibility to flourish into a much loved casual racer.