A Quick Look At Exhibition Of Speed

The Dreamcast does have some great racing games and we've been over them many times here at the Junkyard. Metropolis Street Racer, Le Mans 24hrs, Ferrari F355 Challenge, Rush 2049...I could go on. However, as with all consoles there are some absolute stinkers and Exhibition of Speed is a race leader in those stakes. But before I get into the nitty gritty of why this is such a torrid affair, let's have a little look at EOS's history. Developed by Player 1 and published by Titus in 2001, EOS is a PAL exclusive arcade racer and the spiritual successor to Roadsters. What's interesting here is that EOS builds on the derided Dreamcast port of Roasters rather than the (quite decent) Nintendo 64 version, and as such feels every bit as cheap and half-arsed.
Doesn't look too bad in stills.
The game employs the standard features you'd expect in game of this type. You are presented with a Trophy mode which serves as the main championship, a quick race and time attack options and also a four player split-screen option. The Trophy mode takes cues from other titles in this genre in that you choose a driver, then a vehicle and then race in three different leagues. You start in the bottom division and work your way up by winning races and upgrading your vehicle; and each division's circuits have a new gimmick to differentiate them from the previous. This sounds quite cool, until you realise that you can literally play every track and use every car in the game just by selecting quick race. There's no point playing through the championship...because everything is already available from the start!

That's a big ass.
The back of the box claims that EOS has 15 different tracks, but this isn't really true - it has 5 tracks, each with three variants (one for each tier of the championship mode). So track X will have an 'easy,' a 'hard' and a 'speedrun' variant. The hard versions are practically the same as the easy ones, but with some kind of hazard thrown in (fog, wind or a natural disaster like a forest fire); while the speedrun tracks are the same as the easy ones...but with speed pads randomly painted onto the asphalt (or mud, in some cases) that claim to offer a boost if you drive over them...but actually do very little. It's all standard stuff. The thing that makes EOS such a chore to play is that everything about the game engine screams bargain basement.

The frame rate has a mind of its own, regularly speeding up and slowing down seemingly at random (which especially jarring when it happens as you approach a turn) and it's especially bad if you happen to be racing on one of the fog-laden tracks. Which is quite odd considering there's less of the track to render if everything's obscured in a real pea-souper, but very little in EOS actually makes any sense so it's par for the course I suppose. The frame rate isn't the only thing you'll find yourself wrestling against though, as both the opponent AI and vehicle controls appear to be working in cahoots to run you off the track at any given opportunity. As soon as the lights go green, AI vehicles will be smashing into you and running you off the road - but that's not because they're especially cunning and programmed like that...it's because they have the most rudimentary instructions to just follow the path of the circuit at maximum speed.
The frame rate is worse when it's foggy or dark.
Invariably they all speed off into the distance bashing into each other as they go, but as you make your way around the course you'll come across them in bunches crashed into a corner and unable to get out because they haven't been programmed to use the reverse function. It's pretty hilarious to be honest, but you won't laugh if you're playing EOS. Nay, you won't even break a smile - the horrendous vehicle controls will put paid to any hint of enjoyment to be gleaned from the behaviour of the thick-as-pigshit AI. Trying to turn is an exercise in futility and you will spend most of the time bouncing between walls and barriers, and using the brakes will cause your vehicle to enter into an uncontrollable skid (while the game slows to 5 frames per second) and you end up facing the wrong way. It's cool though - the rest of the pack will be stuck in a wall up ahead so victory is assured.

Click the camera icon to toggle full screen images

The badness isn't just restricted to the actual gameplay either. The graphics are basic and the vehicle models are ugly as sin, and the track designs can at best be described as 'alright.' All of the staples of the arcade racer are here - city, countryside, mountain, coastline and, erm, train yard...but they all look bland as hell and the headlight effects used on the night stages are pathetic. Background music is cringeworthy and engine sounds unremarkable, although special mention must also go to the overly enthusiastic announcer (who even announces the options menu). I guess it's good that at least someone is enjoying themselves, eh?!

Most of the PAL exclusives on the Dreamcast are actually quite good and a loss to the other territories' libraries. Headhunter, Stunt GP and Evil Twin are all decent games and would undoubtedly have sold well in the US (maybe not so Japan), but those gamers outside of the PAL regions really dodged a bullet when Titus decided not to publish this dross worldwide. One other odd thing I noticed is this fairly stereotypical image of a French character in EOS, complete with beret and Eiffel Tower:
Of course his name's Pierre!
I find this odd because Titus was a French company. That said, it was also the outfit responsible for the truly lamentable Superman game on the Nintendo 64, so the fact that Exhibition of Speed is such a laughable excuse for a racing game is a moot point. If you'd like an exhibition of how not to make a racing game, then by all means give this a go. If you'd like an arcade racer with a decent frame rate, cars that steer and (this is important) a fun experience, look elsewhere for your kicks.

Update: Here's a little video I created while I was messing about playing EOS for this article.


DCGX said...

I never knew this was PAL only.

Tom Charnock said...

You learn something every day. Today, I learnt that a litre of diesel is now cheaper than a litre of petrol. Which is nice, especially as I drive a diesel XD

Spaceturnip said...

I really hoped Exhibition of Speed would be good. Wait, no, I just wanted it to be better than Roadsters. I didn't think anything could be as bad as Roadsters (well...Spirit of Speed was, but that's not the point...). I thought they could take the one good thing from Roadsters (the environmental disaster element) and expand on that. But no. They took that out completely. I'll quote one line from a review of this I did ages ago
"Maybe they've improved the rest of the game? Well...in parts they have. The handling, for one, is better. It's still dreadful, but it is better."
And sadly, that's all I took away from E.O.S. It was pants, but it was a better style of Pants than the shit stained abomination that was Roadsters. Sort of.

DCGX said...

Are their any good, more arcade style car racing games for DC (so not racer like Star Wars, Rush, etc.)? I've heard mixed things about Test Drive 6 and Speed Devils.