Skin Deep

Ah, Dreamcast racing games. Forgive me if I'm wrong (and I usually am), but to my untrained eye it would seem that the Dreamcast has more racing games than any other type. From the truly awesome (MSR, Daytona 2001), to the middling but still fun (Re-volt, Speed Devils), to the fucking abhorrent (E.O.S., Roadsters). There is, though, a common theme in the vast majority of the DC's racers - they almost all feature cars. Yep, boring old cars. With four wheels. Again, there are exceptions to this rule (snowmobiles, jet skis and motorbikes are hiding somewhere), but for me the most under-represented mode of transport has got to be the futuristic floaty car. Sure, there's Episode One: Racer and Looney Tunes Space Race, but where's the Dreamcast's Wipeout clone?! You know, with cool looking pointy ships, mental twisty racing circuits and amazing explosions? Well, I thought I'd found it. Only it's not the awesome thrill-ride I was hoping for. It's merely 'meh.'

Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome the newest entry into the's Magforce Racing!

Thinking about it, the PSX had the aforementioned Wipeout, the N64 had F-Zero X and Extreme G, even the Saturn had the alright-in-a-mid-ninties-sort-of-way High Octane...and the DC has...Magforce Racing. Hmmm.

OK, so we've established through association that Magforce is a futuristic racing game. Twisty tracks? Check. High speeds? Check. Cool looking pointy ships?, actually. For some reason, the developers eschewed the usual style of vehicle for some truly hideous designs. Rather than have wedge-shaped formula 12000 beasts, Magforce Racing gives you the chance to strap yourself into the cockpit of one of a number of crap-looking 'tripods.' Tripods! Why? They look pathetic! The story goes that these tripods have a wheel under each 'leg' that is magnetically charged and allows the vehicles to stick to the track when they inevitably travel along upside-down sections of the circuit...and that explains the need for you to drive over the glowing yellow strips dotted about in order to charge up your 'magnet power,' or something. If this power runs out, you can't drive on the ceiling anymore, and if you're on the ceiling when it runs out you fall to the ground below. If this had some kind of effect on your vehicle (like visible damage or the depletion of a shield bar, ala Wipeout) then it might have had more relevance...but alas no such luxuries exist in Magforce Racing. In actual fact, the whole 'magnets' thing does little more than provide a nice title for the game (Magforce...geddit?!).

Moscow. In the future. You can tell because of the Palace in the background.
And the generic industrial - orange sky.

Speaking of a lack of any kind of damage model for the game, the inclusion of a weapons upgrade system seems like little more than an afterthought by the developer (little known VCC Entertainment, just in case you were wondering. They also made Killer Loop for the PSX, which is in effect the semi-prequel to Magforce). This is evident in the way that even though you can collect and upgrade various weapons (lasers, mines, missiles etc), when you fire them at an opponent the result is little more than a loss in speed for the victim. Obviously, this can help you get past them but there's little incentive to use the weapons...because if you collect four in a row without firing them off, you get a 'turbo ram' that makes you invincible and blasts you along the track at ridiculous uncontrollable speeds. Want to win any race with ease? Just keep collecting four weapons and turbo ram everyone else out of the way like a massive futuristic knob in a dodgem. I used this tactic quite a bit once I'd discovered it and you'll need it to unlock the higher class vehicles and tracks because rather than employ a normal 'championship' option, all Magforce offers is a series of one-off races. You know the drill - finish each track in first place in a particular vehicle and you open up the next class and a few new circuits...but the shit thing is that you can only play them with the vehicle you unlocked them with. Again, looks like another lazy design choice on behalf of VCC. Why couldn't they have put in a proper league mode or something? All you get is that single race mode and a time attack.

As mentioned, the 'cars' look a bit gash.

So what you get with Magforce racing is a pretty run-of-the-mill futuristic racer with really crap vehicle designs and very few play modes. It does have one thing going for it though: the graphics are fecking brilliant! When I first started playing it, I was quite overwhelmed by how smooth everything was and how slick it looked. Sure, by today's DiRT 2 standards Magforce looks horribly dated, what with it's lack of real-time shadows and specular lighting...but back in 2000 this must've looked the dogs bollocks. The tracks (whilst slightly generic) twist and turn all over the shop and feature some rather impressive enormous architecture - in places it reminded me of Wipeout on the PS2, with it's cavernous mountainside entrances and underwater translucent tunnels. It's just a shame that the programmers didn't go the whole hog with some over-the-top lens flares and the like - because with a few more effects lavished over the top of the ace track detail and eye-watering pace, Magforce could've been possibly the best looking racer on the Dreamcast. As it is, it's still up there with the best of 'em - but you can't help but ponder what else could've been done with the game engine.

To surmise, Magforce Racing is a generic futuristic racer. It's got a techno soundtrack, minimalist front end, a dearth of play modes...but is damn nice to look at. Oh, and it only cost me £3 from Chips in Gloucester. I believe the phrase is "wOOt." Cough.


Anonymous said...

Wipeout was released on Saturn though..

Andrew said...

Somehow I failed to here of this game, ever. And I'm a huge DC fan.

Tom Charnock said...

Was only using those games as examples of the genre, Anonymous. But while we're on the subject, I apologise to anyone who may have taken offence to the fact that I didn't mention either the PC or N64 versions of Wipeout or indeed Wipeout 2097, Wip3out, Wipeout Pulse, Wipeout Fusion, Wipeout HD or any of the other Wipeout games or variants.

Bill said...

The Dreamcast didn't need a Wipeout clone. Wipeout is the most over-rated series of style-over-substance racing games ever. The only reason people like them is because they're perceived as 'cool', due to their impressive graphics and electronic soundtracks, not because their gameplay is anything special. Underneath all the style is a series of soulless, mediocre racing games, where grazing the curb couldn't be more annoying. Play any of the earlier games (so that the no-longer-excellent graphics won't be a factor) with the music off and see for yourself.

Barry the Nomad said...

I beg to differ. Nay, I DEMAND to differ! Wipeout is not overrated. It succeeds in all areas: graphics, music, controls, gameplay and presentation. Hell, one of my favorite design firms, The Designers Republic, was behind the look of the first three games. They even made a menu screen exciting. Thats how good they were.
Wipeout has plenty of style, sure, but why is that a bad thing? Style, in my eyes, IS substance. Especially when it's expertly implemented. Back in the day, my buddy and I would spend hours playing the first three games and had a blast hovering about the tracks and using the boost pads and weapons to our advantage. The graphics, music and look simply enhanced that experience tenfold.

The Golden Cat said...

Yeah, Wipeout's badass. If you're 'kerb-grazing' then you're doing it wrong.

Anonymous said...

To those unethical heathens who care more about pleasing their ears than copywrite law, I say . . . BEHOLD! (Main Page) (Direct Download - slightly safer)

Tom Charnock said...

Totally agree with what Barry and Golden Cat said, and I totally and utterly disagree with Bill's comment. Everyone's entitled to their opinion, but saying Wipeout sucks is a miscarriage of justice! I love the series, especially the later games. One of my very first experiences with a PS1 involved Wipeout, I owned both the Saturn versions, the N64 version and the PSP and PS2 games too. I love em! That's why I was hoping Magforce would be the DC's answer to them.

Anonymous said...

The N64 version was atrocious! You'd think that a 64bit system would be able to draw a farther horizon! (Except for the Atari Jaguar, of course. That thing couldn't even draw textures!)

Tom Charnock said...

fair shout, anon - Wipeout64 wasn't the best looking game ever, but it was still a masterclass in bouncy vehicle physics. Don't be too hard on the Jag either - even though it had the graphical clout of a wad of piss-soaked bog roll, it still had it's moments. Well, it had one Alien-shaped moment anyway.

RetroX said...

Was Wipeout ever released for the 'Jagwah', or for that matter its more popular rival the 3DO?

Anonymous said...

For futuristic racers i prefer the F-Zero series. Sure futuristic racers might just be mediocre games if you look at it plainly, but I believe a game to be a sum of its parts. This is what i like to call an experience!

Not to mention i'm a huge racing sim fan, so i know what real racers are like..My game of choice is LFS ( with my trustly logitech g27 wheel.

But interesting article, I've never played that game. I'll have to check it out..

Animated AF said...

I've played a demo of this before: all I could really say about it is that it was smooth. Solid 60fps. That's all that stood out from it. There's another Futuristic racer on the Dreamcast that's a bit better (but still no classic) called Pod 2. It's slightly different in that technology has been taken over by nature, with vines and plants everywhere put to get you. It kind of reminds me of Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors in that respect though the game is pretty dull and brown looking. Still, it plays pretty well enough so it's worth checking out.

Tom Charnock said...

Jayce and the wheeled warriors! Classic! lol

James said...

I bought a Dreamcast on day one and currently own three of them. I'm a big fan of racing games and, believe it or not, have played EVERY racing game for DC. I agree that MSR and Daytona are awesome but they're not best in class -- F355 Challenge, Le Mans 24 Hours and Hydro Thunder are (in that order).

I'm in general agreement with you on Magforce Racing. If I wanted to nitpick, I'd say that the game is a little better than you suggest and the graphics a little worse. Did you know the game is a superior port of the PlayStation title, Killer Loop? As you say, it's a shame they didn't use better vehicle designs. Those 3-wheeled things look awful.

Magforce Racing: better than Pod, worse than TrickStyle.

James said...

Best 'Realistic-looking' Car Games:
F1 World Grand Prix II
F355 Challenge
Le Mans 24 Hours
Metropolis Street Racer
Tokyo Highway Challenge 2
Vanishing Point

Best 'Other' Car Games:
4 Wheel Thunder
Daytona USA 2001
Demolition Racer
San Francisco Rush 2049
Sega Rally 2
Speed Devils
Wacky Races

Best 'None-car' Games:
Hydro Thunder
Looney Tunes Space Race

Sorry about the clunky titles but I hope this shows how well catered for racing fans are on the Dreamcast.

Anonymous said...

Bleem Wipeout for the Dreamcast

Barrys_Bapz said...

Bleem Wipeout

Caleb said...

Bleem Wipeout.

Barry the Nomad said...

Can we wipeout bleem?

Barrys_Bapz said...

I say we can doesn't help that don't have any blank CD-R's

one to try out huh

A Moomintroll said...

Would I get thumped if I said I'm about as interested in racing games as I am in government fiscal policy?

Tom Charnock said...

Government fiscal policy is surprisingly interesting, Moomintroll. I implore you to give it a second chance...

Dexter said...

So, what are everyone's fave WipEout music tracks? Mine's got to be Exceeder from WipEout Pulse. That song has been on and off my MP3 player for years it's so good. Definitely a song that's best played loud! The WipEout games have the best music of any series. Each game's soundtrack is good... even Fusion's! ;) XL is definitely the best of the bunch, though. And Pure has the best intro music by miles: short but very, very sweet!

Dex said...

This game is so generic even the comments were taken over by WO fans ( and hate fans.. )

I love the Wipeout series and I will definitively take a look at MagForce

´cause deep down we're all speed freaks