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011 - World Tour Racing




World Tour Racing

Published: 1997 by Telegames

Developed: Teque London

Polygonal racers were all the rage in the mid-90s.  At the time of the Jaguar’s release, Sega’s Virtua Racing ruled the arcades.  Atari’s answer was the lackluster Checkered Flag; a game notorious for its low frame rate and horrible controls.  The innovative but visually bland Club Drive also failed to impress gamers.  By 1994, the Sega 32X had an excellent port of Virtua Racing.  The release of the Sega Saturn and Sony Playstation brought home amazing versions of Daytona USA and Ridge Racer, respectively.  Atari needed a response.  Something that would make up for the sin of Checkered Flag and provide Jaguar enthusiasts with a modern polygonal racer worthy of their 64-bit machine.  Atari turned to developer Teque London to produce a Formula One licensed racer, complete with real tracks: F1 Racer.

Unfortunately, by the time the game was ready in early 1996, Atari was on life support.  The ruinous 1995 holiday season brought Atari to the brink and many complete or near complete Jaguar projects were cancelled.  F1 Racer was shelved until Atari’s merger with JTS, at which point the title was purchased by Telegames along with Towers II, Worms, Zero 5, Iron Soldier 2 and Breakout 2000.  The official F1 license was dropped and the final game, now called World Tour Racing, was released in 1997 on the Jaguar CD add-on.

Is World Tour Racing the polygonal racer that the Jaguar always deserved? Let's take the game to the track and see if it qualifies!

Gameplay: “Imagine that, a Jaguar polygon racer with decent controls!”

Gameplay is straightforward in WTR.  Under the default setting, use the controller’s d-pad to steer, B-button to brake and A-button to accelerate.  Control is responsive and steering is tight.  The brakes and acceleration work as they should.  Options for a track map are available in single player mode.  This helps tremendously. 

The C-button is used to toggle through the game’s three standard views: In-car, Chase 1 and Chase 2.  The game views can really affect gameplay and your mileage may vary depending on which view you select.  I prefer Chase 2 which is behind the car and above.  The car looks smaller in this view but it was easier for me to control.  Chase 1 probably looks the most contemporary with other polygon racers of the time.  The In-car view puts you in the driver’s seat.  This looked cool but I found it difficult to take corners in this mode.  Other views are available on the controller’s keypad, as are options for track maps, music and road textures. 

WTR’s three main gameplay modes are Single Race, Championship and Arcade.  Both Single Race and Arcade modes have a two-player, split screen option.  In Single Race mode, players can elect to race any of the 16 available race tracks.  In Championship mode, players race the entire calendar, taking on each track in turn.  Both Single Race and Championship mode offer qualifying and free race options.  Qualifying will establish your car’s grid-position in the actual race.  If you choose to skip the qualifying option, you will automatically get the last grid-position.  In Arcade mode, players race each track in turn, scoring points based on finishing place.

Among the modes, my favorites are Single Race and Arcade.  I enjoy Single Race because you have the option to select any of the 16 available tracks.  There is a good deal of variety in the track layouts and its nice that all of them are unlocked from the start.  Arcade mode is just easy to hop into.  No qualifying, no problem! 

WTR offers a great deal of customization.  In all modes, players can access the “Workshop” which allows tire selection, gearbox ratios, brake balancing and wing angle.  I played around with these but they didn’t really enhance my race performance.  One thing missing: Color selection! I hope you like a red car because that’s what you’re getting!

Note: The action noticeably slows down during two-player split screen.  Also, the track map feature is not available.  This makes taking tight corners a bit trickier than in single-player mode.  I consider the split screen option a novelty. 

Graphics: Graphically, WTR is a bit of a grab bag. In-game, WTR uses a combination of gouraud-shaded polygons, bitmaps and minimal textures.  In still shots and on straightaways where you are the only car, this looks great.  Atari-themed signs (“Atari”, “Jaguar”, “DOOM”), buildings, crowds and trees fly by and give you a real sense of speed.  However, when there is too much on the scree the slow-down is noticeable.  This doesn’t ruin the gameplay but it can be distracting.  As mentioned above, the slow-down is even more prevalent in two-player mode.  There is an option to turn on a texture on the race track.  This option looks really strange and I found that performance improved slightly if I left it off.

The information graphics (speed, place and lap) look very clean and are in line with the style of the day.  Fonts are modern (for the 90s) and have a slight gradient shading which looks really good.  In single player mode, there are three options for a track map. The first shows just a portion of the map in a translucent box.  The second is a map of the full track, which rotates with you.  The last map option is to have no map at all.  I found the rotating full track map to be the easiest to use.  

The tracks themselves are different from one another but none of the environments really stand out.  Is it Britain?  Is it Brazil?  Is it Hungary?  Without the menu, who would know? It would have been cool if the artists incorporated something unique in each track to distinguish one nation’s track from the next.

One of the tell-tale signs of a 90s CD-ROM title are the weird CG cutscenes and movies.  WTR is chock full of them.  These range from the bizarre Teque title-card, to the game intro, to an arcade machine bursting through the wall when selecting Arcade mode.  The models here are much smoother than what was capable in-game and was at least on par with what other systems were doing at the time.  None of these have aged well but its part of that era and always makes me laugh.  Its clear someone was having fun with all of the extra storage the Jaguar CD provided!

Sound/Music: WTR really shines in the audio department.  Engine sounds and screeching tires sound just as you would expect.  In true mid-90s fashion, in-game music consists of high-quality techno that is really fun to drive to.  It truly shows off the Jaguar CDs audio capabilities and is some of the best music on the platform.  My only complaint is that there are only 3 tunes over the course of 16 race tracks.  It would have been great if more in-game music was included. 

Other Notes:  There is no Memory Track support in WTR. Instead, you use an over long pass code.  This is CRAZY for a Jaguar CD game.  Maybe Teque didn't have time to implement Memory Track support but its a real bummer.  

Final Thoughts: World Tour Racing is a competent polygonal open-wheel racer.  It controls reasonably well, is full of options, has a variety of tracks, and features some of the best music on the Jaguar.  The graphics definitely tax the system and there is noticeable slow down during gameplay, particularly in two-player mode.  Does it hold up to contemporaries on the Saturn and Playstation?  Not by a long shot.  That said, it is a fun game and its the best polygonal racer on the platform.  If you have a Jaguar CD or are an F1 fan, its definitely worth a look.

Thanks for reading and please share your memories and thoughts on World Tour Racing in the comments below! Do you think that it takes the pole position among Jaguar’s racers?

The next game is: Primal Rage!


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