Racing titles are no rarity on the Xbox 360, with many established series such as Project Gotham Racing, Need for Speed and many more, all contributing to one of the most popular genres in gaming. The latest addition to the genre is Black Bean Games and Milestone’s Superstars V8 Racing.
The licensed title is based on V8 Superstars, a touring car racing motorsport, which is currently one of the most popular motorsports in Australia and New Zealand. With a lack of coverage in the likes of Europe and the United States, this was always going to be a title to slip under the radar, thus making Superstars V8 Racing the type of title you’d seen on a shelf, pick up because of its very cheap price, have a look at the rear cover and quickly put back down again. At first glance, it may not seem very impressive, but don’t let first looks be deceptive.
Being a licensed title allows many recognised names to be presented, whether it is drivers, cars or even race tracks. Unfortunately, unless you’re a very keen V8 Superstars fanatic, you are unlikely to identify much. Despite this, Superstars V8 Racing is still a fairly enjoyable title.
Possibly the key element to the success of the game is the gameplay, which plays out very similarly to that of Forza Motorsport. In fact, it’s almost identical with the exception of the driving line aid, which has been replaced by a white indicator, appearing on the screen as you approach the corner; approaching too fast changes the colour of the indicator to red. It’s this similarity with Forza Motorsport which made Superstars V8 Racing such an easy title to pick-up and play.
Whilst the basic controls can be easily established by anyone (with the right trigger and left trigger acting as accelerate and brake respectively), the rest of the controls seem rather strangely positioned. Take the right bumper for example, which is used for reversing. Thankfully, if you’re not satisfied by the controls, Superstars V8 Racing offers full customisation of them.
Customisation is also available on the game’s many cars, though it’s not all paints and decals. To achieve the best out of your car, players can alter settings for the likes of the brakes and the suspension. In doing so, the car’s handling is more likely to meet the race track’s requirements, and therefore improve race times, especially in wet weather. Unfortunately, especially on lower difficulties, players are very unlikely to actually change any settings, though it does prove vital on the higher difficulties.
Superstars V8 Racing offers four difficulties in total, ranging from Easy to Legend. As you would expect, as you step up a difficulty, the awaiting challenge also increases, with players having to race flawlessly in order to succeed in Legend difficulty. This may sound like a tough challenge, but on some of the straighter race tracks it doesn’t prove to be as demanding.
The game features twenty race tracks, all of which have been excellently re-created from their real-life counterpart. Alas, whilst the tracks themselves look great and almost life-like, there are some very weak spots with the graphics, especially in the background. Whilst this wouldn’t be a problem normally, viewing a pixelated blue sky is not going to bring out the best in people’s swanky high-definition televisions. Nevertheless, the game’s eight-cylinder engine cars make up for this as they have been well modeled, and more importantly, look incredible.
Superstars V8 Racing does something we haven’t seen much of on the Xbox 360, and that is the inclusion of named drivers. Players have the option of choosing a driver from quite a selection, each of which having different levels of Experience, Knowledge and Reliability. The choice of driver doesn’t seem to affect the way in which you drive, unless players select Maria De Villota – who has particularly weak statistics. Well, you know what they say about female drivers…
In regards to game modes, Superstars V8 Racing features five game modes, neither of which is particularly new to the genre. The first of which is ‘Training’ where players simply select a car, a driver and s racing track and then race laps around it, without any opposition. In doing so, players can aim to beat the record time for the track. The next game mode is ‘Quick Race’ which is exactly the same as Training, though with the addition of opponents. Both game modes aren’t likely to be used often as there’s no real sense of achievement on completion of either, unlike with the ‘Championship’ game mode.
The Championship game mode consists of a number of races in which points are scored, with the winner being the driver with the highest amount of points. Preparation for races begins on the Friday with two practice sessions. Within these sessions, players are supposed to identify the best settings for the car and to generally prepare yourself for the next stage of Qualifying. I found myself skipping these sessions as you are given enough time in qualifying to do the same thing. As the name suggests, Qualifying simply requires players to achieve a better time than their opponents, taking place on the Saturday. The race then takes place on the Sunday. This process is then repeated until the Championship has ended. Alternatively, players can choose to participate in a one-off weekend via the ‘Race Weekend’ game mode which is a nice inclusion.
Last but not least is a game mode which seems to become a more common occurrence in video games, known as Superstar Licenses. Within this game mode, players participate in short challenges; whether it is to race to the finish-line in under a time limit or to overtake a number of cars before a certain point. On completion of the challenge, they are rewarded with a medal, based on their performance. The game mode itself is great, though very short-lived, with only twenty challenges on offer. The only reason players are likely to return to the game mode is to obtain the achievements.
The game’s achievements have been brilliantly created, ranging from the very easy, to the fairly hard. Any average gamer would easily be able to achieve a good 500 GamerScore from the title in no time, with achievement junkies pushing further towards the 1000 mark.
Nevertheless, Superstars V8 Racing has two major flaws. The first one is the lack of a soundtrack, which has been replaced with a track that appears to be on a constant loop. Other than that, the game’s remaining audio is perfectly fine and a pleasure to have blasting out of your speakers. The second flaw is the multiplayer with the game, regrettably, not supporting local play. This is redeemed by the title offering up to twelve players online, which is a joy to play.
Superstars V8 Racing is a very good racing title, despite a few flaws, which will undoubtedly pass through almost everyone’s radar. This is ideal for racing fans looking to pass time whilst awaiting Forza Motorsport 3 with great anxiety.