Automobili LamborghiniDoes Titus' street racer compare to the numerous racing titles already available for the N64.
Whether you re into rally cars, karts, jetskis, cyber bikes, or animals in airplanes, the N64 is the racing console of choice. But fans of straightforward street racing games, such as Ridge Racer, were pretty much out of luck -- until now. With Automobili Lamborghini, the French softwarehouse Titus tries to fill the void the absence of Namco s prominent racing series has left on our favorite system. And although there are a few obvious faults in the game, this sequel to the Euro-hit Lamborghini American Challenge for the Super NES does a decent job at bringing street racing home.
Gameplay: Like Top Gear Rally, Automobili Lamborghini grows on you. In the beginning, it will all seem a little dull, expecially after playing some of the N64 s off-road or kart racers. Lamborghini s cars, a cool selection of dream cars by (surprise) Lamborghini, Porsche and Ferrari, are pretty much glued to the road. There are no long jumps, loud crashes, or violent flips no matter how hard you try to hit a tunnel wall or your opponent; this is as straightforward as racing gets. On top of that, the tracks lack the complex design of the courses in MRC or Top Gear Rally, with only few short-cuts and a limited number of tricky corners.
On the positive side, the other drivers AI is well done, with cars that swerve in front of you and even crash into you on purpose (I hope) to prevent you from passing. For those who liked the cheating AI in Mario Kart, where trailing players automatically catch up, Automobili Lamborghini offers an option to turn that feature on as well.
Lamborghini features standard Grand Prix and arcade modes on six distinct tracks at decent speeds. It s definitely not the fastest racer out there (even TGR eclipses it once it gets going), but when you earn the hidden cars and play from the first-person perspective, it reproduces an adequate feeling of driving the dream machines. Although there s not much innovation to the racing action in this game, the necessity of pit stops makes Lamborghini stand out from the competition. Like in an F1 racer, you have to time your stops well, refuel your car, and even change the tires. The cool thing is that you get full control over the pit action -- from using the analog stick to manually control the fueling process, and having to turn the stick to put on the tires. It doesn t sound like much, but it s fun little addition.
You can also choose from a variety of options, adjust the difficulty, select from three different camera modes (alas, no hood view), and even a pause camera that lets you look at your car from all sides. It s a shame that the cars don t take visual damage and lack the realistic physics of Top Gear Rally. Note that the turbo boosts from the predecessor are not in Automobili Lamborghini.
Graphics: Despite a lack of roadside detail, Automobili Lamborghini manages to look extremely polished with nicely modeled cars and a variety of cool effects, such as skid marks and smoking tires. And what N64 game would be complete without the obligatory lens flare effect -- although I do admit that it s quite well done in Automobili Lamborghini.
With fluid frame rates in all game modes (yes, even with four players) and a refreshing absence of fog on most tracks (of course, there s more in the multiplayer modes), Lamborghini s visual side is quite appealing, indeed.
Sound: Like with most other N64 racers, the music in Lamborghini is decent and fulfills its purpose, but isn t all that memorable. Sound effects are decent, too, with lots of tire screeching and engine noises that won t drive you insane (hear that, F1 Pole Position?). But what s up with crash noises on the N64? After the disappointing billiard-ball collision noises in TGR, I was hoping for a little more meat in Automobili Lamborghini.
Control: Oversteering strikes back. Lamborghini s controls are quite touchy and might pose some serious problems for beginners. However, you will get used to them after a while and have no problem to stay on the road.
Multiplayer: This is where the game really shines and manages to beat out most of the other racers on the system. Unlike Top Gear Rally, MRC, and San Francisco Rush, Lamborghini manages to come up with a very playable four player vs. mode. And for once, the two-player races are not confined to single track one-on-ones, but actually pit other drivers against you in complete Grand Prix races.
Memory Pak/Rumble Pak: Both are supported and work without problems (you can save your cars and your progress in the game), although Rumble Pak integration is generally ineffectual.
If you put it all together, Automobili Lamborghini (Titus changed the title from Lamborghini 64 due to legal reasons) is a technically well-done title and a worthwhile addition to the N64 racing lineup. There are some problems with the overall speed and excitement in the one-player mode, but plug in a few more controllers and you will have a lot of fun racing against your friends. This game will definitely not convert you if you re not into racing, but it s a fun rental and makes a decent buy for fans of realistic street racing. Just don t crash into anything.