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Fantasy Race Car Excitement

Get your Dramamine handy, strap on your safety harness, and get ready to floor that accelerator! "Whiplash," a rock 'em, sock 'em race car action game, will rivet you to your seat and pump you full of adrenaline.

Boasting names like "The Tsunami Twister," Whiplash's tracks give you loops, twists, corkscrews, roller coaster hills, and a generally cavalier attitude when it comes to keeping your car in pristine condition. In fact, we never did make it through a race without suffering extensive damage to our car, no matter what difficulty level we used, track we chose, or car we were driving.

It seems some of those other drivers, which are computer controlled and obviously know nothing about road etiquette, take great delight in trying to slam you into a wall, or hit you head on when they for whatever reason decide to head the wrong way on the track and play chicken with you. This happened periodically, and we usually received the short end of the "chicken" stick.

Whiplash calls for a fairly robust computer. We tried it on a 486DX4-100 and a Pentium 133, both with 16 Meg of RAM and good video cards. On the 486, we had to turn off a lot of the game's graphics detail or it would run very jerkily. The Pentium allowed us to drive full out, with the most important parts of the detail on (like road textures and car detail), as long as we kept the "rear view mirror" setting shut off.

And there are lots of other choices besides graphic detail. You can choose from an abundance of track configurations and difficulty levels (good luck with the higher ones!), three racing modes (from single race to "Survival"), and up to 15 opponents at a time. The latter makes for a rather crowded track, thereby ensuring maximum challenge and, alas, maximum damage. You get to select from eight different car prototypes, each of which has its own feel and characteristics. Whiplash can also be played over a network.

Whiplash has many similarities to "Ridge Racer," in that it offers an incredible feeling of speed, good driving feel, hard driving (and annoying) music and a really annoying announcer. Unlike Ridge Racer, however, you can adjust the volume of the music and the voice, which is a real plus.

And this is a difficult game to master! Each track is very different and offers its own challenges. One of our favourites featured not only a loop-the-loop, but a real gravity-defying corkscrew that really tests your coordination and nerve.

If you manage to make it through the race (and the game is very unsympathetic to losers), you can sit back and revel in an instant replay of your performance. Winning isn't just everything in Whiplash, it's (to steal a phrase) the only thing.

We played Whiplash for the most part using a "G-Force" flight yoke from Suncom and were extremely grateful for the steering wheel. Playing with a joystick is possible, but not nearly as much fun.

Damage is easy to pick up, and not just from being bumped by opponents. You'll get banged up when slamming into the ground after one of the many jumps sends your car flying through the air, sometimes with enough force and distance that you wonder if you're really in a plane! You can also be severely damaged if you miss a jump, or the corkscrew; add to that humiliation a short (but interminable) wait as your car "rights itself" after the crash, while you helplessly watch your enemies scream by with frustrating speed.

Still, while damage is inevitable, it pays to keep going all out. That way, if you can get enough of a lead, you'll have time to make a pit stop and have your damage fixed without losing too many places in the race order. And you'll want your damage fixed: otherwise you'll find your vehicle slowing down and wheezing along the track (with smoke and flames pouring from your car), while your competition whizzes by you, leaving you in its dust.

Whiplash requires oodles of hard drive space, nearly 30 Meg, despite running from a CD-ROM. This is rather annoying, but is typical of many current games. Using the hard disk speeds things up and, since this game is about nothing if not speed, gobbling up disk space can probably be forgiven - this time.

Whiplash is a terrific game if you have the hardware to do it justice. Interplay says it'll run satisfactorily on a 486 DX-2 66 MHz with DOS 5 or later and at least 8 Meg of RAM. Maybe it will, but you'll have to 'dumb the game down' by clicking off some of its graphics detail, as mentioned above. You also need a double speed CD ROM drive, VGA graphics (there's an SVGA setting that's even more resource intensive), and a Sound Blaster compatible sound card.

It runs okay under Windows 95 on a fast system, but it's best run under MS-DOS mode.

"Gentlepeople," start your engines!


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January 31, 2006