You may have never heard of Cyber Race before, but it was immensely hyped back in 1993 – lots of ads, magazine coverage, etc. So why, despite this, has it slipped into the shadows of obscurity? Because, I'm afraid, it wasn't that good.
Cyberdreams, developers of CyberRace, had a reputation back in the 90’s of involving celebrities when developing games. Dark Seed, for example, had help from H. R. Giger (famous for his designs of the aliens for the Alien movies, and also Species).
For CyberRace, they asked Syd Mead, who is famous for his work in movies like Tron and Blade Runner and was responsible for the design of the "sleds" which you'll be controlling in the game. A promising start but, sadly enough, CyberRace makes some elementary mistakes that are just too vital to be forgiven and a sled that’s designed by a famous artist just can’t save it.
For starters, notice the name of the racing vehicles. Sleds aren't exactly known for being easy to maneuver and neither are the sleds in CyberRace. In fact, besides them being very slow to respond, the controlling method reminds me of an 80's arcade driving game where your car keeps going in one direction until you steer it back. It takes a lot of practice to really get the hang of, and even then, the sled still feels sluggish.
This is a big problem because the game is not just about racing – it is about combat as well – combat which partially relies on you shooting your target straight on with lasers although you can also use missiles and other guided weapons but these are more expensive and limited by ammo. Controlling your sled is hard enough but keeping an opponent in view while trying to hit him AND at the same time moving across very un-even terrain… that’s just plain frustrating.
The terrain is worth mentioning though: CyberRace was one of the earliest games to use the Voxel technology which allowed for very dynamic terrain and Cyberdreams definitely made use of it: the terrain is not your usual flat roads with corners. We’re talking about tracks that look as if giant moles had their way with it. This is more to the game’s disadvantage though: half the time, you can’t even see the opponent because some hill is blocking your sight. And each time you move up a hill, your aiming cross hair moves up too – meaning that in most cases, when you do manage to get an opponent into view, you end up shooting above or below him. The radar is supposed to help you find and track opponents but it’s so confusing.
So – what you are left with, is a game which has sleds that are hard to control, letting you race on very bumpy tracks where you have to destroy your opponents using weapons that often need precise aiming. Doesn’t sound like a good mix, does it?
If only they had used a Terra Nova style of aiming: letting you control your sled with one hand, and letting you use the other to control the mouse to aim your weapons. It would have been so much better. CyberRace may be decent fun if you put lots of effort into it, but to most people it will be unrewarding and just not fun enough to stick with. There’s a cliché story too, and the ability to buy new parts and improve your sled but none of it can save the game.
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