It's rare for me to look games up before sitting down to review them. But seeing as I had a long download in front of me, I decided to look up Superstars V8 Racing. It turns out that this recently released PlayStation 3 game was originally released in Europe a year and a half ago. And while the original version came on a disc, American race fans are forced to download this surprisingly old game. Needless to say, this doesn't bode well for the quality of O-Games' "brand new" realistic car simulator.
It turns out I had reason to worry, because Superstars V8 Racing is another average entry in the already crowded simulation racing genre. It offers few compelling game modes and a ghost town of an online component. Even more baffling is the timing of the release, just a month before the release of Gran Turismo 5.
Superstars V8 Racing is about as bare bones as a racing game can get. At the start we're given the ability to choose from a list of real world race courses and licensed cars. Unfortunately that's all you get to do. There is no story mode. You don't earn money to buy new cars or impress fans. None of the usual single-player trappings you expect from a racing game is found in this import. This game hopes that simply jumping into a quick race will be enough to keep players satisfied.
To be fair, this game does offer players more than just a quick race option. This game offers both a tutorial mode and a plain vanilla championship mode, a mode that has players racing a bunch of courses in order to win points. The most curious mode was the Race Weekend, which forces players to take each course seriously. It starts with a couple of practice runs, followed by a qualifying race and then the big show. It's in this mode where things feel the most fleshed out. With more of an incentive to play the race weekend, we might actually have a fun game on our hands.
The final mode is the ambiguously named Superstars License mode. This is the mode where the developers ran out of ideas and started to shoehorn in every challenging idea they could think of. Here you try to beat specific times and complete other mundane missions. There are twenty of these levels, none rising to the level of being noteworthy.
The game does offer players the ability to tinker around with each car's specifics. It's not on par with other simulation racing games, but Superstars V8 Racing does offer drivers the ability to modify the transmissions, suspensions, gear ratios, brake power settings, spoiler angles, and electronic driving aids like the Traction Control System (TCS), Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS) and the Electronic Stability Control (ESC) system. The actual racing is generally fine, though I have some issues with the way each car feels. Gamers eager to dig into the new Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit should probably avoid these slow and sluggish cars altogether. The handling is a little iffy and even with assists on it was far too easy to spin out. After a few races I started to get a handle on the game's quirks, to the point where I was actually able to win from time to time. There's nothing about the gameplay that sets this game apart from the rest of the realistic racing games on the market.
It's not offensive in any way, but I questioned the timing of this release. If gamers are able to wait a month, they'll have a chance to buy one of the most ambitious racing games of all time. A game packed with more than a thousand cars and dozens of courses. Even factoring in Superstars V8's budget price, it's hard to justify buying this over the upcoming Gran Turismo 5.
For your $20 the game gives players ten unique tracks to drive on, including courses in Italy, Spain, Portugal and South Africa. Superstars V8 Racing features 11 real-world teams such as Audi Sport Italia and Ferito Motors. Even if you're somebody with relatively little knowledge about real world racing (like me), there are a lot of familiar cars to choose from and starting a race couldn't be easier.
The car models are solid and it's easy to be won over by the gorgeous scenery. The music could have used an overhaul and some of the sound effects sound off, but by and large the presentation is fine. At $20 gamers shouldn't expect top of the line graphics, and the visuals here are more than adequate.
On a brief side note, I was struck by how much my expectations have changed in the past fifteen years. Back at the launch of the original PlayStation I was fine with Ridge Racer's paltry three levels. Yet now I'm disappointed with V8's ten courses. There's a level of depth that gamers have come to expect from modern racing games, and this inexpensive PSN download comes up short.
There's nothing technically wrong with Superstars V8 Racing. When you're in a race it feels fine and looks good, which is all you can ask for from a budget title. But there are better racing games on the PSN service (wipEout HD springs to mind) and Gran Turismo 5 just days away. If you're okay with a racing game that doesn't strive to be anything special, then Superstars V8 Racing will not disappoint.