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Reviewed: Test Drive Le Mans
Author: Chris Kim       Date: April 4th 2000
Page: 2

Familiar with the Test Drive series right? Remember all those lame games and rather poorly designed gameplay? Well, prepare to be surprised with Test Drive Le Mans as the game totally sheds any image of the previous Test Drive games with brand new style of gameplay. This time around, Infogrames has taken a real-life race, licensed it, and then tried to simulate the race in a computer game. The race that they chose to simulate was the 24 Heures du Mans or Le Mans 24 Hours race, which is one of the world's most grueling races that lasts for 24 hours straight. How could such a grueling race be simulated with the same amount of hard work that a real Le Mans 24 Hours driver really goes through? It was up to Infogrames to design these aspects about the game and how they chose to design these parts of the game is what really shines.

Unlike previous Test Drive releases, Test Drive Le Mans is a straight up racing simulation of the single racing event. There aren't a lot of different car styles; all of them fall under GT1, GT2, or Prototype classes, but there are lots of cars within each class. Featuring eight different types of tracks from the real Le Mans races, accuracy and precision were key factors in the game. Featured are over 45 different cars from separate manufacturers that competed in the die-hard Le Mans race. Decked out with fully licensed advertisers such as Michelin and Mobile, Test Drive Le Mans was set out to please the most die-hard racing simulation fans.

Nice Country Ride
Bridgestone Advertising
Let it Rain!

Three game modes are available to the user; thankfully, all of them are pretty fun to play with. The basic modes are Arcade, Le Mans 24 Hours, and Championship. In general, the Arcade mode is just as it sounds, relaxed physics, less emphasis on real-life conditions, and free riding. Players can choose to play Arcade mode and do whatever they wish, as they win more races, the more tracks and cars become unlocked that the player can play around with. Championship is a mode where the player will race through all the tracks using a specified car class to unlock more cars in that class that later become available for use in the Le Mans 24 Hours race. Le Mans 24 Hours race is the main focus and feature of the game (as the title tends to show that as well). Within each game mode, there are several other options and variations to play on top of the basic game mode.

Arcade racing is free and completely open to the player as how the wishes to play the game. One of the main focuses of the arcade mode is the free flowing approach that makes the game so much easier to get into. The physics are very relaxed and are much more forgiving than on the Le Mans 24 Hours or Championship modes and pit-stops are not necessary as tire wear and tear and gas consumption are not taken into consideration. The player will simply jump into the game in the car and start racing away. As the player gains positions on the ranking charts, the player will reveal more cars that he can use at his own disposal. Depending on which class car he chooses to race in, various cars will be unveiled. Since the Arcade mode is much more relaxed compared to the other modes, playing in Arcade is much easier than the other competitions. The aggressiveness of the computer is toned down significantly. This is a good practice to learn and get used to how the game is played for the harder Championship and Le Mans 24 Hours races.

Check Behind at Night
Prepare for Contact
Looking Back

Championship is the lead into what the main event of the game is, the Le Mans 24 Hours race. In championship, players will get to join a class of races and sign up for a sponsorship in GT1, GT2, or Prototype classes. Depending on which class, the cars will usually be quicker than others. Championship races are defined into either sprint or endurance races. Just like in real-life, sprinting is a quick but hard race while endurance is a longer more paced race. Either way, they get to the goal of unlocking new cars to be used in the Le Mans 24 Hour race the same way. The player will get to race on all eight tracks with their specified class of car in a full season to get to the top of the rankings. Depending on how the race is approached, this can be either complete hell or pure enjoyment. Unlike Arcade mode, Championship is more realistic and incorporates tighter physics and more realistic handling conditions such as slick roads and night driving (although these options can be enabled in Arcade).

Finally is the Le Mans 24 Hour race, which is the full blown real-life 24 Heures du Mans race which is one of the biggest races in the world. Thankfully, Infogrames has provided several options to approaching the game. There is either the full blown 24 hour race, which last a full 24 hours. Players, however, can choose to stop and save their game during the course of the race for necessities such as sleep, eating, and school if their race happens to be interrupted. This race very accurately portrays what the real-life race would feel like. Then there are the condensed versions of the race from 15 to 60 minute races, which are then evenly divided among the 24 hours of the real race. This race is the full blown simulation with all the real physics and dynamics of real-life racing. Following real-time 24 hour racing, the game follows the light, to dark, to light daytime changes where the player must adjust to the various changing effects.

Blazing the Tunnel
As the Sun Sets...
Slick Prototype Car

Because Test Drive Le Mans is a simulation, many factors are taken into consideration as the game progresses. Most of the real-world factors of driving are taken into consideration--braking, tire grip, fuel consumption, downforce, steering, and brake assist, which seriously affect the performance of a car in certain weather conditions. For the most part, the different cars and model types all handle very differently and carry different characteristics with them that separate them from other cars and classes. Each of their handling characteristics and far different from one another--some are easier to handle while others are stiff as a rock. The modeled car physics are top-notch and handle very similarly to what a real exotic sports car would feel like. Similar to Viper Racing, the feel and way the cars handle feels very solid while not neglecting the real-world conditions. Such conditions as rain, fog, and darkness are all taken into consideration when driving along in the game, with the rain making the track much slicker and tire grip much less effective.

One of the strongest features of Test Drive Le Mans are the very well designed courses, for good reason too. It was reported that the designers of the game went out onto the actual driving locations and took pictures of the track every 50 feet to create the most accurate and realistic track reproduction ever seen in a game. Thankfully, this shows with excellently designed tracks and detailed environments. While many of the tracks have a very similar feel to them, they never become tiresome or boring to play, the various night-time, rain, and fog options all add more replay value to each of the tracks and it creates a unique atmosphere every time out.

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Added:  Tuesday, April 04, 2000
Reviewer:  Chris Kim
Page: 2/5

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