European Street Racing (PC) review
"And that's the game's chief flaw. When you break it down, though, the standard gameplay of ESR is typical. Perhaps overly so. Now, being run of the mill isn't always bad. Indeed, ESR isn't bad either. But when the game is basically an exercise in listing all the cliches of the genre without trying to depart at all from the formula...it's a little unsatisfying. "
If ESR: European Street Racing taught me anything, it's that driving with a keyboard is a bad idea. My first races saw me screaming around the track in a blur of uncontrolled momentum. Impact noises boomed over the speakers as my car nailed everything in sight except for the turns I was aiming for. The in game replays looked a lot like The Fast and the Furious might have if no one was driving during the stunt sequences.
At first, it seemed like blaming the game was a good idea. However, after digging a computer control pad out of the dusty recesses of the closet, things got much better. Suddenly, the game didn't have a control problem. Imagine my surprise to find out that it actually handled quite well! Suddenly hitting turns and not cars felt right, and winning races was easy, at least in the early parts of the career mode.
It gets more difficult as you advance, of course. The early races are the typical early game doldrums, designed to get you accustomed to the controls and break you in to the experience. The latter races are more of a white-knuckled, try-not-to-blink kind of affair. The difficulty progression is normal, and a fairly typical thing for a racer.
And that's the game's chief flaw. When you break it down, though, the standard gameplay of ESR is typical. Perhaps overly so. Now, being run of the mill isn't always bad. Indeed, ESR isn't bad either. But when the game is basically an exercise in listing all the cliches of the genre without trying to depart at all from the formula...it's a little unsatisfying.
It goes like this: You, being a nameless racer hoping to make his name in the big leagues, scrape together what meager funds you can and buy a rather bland racing car, and enter the circuit at the lowest point. As the wins pile up so does the cash, which you use to upgrade your car's parts, or buy a new car outright. So begins a long cycle of self improvement that only ends when you want it to.
Even the game's most interesting mechanic, so far as the races themselves are concerned, is a watered down form of Burnout's boost guage, where you gain nitro for boosting by passing close to oncoming cars or scraping fenders with rival racers. The presentation of the concept is just nowhere near as polished as it is in Burnout but even so, it does add a much needed extra layer of strategy and risk to the races. Do you veer into oncoming traffic for extra nitro, or try to ride it out in the safer lanes?
Your decision could well win or lose the race for you.
Still, that's it. The only other option is multiplayer. ESR seems to be content to provide the bare minimum necessary to be considered a finished game. And it is unabashedly derivative in doing so. As such, it suffers a little. It could do with some thoughtless drive around options, or diversion other than a linear series of races.
That said, however, what is here is quite enjoyable. If you like fast paced street racing, especially in the style of other similar games, there's no reason not to consider it. It isn't the prettiest game out there, but it looks aren't bad enough to really bash either. The slight loss in visual quality also ensures that it runs silky smooth at all times. There's no jerking, even amidst crashes involving large numbers of cars piling up all over the place.
Yes, admittedly ESR isn't the best racer out there. It's competent, it's fun, but it doesn't do anything that other racers don't do and do better. However, it is a solid PC racer that runs very well, even on mediocre hardware. That by itself is impressive. There's certainly a market for this title, both in the hardcore race fans, and those who aren't constantly shelling out money for new hardware.
Freelance review by Josh Higley (November 04, 2007)
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