Reviewed: August 5, 2001
Released: May 25, 2001
Midway had the luxury of releasing CART Fury several months before Gran Turismo 3 arrived to dominate the console racing scene. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to play and review this game until after I had already logged over a hundred hours on Polyphony's racer. One might think that GT3 would scar most reviewers for all other games in the racing genre, but I was strangely surprised to find that CART Fury was a breath of arcade fresh air.
CART Fury: Championship Racing is an officially licensed product from Championship Auto Racing Teams. What this means for you is; real drivers, tracks, teams, announcers, manufacturers and sponsors. But don't let the name fool you into thinking this is some kind of simulation along the lines of Grand Prix Legends or the NASCAR series of games. This game is "pure arcade" all the way. It uses the CART license much the same way as the NASCAR license was used in NASCAR Rumble.
CART Fury got its roots in the arcade, which is where I originally played it in one of those big network setups at the Dreamworks in Chicago. The console version is a perfect reproduction of the arcade experience minus the giant mechanical cars and force feedback wheels. The home version brings several extras to the table. You get 15 elite C.A.R.T. drivers featured from around the world such as Andretti, Fittipaldi, and Vasser, plus 12 secret cars! Throw in 7 real-life C.A.R.T. tracks and 11 fantasy tracks for a total of 18 challenging courses with tons of shortcuts to get you to the finish line!
There are 5 different game modes - Simulation, Arcade, Season, Driving 101 and Sub-Games featuring five additional mini-games like Last Man Standing and Follow the Line. These mini-games are much like the challenges in the console version of Crazi Taxi. Exploring and winning all these various modes and challenges will unlock a wealth of secret videos and bonus cars.
There is nothing difficult about CART Fury. It is a pure "pick-up and play" game that you can dive right into without even glancing at the manual. You basically pick your driver, which in turn picks your car, and then you pick your skill level. The Expert skill level forces you to drive with a manual transmission while the other skills allow you to choose. The skill you choose also determines your maximum speed during the race. This is an interesting twist, as you will be forced to advance to the Medium or Difficult skill level quite early in the game to remain competitive.
The AI opponents are relentless but not without their faults. They all seem to be able to drive faster than you, which forces you to quickly learn the location of all the hidden shortcuts on the tracks. Using these shortcuts is crucial to winning races and setting lap records to earn Super Boost.
Your car has a limited amount of boost that you can use for that extra burst of speed coming off the line or out of a turn. Each time you complete a lap or cross a checkpoint your boost meter is replenished. Strategic use of the boost combined with the shortcuts will earn you the powerful Super Boost that makes you go even faster and leaves twin trails of flames behind you on the track. Granted, it's not realistic, but it sure looks COOL!
Your car is not impervious and can be damaged by hitting other cars or the walls. As you begin to take damage your tires will start to smoke and pieces of your car will break off. Your crew chief will give you a verbal warning if you are taking too much damage. Avoiding contact with the wall or other cars will slowly repair any damage (again, not realistic but this is an arcade game). You can also position your car to sideswipe opponents to crash their car while taking no damage yourself.
Crashes are amazing with exploding cars flying through the air. Some major crashes reminded me of the scene in ID4 where the cars were all flying through the air as the Empire State Building blew up. Now just imagine driving through these cars and their debris as it rains down on the track. You will be swerving to dodge tires, wings, and other body parts.
The various game modes are simple yet enjoyable. The Arcade mode lets you advance through the tracks unlocking various bonus cars when you get the checkered flag. The Simulation mode removes the arcade features like the boost while the Season mode allows you to advance through a series of races for points. Driving 101 is a licensing mode that tests you on several tracks where you must complete the course in a preset time without knocking over more than the allotted amount of orange and white barrels. After spending more than 20 hours earning licenses in GT3 I was surprised to pass all four of my CART Fury tests in under 15 minutes.
CART Fury has some incredible graphics with detailed tracks and backgrounds. There are loads of textures and trackside objects and the game still manages to run at a very fluid 60fps - even in the split-screen mode with a full field of cars.
The drivers are all represented with recent photos and their cars are all modeled with ample polygons and the designs and paint jobs are all current. The tracks (at least the real ones) are quite realistic. While driving the Chicago course I easily recognized Lakeshore Drive with Navy Pier off to the right just before swerving into downtown passing under the Loop.
The menu interface is rather clumsy and not very fancy. You are forced to wade through several screens between each race picking cars and difficulty each time. It would have made more sense to pick these items at the beginning and have them remain your default selection as you raced the various tracks. This is how most other arcade racers work.
The menus are simplistic with big blocky selection buttons that look like they were ported right from the arcade. The screens are jazzed up with lots of "racing babes" in shorts and revealing skin-tight tops. Even your mechanic and pit chief look more like models from "Perfect 10 Magazine" rather than traditional grease monkeys. These beauties are featured on every menu screen and in the post-race victory videos. They even have their own "secret movie" that can be unlocked for play in the theater.
The Danny Sullivan Theater is a special menu that plays a variety of bonus movies you unlock by completing the various game modes. As of this writing I have only unlocked the "Driving 101" movie by completing my licensing tests. The movie was an excellent promotional video for the Driving 101 driving school in Las Vegas. I was ready to call up and make my reservation. The MPEG quality was great and the movie was over 10 minutes long. I can't wait to unlock the rest of them.
The box boasts "Killer music from Outkast, Nullset, H2SO4 and Disturbed!" I must disagree. The music is pure torture and consists of a few short snippets from some weird techno-grunge-rap combination that repeats incessantly during the menus. It wouldn't be so bad if the track didn't loop every 15-20 seconds. You will find yourself "racing" through the menus just to escape the music.
Sound effects are a mixed bag. The track announcer is excellent and sounds just like every other track announcer on every other arcade driving game. I'm confident there is one guy in the industry that records the commentary for all racing games. The commentary is accurate and even emotional as he calls out the racers by name and what they are doing such as "Andretti just made contact with the wall!" Your crew chief will even keep radio contact with you giving you important (and often obvious) tips like "Use your boost".
The cars all sound the same and the sampled Doppler effect used when a car passes another seems to be repeated for all cars at all speeds in all locations. Again, this is not a serious simulation so this may be overly critical for an arcade racer.
The various modes and mini games should keep you busy for 20-30 hours depending on how good you are. The gameplay gets repetitive rather quickly, but the variety of tracks and the shortness of the races keep things moving along at a nice pace. The learning curve is virtually non-existent and you should be driving at the hard level after a few hours of initial racing. The bonus movies provide a moderate enticement to completing all the various modes.
No arcade racer would be complete without a head-to-head option and CART Fury offers just that. While it might not be as exciting as a huge 10-player network challenge at the arcade the split-screen mode will offer plenty of hours of fun for you and anyone else who dares challenges you to a race.
CART Fury: Championship Racing might pale in comparison to other recently released racing games, but it more than accomplishes what it sets out to do - bring the intense arcade racing experience into your home. The racing is simple yet fun, and the official licensing brings all your favorite drivers and tracks into your living room for countless hours of racing action.
The blazing speed, insane crashes, flaming turbo boost, and gorgeous racing babes all mix to create a high-test racing fuel of testosterone and adrenaline that will have you bringing home that 1st-place trophy night after night.