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    Free Wheelin' USA
    Author: Drew Lanclos   Publisher: Ubi Soft   Developer: Hoplite Research
    Date Posted: June 5th, 2002
    SLRating: SLRating: 2/10
    Bottom Line: You'll feel better if you just give me the $20 instead of spending it on this.

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    Pages: 1 2 3 4 5
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    Should Have Taken the Blue Pill

    It's pretty clear where Hoplite Research was aiming with this title. Think about it - Every Wal-Mart on the face of the earth has a Cruisin' USA/World/Exotica arcade machine in its game room. Also, Wal-Mart is king of the $20 knock-off titles that are notoriously bad but that continue to sell. The formula is simple. Looking at the box, Free Wheelin' USA gives promises of speed, excitement, and ample chests. It fails to deliver on all three.

    As a matter of fact, during this game's development, it underwent a name-change to "Hooters' Road Trip". It appears, however, that this name only managed to stick on the PlayStation release from a few months ago. Presumably, with the famous restaurant license gone, the...um...bosoms...had to go.

    It's difficult to figure out a good place to start with this review. Let's just start off by pointing out that no matter how good your game is, if a player has a difficult time controlling his actions, he's gonna quit pretty early on. Free Wheelin' USA allows you to play with either the keyboard or a game controller. Neither option really presents a good way to play, unfortunately. Using the keyboard is actually advantageous when compared to the joypad, because the keyboard is configured from the get-go. Setting up controls on a gamepad is an exercise in futility.

    I started off with a Gravis Gamepad Pro plugged into the gameport on a Sound Blaster Live! 5.1. Windows XP confirmed that it worked fine, and all the control settings responded perfectly. I loaded up Free Wheelin' USA and went to configure button assignments, but to no avail. The game pretended that the pad didn't exist. After about ten minutes of fiddling, I gave up and used the keyboard. Eventually, I revisited the issue, but this time wielding a Gamepad Pro USB. This time, the gamepad actually worked in Free Wheelin' USA, but only to a certain degree. None of the default button assignments worked; For some reason, the game assumed that my pad was gamepad #2, and not #1. What made this even trickier is that, as I was mapping buttons, the game refused to recognize the axes on the directional pad properly...specifically the X-axis. After messing with it for five minutes (and screwing in the joystick tip), it finally worked.

    Did my effort pay off? No. The game still had absolutely awful control. At times, it was as if the game interpreted immediate shifts from one direction to the other as simply throwing the wheel to the stops. I could have easily won a couple of tracks in this game had I not spent 3/4 of my time wedged in a fence or facing backward.

    And really, this was the absolute worst problem in the game. The physics engine of the game must look something like this:

        if(collisionDetected( ) )
          car.spinAround(aLot);

    Seriously. I'd be moseying on along, and I'd hit another car's rear bumper, and then suddenly find myself facing backwards. It was as if the developers were secretly giving me a message: "Turn back now! While you still can!" Eventually, I gave up and started driving the damn car in reverse. This actually helped. The game assumes that steering is a bit softer in reverse, and so I can actually control the freakin' car. Unfortunately, being in reverse means that I'm effectively stuck in first gear, but that by itself was enough to get me to 3rd place in one racing attempt.

    I probably would have won too, if the game hadn't suddenly decided that I *didn't* go over the finish line. Maybe it wanted to see my l33t driving skillz again. I don't know. All I know is that the game wanted me to play it more...give it more love. But it was far too late. I had no love remaining for this game. There's supposed to be extra tracks and unlockable cars, but frankly, I can't see how anyone would stick out the game long enough to get them, or find them rewarding enough to withstand the misery of the game for that long. Even worse, these "rewards" involve playing the game even more.

    Hammerin' In My Head Go the the next page
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    Article Navigation

    1. Introduction
    2. Should Have Taken the Blue Pill
    3. Hammerin' In My Head
    4. Pros & Cons/Conclusion
    5. Rating Breakdown

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