Cross Racing Championship 2005
Contributed by Ed Gay
Wednesday, 04 January 2006
Title: Cross Racing Championship 2005
Dev Co: Invictus
Publisher: Project 3 Interactive
Operating System: Windows 98, 2000, XP
Processor: 1.4 GHz
Memory: 256MB RAM (512MB for XP)
Hard drive: 700MB Hard drive space for installation
Video Card: GeForce 2 MX400 / Radeon 8500 or better
Sound Card: DirectX 9.0 compatible sound card
Reviewer machine: 3.0Ghz P4, 1GB RAM, XP, DX9.0c, GeForce 6600GT PCI-E
Invictus, the creators of 1nsane, have teamed up with Project 3 Interactive to bring you “Cross Racing Championship 2005” (CRC2005) - an autocross, rally cross, off-road, dirt-track, rallying, road racing, and circuit racing simulation aimed at both the hardcore and casual racer.
CRC2005 gives you the opportunity to sample many forms of motor sport in an assortment of vehicles, ranging from a small hatchback up to an off-road buggy, on a variety of courses located in 6 countries.
The game arrived on my desk, after wrestling with the plastic wrapping I popped the CD into the drive, had a quick glance at the display box and waited for the installation procedure to load. Gave my mouse a few taps on the options and sat back and waited for a lengthy installation, however, I was pleasantly surprised that only a short period of time went by before the game presented me with the “Installation has finished” screen. I double clicked on the icon and waited for it to load. I was presented with a StarForce screen asking me to restart my computer. Many people may be put off by the presence of StarForce and view this a plausible reason not the purchase the game, that is entirely your choice, but whichever side of the fence you’re sat, more and more games are starting to use the technology.
Anyway enough of all that, back to the game! Once I had restarted and the CD checks were established, the game finally started and I was presented with the main menu. Nothing impressive here, basic layout but it was easy to read and navigate which at the end of the day is key. My first port of call was the option configurations. I was pleasantly surprised with the array of settings that could be tweaked in order to get the most from this game.
Once the game was configured to my choice I headed back to the main menu and went looking for some racing! The game offers a choice of racing modes:
I thought it best to acquaint myself with the handling of the game before taking on any opponents, so I chose time trial.
Next I had to select which course I would like to practice on, due to the unlocking system this game features, there weren’t many courses to choose from, so I selected UK. Preceding that selection was the difficulty level, which ranged from Amateur to Professional. I chose the latter which meant the Artificial Intelligence were also professional, the car had real damage, no repairs could be carried out, manual transmission, onboard cameras only and no helpers.
The final screen before the track action could begin was the vehicle garage. From here I could cycle through the unlocked cars, choose the vehicle skin and select any unlocked mechanical upgrades such as tyres, brakes, body kit, engine and etc. As stated before, due to the nature of this title there were only two cars available and no upgrades unlocked, so the car was stock.
Once I was happy with my choices I sat back, got comfortable and waited for the game to load. Again the loading times were minimal and it wasn’t long before I was in game and ready to go!
My first impressions of the graphics were good, I was impressed with visuals. The scenery and vehicle were modelled and textured to a good quality. The UK course which was aligned with trees, buildings and grass looked aesthetically pleasing and invited you to play. The game uses a balance of high-quality visuals with CPU efficient textures so you don’t need a top-end machine to play the game.
You can balance performance over detail by tweaking the 19 graphical options that could be adjusted. Such as, screen resolution, type of shader (DX7, 8 or 9), the level of detail, and picture settings like contrast, noise and gamma. As a result, this gives you plenty of permutations to play around with until you find a solution that matches performance with visuals.
Back to the game:
The camera view panned around the car then sat me in the driving seat, I gave the revs a few blips, waited for the lights to go out…. then floored the accelerator. The car leaped off the start line with vigour, the revs shot up into the red, up another gear, settled the car to gallop over a railroad, and headed into the cover of the trees. Saw the first tricky test, a right hander, dapped on the responsive brakes to set up the car for the first apex. The car felt weighted, it didn’t hover like Colin McRae Rally, and the force feedback gave me a hard time as I had a few attempts getting the car to commit to the corner. All the scenery flashed passed my side window as I navigated the tree-lined course. As I approached what seemed to be a crest, suddenly turned into a launch pad! The road dipped very heavily after the crest and the car went light and unresponsive as it jumped the two sections. It made me laugh and excited as the car went dangerously close to a few trees before coming to land. I didn’t have much time to wonder what that was all about, before a tight right hander appeared. I braked heavily, gave the gearbox a hard time as I went down a few gears. Turned in early and let the rear end slide out a little, the tyres shouted at me and gave a squeal. The next section looked interesting, gravel roads, slight jumps and a river running parallel… I won’t ruin it for you
After a few laps I gained a good understanding of the handling and where this game settled. Cross Racing Championship 2005 airs on the simulation side of racing, it isn’t about drifting at 100mph around wide, open courses. You have to be careful and sometimes precise, but the physics aren’t so detailed that you’ll be throwing your wheel out of the window with frustration, like “Richard Burns Rally.” However, as many will agree, conquering “RBR” and completing a stage with your heart in your mouth is an experience that is very addictive!
I feel that this game will appeal to rally/driving fans who wish to have fun, yet at the same time would like a realistic driving experience. This game for me is closer to the simulation bracket than arcade, but isn’t so technical that you have to be a rally nut to get some enjoyment from it. A good round balance of realism and entertainment!
The audio was slightly disappointing, when surrounded by other cars you’re unable to hear your own engine, yet on your own, the engine noise was fine. I looked around the audio options to try and rectify this issue but wasn’t successful. The audio didn’t really add or detract from the immersion. The game doesn’t send shivers down your back like other titles do, but equally they’re not annoying and stop you from enjoying the game.
To progress through the game and unlock vehicles, courses and upgrades you do have to participate in the career mode. As there aren’t any upgrades available at the beginning, you and AI are at a level playing field. On professional the racing is tricky, the AI is very competitive and it took me a few restarts in order to get onto the podium. Not only are they fast, they can be rough too, if you play bullyboy tactics with them, the will reciprocate and sometimes you’ll end up facing the wrong way. In order to win you do have to muscle your way through from time-to-time but also to give racing room so you’re not spun out of contention. As you begin to finish races in a competitive position, prizes are unlocked and you work your way through the games diversity of racing modes and countries. There is a feature in this game that when you restart a race, you can change the difficulty there and then. Saves you having the exit the whole event and then go through it all again, nice touch!
If you want a break from hardcore simulations, or enjoy tuning cars, then do buy this game. Yes it does have some negative points, but I feel the career mode and return of the Police more than make up for those. Has the “Need for Speed” brand had its day? Pick up a copy and see what you think.
Once you’ve completed the career mode, or just want to have some fun, then you can take advantage of the multiplayer mode. With the latest patch a few new game modes have been added, including Destruction! Here is a list of online game modes:
Multiplayer game modes:
Catch the flag
Return the flag
Unfortunately there have been some issues with playing CRC online. When you select “Multiplayer” from the game menu you cannot see if anyone is online. I’ve been reading about this and the game requires you to download an application called “All Seeing Eye” (ASE) which in theory allows you to see online games, but reports have stated this isn’t true and there is a debate going on about how to solve it. If someone does join your game, or you join theirs, you’re able to chat in the game’s lobby window.
I decided to host a game and explorer the online game modes and maps, just to see what it was like. I was surprised to be joined by another player and we spent quite awhile bashing into each other in Destruction mode. I must admit it was a lot of fun; we were both in the pick up trucks and were trying to out-manoeuvre each other and cause the most amount of damage. The game issues points for contact, spinning them 180 and 360 degrees, toppling them over, but fines you for repairing your damage, which seems fair enough. The damage model came into its own and I was having a lot of fun barrel-rolling over or being a lumberjack and inflicting a great deal virtual pain on my vehicle. I wish more people joined because with 5-10 players all trying to cause mayhem, it would be an awesome!
I do hope the developers manage to solve the ASE issues for the American release; otherwise the online community of the game may never get off the ground.
Invictus has thought about the online community by allowing players to create and import their own vehicles, skins, sponsor stickers and in the future maps. One of the reasons why “1nsane” was so popular and enjoyed an extensive longevity was because of the vehicle additions. So this time around Invictus has released a “CRC 2005 Car Tool” which makes it easy to create vehicles (using MAX plug-ins) and lets others download those vehicles! They also inform you on how to import your own skins/sponsors on their web site. The game also allows the player to listen to their favourite songs whilst in game. Place your .mp3 into the music folder and navigate whilst playing, great idea!
Overall, I had a lot of fun playing with this game. It does however take awhile to get into it, the beginning part of the career mode is repetitive and gets boring, but stick at it and as more courses and vehicles are unlocked, the game becomes more enjoyable. If the multiplayer issues are put right then I think we’ll see a new “1nsane” on the horizon, new cars, maps coupled with the damage model, what fun!
Well done Invictus on creating yet another gem. I hope people do invest in this game and invest in the online community, would be a great shame to see this game fade into the background.