Leadfoot: Stadium Off Road Racing Review
By Michael Richter |
Australian developer Ratbag came on the scene in 1998 with their futuristic racing title Powerslide, heralded by many -- including us -- as the best racing game of that year. At the time, their Difference Engine was one of the best looking engines in existence, and their physics some of the most realistic feeling in any racer. Now, three years later, they're still pumping out racing games based on the Difference Engine, and although the base is becoming a bit dated, it's still one of the best feeling engines for dirt-based racing you'll find.
If you're familiar with Ratbag's previous racing efforts, you're already primed for Leadfoot. Like the other WizardWork's published Ratbag racing games, you start off as an amateur racer with limited cash flow to buy your first vehicle, working work your way through the ranks of the racing elite (well, at least the stadium dirt track racing elite), grabbing cash from races and corporate sponsors along the way. There are a few twists this time around, though. Not only can you compete in sport truck races, but you also have the option to start out as a stadium lite cart driver if you wish, although the focus of the game is definitely on the 4x4 trucks action.
You can opt to race in both an arcade or full sim mode, with five racing series to compete in, although the same tracks are repeated in each series. Leadfoot includes the same wide variety of options and customization that we've come to expect from Ratbag's racers. While you can find Leadfoot for around $20 at most retail outlets, there are as many options here as you would expect from a $50 racer. Car tweakers will have a field day with Leadfoot's car customization options, as everything from individual tire pressure to camber degrees to drive ratio and everything in between can be set to your liking. And even if you're not a grease monkey and don't know the first thing about how to set your rebound dampening, the manual does a good job describing the basics of each option, and leaves you with at least an idea of how each tweak will affect your car.
The tracks, although short, are laid out well, and feel as realistic as the short stadium tracks they simulate. While the off-track graphics are static and the crowd is just a flat block, everything on the track looks pretty good, with the car models deforming to represent any dings and hits they take along the way.
Like I said earlier, the Difference Engine is still one of the best physics engines for dirt-based racing, and you really can't find a game that feels more like you're racing on a dirt track than Leadfoot. However, that realism is one of the downsides of Leadfoot. One thing that might be daunting to racing novices is Leadfoot's learning curve. While Dirt Track Racing and DTR: Sprint Cars were difficult, Leadfoot ups the difficulty level even more, and I found it hard to place in the top eight on my first few races, even on the novice level. However, after learning the line of the racetrack and figuring out when to use the satisfyingly effective powerslide that comes in so handy in tight turns, you'll be placing higher and higher in the standings.
Like previous Ratbag racers, Leadfoot includes a multiplay option as well, which lets you race against nine others on a LAN or over the Internet. Games are easy to find using the included matching service, the only problem is physically finding someone to play with. I only found a handful of people playing Leadfoot online, even at peak times, but of course that may change the longer the game is out. All in all the online experience was solid, although I did encounter some occasional weird lag problems where a car would be flipping on its side and then all of a sudden warp in front of me on all four wheels.
I have to hand it to Ratbag...once again they offer up a solid racer, and do it for under twenty smackers. While Leadfoot doesn't offer up much new if you already have Dirt Track Racing or DTR: Sprint Cars, this is a must-have if you're a racing fan looking for a little down and dirty action, although I do think it's time for Ratbag to get out of the short-track stadium business and give us a true sequel to Powerslide.
-- Tal Blevins
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