Superstars V8 Racing Review
A quality simulation experience at a great price dragged down by dated visuals and occasional performance issues. Is this the game to hold you over until Gran Turismo 5?
In early 2007, Superstars V8 Racing would have been a standout title. As it stands, it's still a fun game now, but not something people will talk about long-term. With a fun and engaging online multiplayer, a high level of tweak-able components to improve car performance, a healthy single player mode, and surprisingly tight driving controls, the core experience here is solid. The only problem is that too many other aspects of the game, the visuals, sound, performance and more, all seem dated. Even though I enjoyed my time with the game I couldn't help feeling like I was playing a PlayStation 3 launch title.
Superstars V8, a download-only title on the PlayStation Network, is based on the official license of the real-world Italian Superstars Series, a championship where only eight cylinder V-engine cars are eligible to compete. The result of such a small group of high-end production vehicles provide the game with two of its greatest strengths; focus and approachability. Whereas the majority of simulation racing (or sim-esque) titles provide a huge range of cars of varying classes and capabilities, Superstars offers only 19 drivers/cars to choose from, every one of which stands on a similar competitive level. Because each car offers comparable torque and horsepower, generally in the impressive 400 hp range, anyone can pick up a controller and expect to, at the least, remain competitive throughout a race. Car brands include Audi, Maserati, and BMW among others and their respective drivers such as Gianni Morbidelli and Audi vehicles.
I know what you are now asking. If every car is competitive at the start of the game, how is skill rewarded and how does a player separate him or herself from any other racer?
Superstars V8 Racing offers a surprising amount of vehicle customization as well as a wide range of tools for performance analysis; each of which give the serious racer a chance to elevate their game. Want to stiffen your suspension, tighten or loosen your gear ratio, up your rear-wheel breaking power for a tighter drive-path or change the angle of your spoiler to better control your vehicle's aerodynamics? You can do all of that and more. Want to know your individual speed trends during the circuit? The speed graph can do that for you. Want to know the degree of compression on your front and rear suspension on a certain length of track? Yes, there is a graph for that too. In fact, for those truly seeking perfection, Superstars V8 offers a wide range of tools to test your performance that can then be used to tune your car to perfectly suit your driving style. Car nuts will love this.
With much that is good about Superstars V8 now covered I do have to go over the bad. As mentioned above the game's visuals are noticeably dated. Textures on the tracks are bland and low resolution, aliasing issues are noticeable and a continuous issue and anything outside track boundaries, such as the sky or setting, look like a B movie set. In fact, on some tracks I could see the seam in the dome painted to look like a low-res sky. Don't get me wrong; the visuals get the job done, but functional is as good as it gets.
Aside from the mediocre visuals the game and frame rate chug when more than five cars are on-screen. At first I thought this may be a fluke but slow-down is bound to happen several times during every heated race. The problem with that is the negative impact on controller response. The slowed performance impeded my driving multiple times, often resulting in the vehicle leaving the track. I would have been out of a turn but because the game had slowed I was unexpectedly still in the middle of a curve, thus trying to straighten my vehicle prematurely. Needless to say, this was frustrating. I should note, however, that when racing with some distance between my vehicle and opponents the steering was responsive and control came naturally.
The games sound effects are decent yet dated, but the worst of it was the decision to include hard rock after each race. The music just clashes, beyond my ability to ignore, with the style of the racing and the cars themselves. Hard rock just doesn't blend well with high-end European cars racing on smooth tracks set against green countryside in my opinion. I don't understand how this wasn't blatantly obvious during development.