Not a racing game
Don't get me wrong on the title of this review, Car & Driver is a nice program indeed. Being the predecessor of the Need for Speed games series, the aim is clear and well known: have fun driving sports cars you couldn't even dream of being able to afford in real life.
Talking about diversity, this game has more of it than any of its sequels, even though there are only 10 cars, from classic convertible to modern prototype car, and just as many tracks available. Besides 3 classic race tracks and 3 NFS-typical highway and freeway routes (one of them almost 30 miles long!), there's an Autocross course, an oval high-speed track, a dragstrip and, believe it or not, a mall parking lot.
The graphics of the game are also very neat. Although there is virtually no texture mapping, the tracks look very nice, with many details and objects. There is even traffic on some tracks, like the highway routes, the first circuit or the parking lot.
The game is actually in full 3 dimensions, unlike many games of the period which use Mode 7 technology to just simulate a 3D-effects. This means that also every car is a full 3D model (fascinating: even the brake lights work, and this is 1992!) and you can choose from many perspectives, including a bumper cam in 2 resolutions, a top-down camera, chase and TV cameras and a cockpit view in low resolution, with a detailed and animated cockpit for each and every car. This really makes driving the cars a lot more fun, despite the unrealistic handling.
Which is the main drawback of Car & Driver. You won't notice how weird the physics are as long as you drive in easy mode, since then the steering wheel is limited to the maximum angle at which your car won't yet start to skid. As soon as you DO skid, however, you will lose interest in this game very fast. The physics are so ridiculous, you will wonder why your throttle control stops working as soon as you skid, or why a small dip in the track can make your car fly high in the air and about a mile away, or if your tires are just always trying to remain in the position that is the most disadvantageous at the moment.
The point is: Lacking AI competitors (you can only drive against a friend over a network or against recordings of your own laps in single player mode) and featuring stuff like the parking lot, the game clearly is more aimed towards being a driving simulation than a driving game. As much more it hurts that the cars just don't feel right, and although you probably will enjoy the scenery and the tracks, it won't suffice to keep you playing.
There are other drawbacks like not too nice sound effects, a weird keyboard control (trying to make up for the digital disadvantage by allowing several grades of turning the steering wheel, but failing at it, making the game much too hard to control) and most of all your annoying recorded competitors, which won't even try to overtake, but just continue driving on their recorded paths, driving against you from behind and getting both cars to explode without you even noticing beforehand.
The Bottom Line
Car & Driver is fun to play for a while, just to enjoy the nice cars, beautiful scenery and diverse tracks. But lacking anything in the likes of computer controlled cars, a campaign mode or something reminding of a driving physics system, it just won't do as a game. I don't know about the multiplayer mode, which I believe could actually be some fun. But to me, this product looks more like an interactive technology demonstration (like most modern FPS games, hehe) which is probably what it was regarded as when it was released.