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SummaryA typical Cyberdreams product: Stylish, but not that good.
The GoodThe sub-genre of sci-fi racing games has always been an interesting one, providing the breakneck excitement of racing games without the boredom of actually simulating anything that even remotely comes close to realistic physics or tracks or any of that crap. Plus they also usually come dipped into some weird sci-fi setting that makes the whole thing more appealing. Unlike most games of the type however. CyberRace puts the emphasis on the sci-fi setting and it's peripheral elements while keeping the racing element to a somewhat lackluster level.
The game casts you as a young cyber-racer forced to race in order to get back your chick. You see, the races (which are your typical gladiatorial anything-goes events) are the only acceptable ways for each world to decide disputes, and there's a black hole nearby that suddenly everyone wants to get their hands on. The terran bidder for the hole has decided that you are the only racer good enough to take the grand prize, but since you refuse to race he takes your girl and blackmails you into taking the big prize home and winning the racing tournament.
Gameplay-wise the game leans more towards the sci-fi sim side of things by including options like the ability to tune up your sled and equip it with bigger guns and countermeasures. You can snoop around the local bars and find out what's the last word on the racing circuit (useful to know if any racer has specifically targeted you for the next race or similar surprises) via hotspot-filled backgrounds a-la (once again...) Wing Commander. You can also pay to have a little "accident" to happen to some pesky opponent and similar tricks via your race earnings which adds a nice gameplay element to the racing component.
The graphics are a mixture of digitized pictures, over 2D backgrounds and a voxel-based engine for the racing portions and the results are actually very good and coupled with Syd Mead's trademark designs ends up as visually stunning experience with lots of cyberpunk touches.
The BadThe main problem with CyberRace is that it just isn't that fun to play really. The races themselves are as mentioned more sim-like and thus don't have the breakneck speeds you would expect on these types of games. The tracks are pretty odd, being laid out on alien landscapes and indicated by little markers that guide you through the hills and canyons that populate these worlds... so there goes that, all the races feel more like off-road strolls around weirdly colored deserts than anything else. The competition aspect is an interesting angle with everyone packing missiles and laser guns ready to shoot your ass, but it's downplayed significantly, given the "sim" approach to things weapons are scarce and rather non-effective as weapons of mass destruction, what they are good at is at making you spin out of control as a form of penalization, every time someone gets hit it starts spinning for 5 seconds or so for no apparent reason. Good when it happens to someone else, incredibly frustrating and cheap when it happens to you.
To make matters worse in the end, towards the end of the game the whole racing tournament thing goes to the crapper and it all turns into a "last man standing" series of matches that are supposed to end the game in a more dramatic tone (as you end up facing each one of your nemesis for the final time) but only manage to bog down the game even more as you circle around your foe forever trying to hit it with a couple of missiles that do 0.5 damage....believe it or not entire hours can be wasted on those exercises in frustration.
And I'll be damned if the sabotaging, upgrades and information make any real difference in the game...