Star Wars: Episode I - Racer

aka: Pod Racer, SW E 1 Racer, Star Wars: Episódio I - Racer
Moby ID: 276

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Critic Reviews add missing review

Average score: 79% (based on 63 ratings)

Player Reviews

Average score: 3.7 out of 5 (based on 149 ratings with 9 reviews)

A maddening rush of speed--and a maddening control system.

The Good
Speed. There's always a problem in computer games that try to convey a sense of speed when you race, and that's not their fault--you, the player, are doing exactly what you don't do in a race. You're sitting still. And your surroundings are stationary as well. So computer games essentially have to go way over the top in order to convey a rushing sense of speed, and many don't because that takes away from the 'realism'.

Star Wars: Episode I Racer gleefully goes way over the top, because it can. It's set in the Star Wars universe, so piloting a pod racer (two jet engines and a piece of string, essentially) that can reach speeds in excess of 750 MPH is... well, over the top. It definitely gets your adrenaline pumping. (A decent 3D accelerator helps, too.)

The tracks are large and varied. They aren't as large (and sneaky) as the tracks in, say, Carmageddon 2, but they are much nicer in appearance and represent their homeworld well with plenty of detail.

The Bad
Frankly, I'm a bit annoyed at the control system. You'd expect in any racing game that you would need to slow down, speed up, move left and right, brake, and hit the turbo. That conforms very nicely to a two button joystick. But Pod Racer introduces additional elements that I view as 'featureitis' -- hard air braking (why is regular braking and turning not enough?), rolling your craft sideways, moving up and down slightly, and reparing your engines on the fly are features that come to mind. They don't significantly enhance the gameplay, other than the ability to roll sideways allows you to fit through a verticle slot on one level easily (although you can fit through it normally anyway if you go straight through the center).

A two-button joystick doesn't cut it, and it's distracting to keep one finger near the keyboard to perform in-race functions. An obvious criticism of this is "Why don't you use a joystick with more than two buttons?" To that, I answer "Why do I need a joystick with more than two buttons?"

An 'obvious' solution is to use a gamepad or keyboard. But any true racing fan knows that keyboards and gamepads are 'total-on, total-off' devices that make subtle steering adjustments impossible--you're either turning as hard as you can, or you're not turning at all. Another solution, then, is to use a multi-button digital joystick. This reviewer had marginal success using Microsoft's popular force-feedback joystick, except that it didn't feel natural at all, since it's a flight throttle.

I would imagine that a multi-button steering wheel or yoke would be best.

The Bottom Line
If you're looking for a mind-numbing sense of speed, look no further. But be sure you have the right input device for the job!

Windows · by Trixter (8954) · 2023

Best Racing Game Ever!

The Good
25 levels, 23 podracers to choose from, start with 6 and get another one after almost every level you beat. From Sebulba to Anakin, Bullseye Navoir to Slide Paramita, win them all as you race through all the levels, on all the different worlds, until you get to the ultimate challenge - the Boonta Eve Classic. With great graphics even by todays standards and great sound, this game will test your skill, patience and to beat it you must be the best, the elite, and each time you beat a level or improve a time you feel great satisfaction that is indescribable. You won't want to miss this action-packed once in a life time thriller!

The Bad
It gets frustrating at time but if it was easy it wouldn't be fun, right?

The Bottom Line
This game is a must-have.

Nintendo 64 · by darthsith19 (62) · 2006

Fast

The Good
(mini review) PLOT: Race on several planets and become the master Pod-Racer...or something like that.

MENU: Rather granulated and misplaced buttons that try to reflect an alien style but does not quite get the leg over.

GRAPHICS: Good (for 1999). Lighting is well done and the levels are interesting enough to look at. The pod racers are well detailed, though the drivers are a bit lacking and the purple binder rays overlap sprites, such as signs.

SOUND: It's there but lacking. Music is pretty out of the game so the pilot is suffering from engine whinies and humms. All of the opposing racers have their own voices but the bangs and scrapes when you hit somthing are dull.

GAMEPLAY: Fast, almost uncontrolable fast. Often you will find yourself lagging behind the racers after one slip up, with the tracks being hard to navigate and offer some pathways that slow you down. The tracks themselves have lots of spills to offer with ramps, flying and landing craft as well as rock slides there is never a dull moment. One of the great things though is buying upgrades for your racer. This has often been missed out on in other games but in SW:PR it is well done with each element of the racer avalible for upgrade with many different parts, you earn money from each race and you can spend it on upgrades. The AI is pretty marginal, they don't do much like in the movie, you don't get jostled around or bumped, just yelled at. Also there are lots of Racers to choose from.

The Bad
The graphics and sound were lacking, the A.I was boring and Sebula's flame weapon was of no use to the AI players who are invincible.

The Bottom Line
A good game for a rainy day or a LAN party.

Windows · by Sam Hardy (80) · 2001

Great sci-fi, high speed racer

The Good
I think that this game is a good reproduction of the podracing sequence in "Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace". Each of it's tracks are detailed fairly well, and it's characters look pretty good. My fingers fell right into place with it's controls, but finding out what they were took some time in the manual. The scenery was great, and the moving objects off the track Definatly a good addition to the Star Wars universe.

The Bad
The computer opponents were terribly detailed. Some had black squares in the front of there podracer. Their movements were jerky, and their speed wasn't constant. The screenshot option was not as good as I had expected. Some of them came out blank, others made the podracers disappear, but left their shadows. I think that some other sort of multiplayer option would have been in order. Something like the Nintendo 64 version (split-screen) would have been nice, but that would have required another input device. The sound was strange, because the sounds of the engines in each podracer each sounded the same. Even then, the engine noises would get quiet, then loud, then quiet, then loud. I didn't here any of the fans cheering unless I stopped.

The Bottom Line
This game is a good addition to any racing gamers collection. If you like Star Wars, you should this game on any platform. I would recommend it to just about anyone.

Windows · by Mullet of Death (592) · 2005

Great high-speed racing excitment!

The Good
I'm not really a fan of racing games, but this one I must say I rather like. :) It has many downfalls, but you just can't beat the thrill of racing at 700kph across the 21 different tracks offered by this game. The pod racing scene in the Phantom Menace was one of my favorite parts of that movie, and this game does a decent job of recreating the excitment. You can use all the pod racers from the movie (and more, I think), and buy parts to upgrade them. I ran this on a Pentium 233 with a Voodoo3 2000, and it ran at great frame rates.

The Bad
A few things: The graphics really aren't that good. This is most likely because the game developers didn't expect you to slow down and examine the scenery closely. Another thing was upgrading your pod racer... At the end of each race you get an amount of money corresponding to what you placed, and how much you bet. You use this money to buy parts to upgrade your racer. But, annoyingly enough, it seems these parts will disappear after your racer gets destroyed enough times (I think... it's hard to tell why or when it happens). This means that you have to spend even more money just to get back the parts you lost.

The Bottom Line
Episode One Racer isn't a revolutionary racing game or anything, but if you have time to kill, it's a heck of a lot of fun! :)

Windows · by Null McNull (25) · 2000

Great game when mixed with a force feedback and a subwolfer.

The Good
When I cranked the sound and hooked up the force-feedback this game ROCKED!!!!!!!!!! Lots of cool gaming here.

The Bad
Well this really isnt a PC game in my book. It is written like a station game. I knew that going in otherwise I would have burned, stomped, shot and generally loathed it. This really only has the good parts of a playstation game. Lots more could have been done to make it better. (aka storyline, more thought less button or lever pushing-pulling)

The Bottom Line
If you have to above mentioned hardware then this title will provide an occasional cool 10 minutes. But not much more.

Windows · by William Shawn McDonie (1131) · 2001

High Speed and Action Packed

The Good
Going +700MPH really gets your blood pumping...Its really fun to see the scenery just rush by you in a blur...does a great job in conveying the speed and excitment in pod racing...

Multiplayer is quite fun...Going head to head against a buddy while travelling at such high speeds is a real thrill

Accurate to the movie, as many of the famous pods are present ie Sebulba, Anakin...Also the tracks are varied, and takes place on many of the familiar star wars worlds...

It runs great even on slower systems...A P300, 16X CD and a nvidia 128x is all it takes to get the game to run as smooth as silk

The Bad
The graphics aren't so hot...but that's okay considering you'll be traveling way too fast to see it anyways...

The contorls seem counterintuitive...and it takes a while to get used to the controls

The Bottom Line
A great racer to attract fans of all genres...I'm not much of a reacing fan, but the action in this game really sucked me in. Hardcore racing fans might cringe at the lack or realism, but I think its a great game even for non-racing or non-Star Wars fans...

Windows · by MadCat (53) · 2000

Remember when Pod Racing was cool? I still think it is...

The Good
I have a confession to make. I have a tiny, just sitting there in the corner appreciation for Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. It isn't the best Star Wars movie, that's a given, but you can't say no to the cool stylings of Liam (fellow Irishman) Neeson, the horned devil Darth Maul and, of course, pod racing.

Many fans argue that the racing sequence half way through the film should have been its own movie, being as long as it is (the extended footage adds even more), and I do tend to agree with that statement, the pacing of the movie changes completely once that race gets under way. What you can't argue, however, is that Episode 1: Racer will forever stand as the one true game that defined that generation of Star Wars gamers. There were others, platform and puzzle among them, but Racer was the only one you could clearly say was beyond 'average.' Way beyond average, actually.

What sticks out the most in terms of its gameplay is how well it evolves the movie's concept, adding a good assortment of tracks with massive loops, long straights and tight turns mixed in with a story not unlike F-Zero in that sense. Unusual characters within a sense of history of a racing circuit that everyone wants to put a bet on. It's no work of art, but it makes sense.

Even compared to the standards set by today's racing games, the visuals hold up remarkably well. You could argue that LucasArts didn't go over the top graphics wise, but there's a decent amount of detail amongst each track and racer. What works better, however, is the sound. Much like the movie itself, the first two laps of each race builds on the momentum and soundscape of the race itself, crashing pods, screaming engines and the like, until the last lap when the musical score kicks in to ramp up the tempo and remind you you're close to home.

The Bad
Unfortunately when I wrote this review, MobyGames was still in its infancy, yet to include the console platforms in its database. If it had been there at the time, I would have reviewed this on the N64, a console with a respectable thumb stick and trigger system that is built for this kind of game. In this case, being a PC title, you've got two choices to make. You can stick with the keyboard (which I did) or use another form of input such as a 3rd party control pad.

For my method, the keyboard is hit and miss. You probably shouldn't play a racing game with a keyboard anyway, you have no real sense of direction with the four way arrow keys compared to a 360 degree stick. I did, being me, and found it .. well, not too bad I guess. Timing is everything in this game, especially at the speed you play at, and for the most part it worked well enough. But there are maps in this game that require an even higher level of accuracy with turning, braking and acceleration out of corners, and the keyboard just can't handle that.

The truth is, the PC platform isn't the best for racing, and the N64 edition of the title had a better overall appearance and the advantage of a quality control pad compared to this PC edition. To be fair though, with the right setup you can certainly improve that side of the game. Just trust me, control pad all the way on this one.

The Bottom Line
So let's backtrack a little. Episode 1 was an average movie with one key, dominant scene. The fact that the only good game to come from that movie stems from that very scene just goes to show you how effective that sequence was. The advantage, however, that Episode 1: Racer had at the time was a lack of competition. The hasn't been that many sci-fi styled racers in the past, and only a minor number of them have been effective enough to make a name for themselves (the previously mentioned F-Zero and the other key franchise, Wipeout).

It's a shame, then, that Racer didn't become a bigger franchise. There was only one sequel, the PS2's Star Wars: Racer Revenge and something about a grown-up soon to be Jedi Anakin Skywalker taking on Sebulba once more. They missed the boat though, I feel, with what could have been a far more entertaining and enjoyable series, especially on the bigger and brighter consoles with online multiplayer. Perhaps in the not too distant future, LucasArts may revisit the franchise once more, but I won't hold my breath for it.

So for the moment at least, Episode 1 will be fondly remembered for this reviewer by delivering a fast paced and entertaining racing title that served up plenty of enjoyable moments and fun characters ... even with keyboard in tow.

Windows · by Kartanym (12417) · 2011

A great racer whether you like Star Wars or not.

The Good
I like the action packed pod racing and the fact that there are many levels. The sound is amazing. This is probably the best racing game ever. And believe me, I don't even like racing games.

The Bad
I didn't like the explosions compared to the movie. They gave me all these high expectations and then let me down. Don't get me wrong, they aren't bad. They just aren't as good as they should be.

The Bottom Line
Star Wars: Episode 1 Racer is the best racing game ever. With excellent graphics and sound, this is the game for you. It includes tons of levels and characters in which you can choose. Change your difficulty is it's too easy for you. Play with a friend or by yourself in this action packer racer.

Nintendo 64 · by Dark Lord (31) · 2005

Contributors to this Entry

Critic reviews added by Alsy, Big John WV, Johnny Szary, Patrick Bregger, jean-louis, Jeanne, Parf, mikewwm8, Tim Janssen, Scaryfun, Cantillon, coenak, Plok, lights out party, Virgil, ti00rki, Wizo, vedder, POMAH, Kabushi, Riemann80, CalaisianMindthief, Victor Vance, Cavalary.