While the Xbox is powering away, receiving numerous racing titles it seems almost every day, the PS2 has really relied on its one dominant game, Gran Turismo, to keep racing fans happy. This isn't an issue because Gran Turismo is by far and away the best around at the moment but the long wait between games may see PS2 gamers looking elsewhere and if they don't have an Xbox not finding much. While Corvette isn't Gran Turismo, or shouldn't even be mentioned in the same elite status, it does offer a fairly pick up and play game that could keep fans happy until the next big GT game.
Corvette is your typical arcade racer, except for one small change. It gives the impression of an arcade racer but has a rather brutal physics engine. The two main modes of the game; arcade and career in theory should be completely different, but in practice they are not. Arcade mode tasks you with racing with a pack of cars trying to get the required place, usually top three, to progress. The thing is, that arcade mode really is a rebadged career mode without some of the smaller bells and whistles. The developers haven't changed the physics engine one iota for this mode and anyone looking for fast cars, with ridiculous handling is not going to find it here.
The other mode, career is where the true gameplay is found. You start off with the earliest corvette in the 50's era, and work your way through numerous tracks and challenges to progress further into the game. Sometimes you will have to place a certain position, other times beat cars in a one vs one duel. The career mode really isn't as fleshed out as it could have been, and boils down to progressing through race after race without much changes other then upgrading or unlocking new cars and tracks. Other modes are progressively unlocked such as the ability to racing along the famed Route 66.
There is a few areas Corvette could have been vastly improved. While it contains every Corvette ever made with authentic car models and even details right down to the speedometer used, it does not allow virtual mechanics to hone their skills like other games. Instead, as you progress through winning or placing in races, automatic upgrades occur to your car. In fact, you can't tune or change any of the technical aspect of the car at all. If this was an arcade racer then that wouldn't be a surprise, but given the developers are going for a more realistic simulation, it definitely is a flaw with the game and reduces its appeal to hardcore racing fans. Something that widens the appeal and can keep the game interesting is that in some races you will encounter police chases. They will chase you for a period of time but unless you crash or slow down, they won't offer to much of a challenge, however during these chases you have to also avoid traffic.
When you first fire up the game you get a distinct feeling of Outrun because of the open top car and perspective used by default. However once you do start moving, you realise that this in no way reflects Outrun and as mentioned before features a rather brutal physics engine. For the first few laps you will probably find yourself slamming on the brakes hard, trying to take corners and ultimately failing, forcing you to acclimatise yourself to the physics engine. While this will be a welcome inclusion to racing fans, the fact the cars just bounce off the walls will not. Although its impossible to bounce off the wall and use it to an advantage, it still doesn't fit in tune with the physics engine of the game and as with most licensed racing games these days, the cars do not incur any physical damage.
One thing that really bemused us with Corvette was the way tracks are unlocked. If you unlock a track in the career mode, it remains locked in the arcade mode. Obviously the two modes are meant to be individual and unique, but the way we see it is that arcade mode is basically an extension of the career mode because not many changes have been made. Having to progress through the same tracks again, rather then new ones can lead to fairly repetitive gameplay which negates replay value rather then enhance it. Once you finish the amateur championship, the professional championship is unlocked.
You race across a variety of tracks which have varying levels of visual prowess such as in an airport and a desert. Like many arcade racing games, there is activity going on in the background which looks great and does add some nice graphical effects to the game but overall there isn't much that really sticks out as impressive. They do the job but that's all they do. The sense of speed is decent but there is times of noticeable frame rate drop. In terms of sound, the music gives a selection of either Americana, international or a mixture of both and features rock style tracks which can easily be associated with the Corvette brand name as well as techno style tracks.
The main problem with the game is also one of its strengths. The fact that it has only Corvette cars will definitely turn people off the game, but also attract a niche market of those who can't get enough one of the most famous American muscle cars. If you're looking for a racer which sits in between arcade and simulation style racing then perhaps its a game for you, but a rent is definitely the best option before purchase.