Earlier this year saw the release of V8 Supercars 2 for the Xbox with great results for gamers and Codemasters. The V8 series is the pinnacle of motorsport in Australia, and it is a great credit to Codemasters that they include the series in their ongoing race driver franchise. Now hitting the PS2, the game continues to be one of the best racing titles around, but after six months of waiting, it is beginning to show its age especially with Gran Turismo 4 not far off.
The main premise of the game is the story on which it is built. Ryan McKane is no longer part of the franchise and instead puts in a first person situation during the story sequences. When people are talking to you, they talk directly towards the screen, and this is also enhanced by the camera being positioned exactly where your face would be in relation to that character. The game features many characters along the way but it ends up being a fairly cliche 'young rookie becomes world champion' storyline.
The variety of racing has been increased and not only will you find the official V8 series from Australia but DTM from Germany. They are the only licensed series but you will also race in fictional formula ford, formula 1, production cars and even a rally car throughout your career. The rallying is still disappointing like on the Xbox and even more so now that we have seen just how superb Colin McRae 2005 is on the PS2. Expecting something along those lines would be unrealistic, but what is there is a big disappointment.
One improvement, however, is the damage model. The damage is now inflicted based on where the car is hit and how fast it is traveling. No longer do wheels and doors fly off for no apparent reason in a small crash. There is now a damage indicator as well to help you decide whether to pit or not in four categories; gears, steering, engine, wheels. These icons change colour depending on the level of damage and you can now also run out of petrol during long haul races (161 laps of Bathurst for instance). The damage models are not changed depending on the make of car and it is possible to smash up even the most expensive such as the Aston Martin featured. You are no longer able to select which team you wish to drive within the single player game however.
In terms of the V8 Series there has been many additions with the most noteworthy the inclusion of the Holden Racing Team for the first time. As well as this some circuits make their virtual debut; Pukekohe in New Zealand and Surfers Paradise have been added and the two latest car models the VY Commodore and BA Falcon are on offer. There isn't a significant performance difference between the two makes, but more surprisingly there is not much of a difference between the older and new models. Outside of the V8 series, Codemasters has exclusively added Kyalami from South Africa to the circuit line up making the new total of forty six.
Another new option which Codemasters has added exclusively for the PS2 is the pro-simulation. This is a mode for those with wheels or a great deal of patience. It increases the realism significantly for the game in terms of physics and handling of the cars. The V8 Supercars feel much heavier and harder to control and to go with this, the new Logitech wheel for Gran Turismo 4 has been included.
In our Xbox review we mentioned a few problems which hampered the game, some of these have returned for the PS2. The AI drivers have improved and race much better and more competitively it would appear than on the Xbox. The game in terms of structure still has issues with artificially increasing the difficulty level and also no qualifying for single player races. Considering you usually have to beat a certain character or come first to progress in the game this really can be frustrating considering it almost seems like luck where you're placed. Not many people will finish the game because it becomes incredibly tough towards the end and this flows on to a problem with the online setup.
Online play is featured for the first time on the PS2 console and the servers are not hosted locally in Australia. For this reason you can expect more lag then you may have encountered on the Xbox and it pulls the multiplayer down somewhat. To help with this problem collisions and damage can be turned off You can not host a game with championships you have not unlocked in single player which is frustrating due to how hard the story is to complete.
One of the most impressive aspects of the game by far is the visuals. In fact they are so good it makes you wonder just how much of the Xbox was utilized. They are very much on par with the Xbox and the best thing about it is the game maintains a fluid sixty frames per second throughout even when a large crash occurs. Some may be disappointed that the 2004 liveries are not included and that the new Bathurst updates are not included but this really is a straight port from the Xbox with only a new physics engine and track included.
V8 Supercars 2 on the PS2 is more impressive than the Xbox title if only for the superb visuals the game gives off. Considering the fast aging technology of the PS2 this is quite an achievement and Codemasters can give themselves a pat on the back for creating a quality port that in many ways out does the original.