Sunday, 16 February 2020

Checkered Flag (Atari Jaguar review)

Developer: Rebellion Developments
Publisher: Atari Corporation
Released: 1994

Checkered Flag is a racing game that's exclusive to the Atari Jaguar.


It consists of three modes which are Single Race, Free Practice (time trial) and Tournament (race all ten tracks against five drones). Things get off to a great start with a comprehensive menu that allows you to select various options such as weather, tyre type, gears, CPU opponents and number of laps. There's also six camera angles to choose from which is impressive for the time. Unfortunately, that's where the positives end and the action is immediately hampered by a frame-rate that often dips into single-digit territory. Not only does this make it difficult to see upcoming turns with any level of precision, it also affects the controls as they'll frequently be ignored while the next frame is being loaded. A second later, the frame-rate will marginally improve and you'll then battle with severe over-steer while cornering, leading you straight into a wall. There's seemingly little rhyme or reason as to when this will happen, so you're completely at the mercy of the game's ability to render the action quickly enough. The only way to make the action slightly (and I do mean slightly) playable is to repeatedly tap the accelerator in order to avoid hitting top speed; this completely defeats the object of a high-octane racer, but it's almost impossible to approach it any other way. The ten tracks don't have any redeeming qualities either, as they're all incredibly simplistic and do nothing to match the charming aesthetics of Virtua Racing Deluxe (1994, Sega 32X). Finally, the pits do nothing (the manual literally states to avoid them!) and the drones have a weird tendency of stopping in the middle of the road for no apparent reason.

Checkered Flag is an unplayable mess that was clearly released in beta form with broken controls and an erratic frame-rate, making it impossible to race without wiping out every few seconds. To top it off, the tracks feel lifeless with no scenic personality and the AI has a poorly implemented, half-baked rubber banding system in place.



Random trivia: Rebellion Developments also worked on Alien vs Predator (1994, Atari Jaguar).

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