Michael Schumacher has been the dominant driver in the toughest category of racing in the world, Formula 1, for the past decade. His name gets mentioned alongside the gods of F1 including Ayrton Senna, Fangio, Jack Brabham and Alain Prost. The guy is a genius at managing not only his on track performances, but also the multi-mullion dollar empire behind the Schumacher name. So any PC game bearing his name must be an awesome title too. Right? Well, not quite, because even though Michael Schumacher Racing World Kart 2002 is easily the best karting game out there, is still doesn't compare to other quality rev-head titles like Grand Prix 4 and Colin Mc Rae Rally.
Karting around the world varies enormously depending on where you are. In the US the racing often involves four stroke karts and oval track racing, in Australia they race anything from low horsepower 2-strokes to the fastest Formula A karts and throughout Europe it's mainly high-horsepower, high revving Italian 2-strokes just like Michael Schumacher grew up with and still drives today. So that's the direction that Michael's karting game goes with.
You begin by driving those 6 horsepower fun karts you drive at hire centers around a mix of indoor and outdoor tracks, then progress to the faster piston port ICA class karts with 22 horsepower, through to the Formula Super A beasts that the top karters race at the World Championships. These karts have engines that will spin to over 20,000 RPM (compared to around 5,000 for the average road car) and produce around 32 horsepower.
You're made to start your virtual karting career driving the slow karts, which is ridiculous seeing that you could go and drive real fun karts for less than the cost of the game! But the actual kart handling, even with the crap box fun karts is actually pretty good. You get a reasonable impression of speed and the karts turn quickly and are twitchy to drive, just like a real kart. The brakes aren't that great though and don't stop you as quickly or as accurately as real karts do.
So once you've unlocked the faster karts and the action really gets going you'll enjoy some fun and fast paced action. But the AI drivers aren't sharp enough and you don't get enough of the centimeter close racing that karting usually delivers. We wanted to see karts rubbing each other as they pass and a really aggressive level of competition here. But the gameplay is more similar to full sized motor racing, where you slowly reel in the competition, then pass them and pull away. That's ok for Formula 1 but it takes the excitement out of this game.
The variety of tracks is good though and you'll visit everything from tight and slow indoor circuits like Kobe in Japan to the very fast and sweeping outdoor track at Grune Meile in Germany. Strangely the German track at Kerpen which is actually owned by the Schumacher family is missing from the game. That's a shame too, because the Kerpen track is also one of the venues where the real Formula Super A World Championship takes place. But the other tracks will keep you entertained regardless.
Visually this is the best karting simulation yet seen. Although it doesn't look as good or flow as smoothly as the more mainstream F1 or rally games, the tracks are well drawn and the karts look real. The kart drivers don't look so good though and have a really awkward stiff look about them and resemble crash test dummies more than kart pilots.
More Info............: http://www.spieletipps.de/g_008699/michael-schumacher-racing.html
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Burn Tested..........: Yes
Published by.........: JoWooD Productions Software AG
Developed by.........: JoWooD Productions Software AG