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Extreme Machines

Surpassing the limits of traditional auto racing, XCar is unlimited class racing.

Bound only by the laws of physics, your XCar prototype is the pinnacle of speed.

XCar challenges all racing enthusiasts, and delivers a state-of-the-art adrenaline rush!

Are you up to the challenge?
  • Race any of the 16 prototype XCars. The latest experimental racing vehicles.
  • Test drive your prototype and customize every aspect of your car's performance using cutting-edge racing technology.
  • Experience brilliant high res (SVGA) graphics at sustained frame rates. XCar is the most beautiful and fastest racing game on the market!
  • Includes a library of real racing circuits and concept tracks. You can race Lime Rock, the streets of Seattle or around Mayan temples!
  • Generate real telemetry data on the high speed oval, skid pad or handling track to customize your car for optimal performance.
  • The first true hard core racing simulation with an Action Mode for those who just want to experience the pure fun of racing FAST!
  • Includes Network and Modem support for multi-player racing.
~ from the back of the box

How much customisation is too much? That is my prevailing thought after I gave Bethesda Softworks 1997 racer, XCar: Experimental Racing, a good college try. On paper it looks quite fun; customise your own vehicle and race on a respectable number of real and fantasy tracks wrapped in a good-looking polygonal sheen. Many a gearhead will disagree vehemently with me, but with this game I think I've found it. XCar is too much.

The fiddly-ness of this title began before I even began playing the game. There are two versions that can be installed; the basic game using software to run the graphics, or the 3Dfx version which must have its own separate install folder. Then I found that - either through DOSBox incompatibility or Bethesda renowned bugginess - I couldn't for the life of me get the 3Dfx version working. The best I could get was the car select screen before it crashed, and in the end I came to the conclusion that the small bump in graphical fidelity wasn't worth the hassle. 

By my count, there are 13 base cars to choose from - all of them fictional (left).
If you can understand it, you can fully tune each of them to your liking (right).

So, XCar got me grumpy before I even got into the game, but once I did I was overwhelmed with choices. For its time, there is an unparalleled number or options to tweak and play around with, whether it be realism options (such as damage or steer assist), race playback that also records input in real time (like brake and throttle), or just about anything you can think to do with a car itself. The amount of machinery you can manipulate is mind-boggling - so much so that all of the data barely fits on one screen. Engines can be replaced, the fuel type altered, the tyres changed - and that's just the things this ignoramus thinks he understands. Talk to me about gear ratios and aerodynamics and you might just cure my insomnia more than inform me on such topics.

To its detriment for a noob like me, each stat plays a pivotal role in how the car handles. So much so that sticking to one of the 13 off-the-shelf cars is a sure-fire way to lose a race. And lose it abysmally. Despite boasting an "Action" mode for casual gamers, XCar is no arcade racer. No matter what I did, I found my car twitchy and barely controllable as there's no nuance to the turning circle. Could this be my car's setup? I'm willing to entertain that it could be, but that just highlights that this racing game just isn't for me.

Realism options. Here you can turn on various driving assists, choose gameplay types and more (left).
The VCR section allows you to fully edit and save a race, complete with car stats displayed in real time (right).

Visually, Bethesda was praised at the time for using its in-house XnGine graphics engine. This was the same engine that powered The Terminator: Future Shock and, according to the copyright screen at the beginning of the installation, references to that franchise features somewhere in the game's code. There are moments where it looks pretty decent for its time, with a steady frame rate detailed texture work, but at others it feels pretty sparse. There is a disappointing lack of variety or landmarks outside of the fantasy tracks, and while they can offer some twists and turns in their layout, there is next to no elevation. You won't find bumps nor hills on your way to the finish line. It may be just me, but I also found the fictional cars to be unappealing too. Except the one called SPAM. That one's a hell of a mean whip!

So, despite the pedigree behind it, XCar: Experimental Racing somewhat disappointed me. That's not to say that some may enjoy the intricacies of its design. It did earn some high review scores at the time , telling me that there is an audience for this game, but there were also some scathingly low ones. Given its relative obscurity nowadays, my assumption on its consensus is more like the latter than the former. And where you'll fall depends solely on your own interests. When it comes to racing games, mine falls firmly in the more arcade-friendly fare, and this ain't that.

To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses the DOSBox-X build of DOSBox to bring the game to modern systems. Manual included. Read the ChamberNotes.txt for more detailed information. Tested on Windows 10.

File Size: 367 Mb.  Install Size: 512 Mb.  Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ


XCar: Experimental Racing is © Bethesda Softworks
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me

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1 comment:

  1. Wow, that looks like the forza tuning screen, but having it mandatory is certainly a choice.