Checkered Flag


Review by Will Matson



Graphics: 8

Sound: 5

Gameplay: 8

Overall: 8

Checkered Flag was the first racing game for the Jaguar. It was originally titled Red Line Racing and also Checkered Flag II in early advertisements. This is an update of the Atari Lynx game of the same name, which I have never played by the way. Let's get down to business. Checkered Flag has never received good reviews. I can understand where some criticism comes from, but if you spend some time with this cart, you can have a lot of fun. This happens to be the first Jaguar game I ever owned.

The graphics do look pretty good for polygons, it looks like something that could have sat alongside in the arcade with Virtua Racing. You have the option to select from several views, ala Virtua Racing, by using the Jag's keypad. There are 10 tracks to choose from, many of which have impressive polygon graphics. There are options to choose an automatic or manual transmission. Now keep in mind, the graphics in this game are not as stellar as some of you are used to seeing on the Playstation machines or other 'next generation' consoles. They did look almost state of the art around the time this game came out (circa 1994/1995) though. Even today, they get the job done and have held up pretty well over the years.

You only get one car but you can select several colors for your vehicle. There are several options with which you can customize your racing experience. You can select the weather you drive in. You can choose to race in rain, fog, sunny weather and an easter egg lets you race in the dark (at the options screen, place the cursor on weather then hit 8, 4, 7, 3 on the keypad). You also have the option to choose how many cars you race against in the practice/exhibition modes (1-5).

There is a tournament mode in which you go through each of the courses racing the computer controlled cars. My only gripe is that there is no 2-player mode. The computer controlled cars, however, do present a pretty good challenge, even when you have mastered the courses. If you do well enough on a course, you may set a course record and get to enter your name (not just initials) in the Hall of Fame, which is saved even when you turn off, by the way.

There isn't much sound to speak of, but that's ok. Sometimes less is more and it is often better than having annoying background music. There is good use of voice at the start of each race ("Gentlemen, start your engines"), although the engine and brakes of the car are less realistic and sound like standard video game racing fare. However, the engine and brake sounds are adequate and not annoying.

Unlike most racing games, it is a lot easier to recover from a crash in Checkered Flag than most racing games. Your car goes right back on the road and it is easy to get back up to your previous speed without losing too much time or ground to the computer controlled cars. Some may say this is less realistic but it does allow you to remain competitive in any race, unlike most racing games where one crash eliminates you completely.

Now we come to the issue that caused many people to rip this game to shreds, the control problems. What control problems? The controls are tough to master but very fair. The game moves very fast, this dispels another myth of Checkered Flag, many said it moves very slow and choppy. Due to the fast gameplay, your reflexes have to be very sharp. In this game, unlike most racing games, you can't just go top speed around any and all corners (including the sharpest ones). You actually have to use the brakes going around turns, yeah the brakes are there for a reason (again, unlike most racing games). It takes some time to master the courses and figure out when and how much to use to use the brakes on each curve and course. I spent three hours straight playing this game for the purpose of this review. The controls are hard to master not because they "suck." This is because the gameplay is intense. It may turn some of you off as you can't blow through the courses right away and may crash several times while learning the courses and how to master the controls. This is the way a REAL racing game should be. I played Cruisin' USA for N64 and consistently scored first place finishes, even the first time I ever raced a course. That should not happen in a game, especially if you just paid 50 dollars for it.

The only reason I kept playing that game was because it had several vehicles to choose from and a 2-player mode. You get more long-term play out of this cart than most racers, that is if you got the mettle to stick around. CF is one of the few games in which you can actually still find fun and challenge in the one-player mode long after owning the cart. Again, please spend a couple hours playing this. I think you may very well find that this game is a lot better than other reviewers claim it to be. If those same reviewers spend a couple hours just trying to master the tracks and getting in some practice on them, they might change their mind, too.

The only thing I didn't like about this game was the lack of a 2-player mode. This game is for TRUE racing game experts, it's the most challenging racer I have ever played, even more so than Sega's Daytona. If you can handle this game, you can handle any racing game. I used to stink at Daytona on Saturn but mastering this game helped me blow through Daytona, a game which I have since discovered is nowhere near as challenging as Checkered Flag. To sound cliché, this is a cool racing game. I have had as much fun with it as I do Daytona and GT2. Like some people you first meet, Checkered Flag may give some bad first impressions, but once you get to know it, it grows on you.


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Last updated: Wednesday, May 30, 2007 10:56 PM