Superbike World Championship offers realism

by Alan Zisman (c) 1999. First published by Vancouver Computes, May 1999

EA Sports Superbike World Championship
Windows 95 Pentium 166, 16 megs, 144 drive space
About $60

Despite bearing the EA Sports label, Superbike World Championship is actually one of the rare British games to have hit these shores, being designed by Intense Entertainment Interactive. It?s not EA?s only bike-racing game?Electronic Arts (without the hyphen-Sports) offers Moto Racer 2, but while that product lets users build their own 3D tracks (shades of the old DOS-classic Stunt Driver), Superbike World Championship keeps both wheels firmly planted in the real world?at least the real world of SBK motorbike championship motorcycle racing.

The game succeeds by offering new levels of realism, from the bikes themselves (you can adjust tires, gears, and suspension) to the race courses on the Superbike circuit (the game holds the official SBK license). EA claims that even the trees alongside the tracks have been realistically modelled. Five models of racing bikes are included: Ducati 916, Honda RC45, Kawasaki ZX7R, Yamaha YZF, and Suzuki GSXR, along with real championship riders and teams.

And where would bike racing be without crashes? The programmers devoted a lot of time to lovingly recreate the physics of crashing bikes?bikes and riders each go their own way, and the TV-style replay lets you get all the details. Of course, realism may prove to be more than you bargained for?15-year old game tester Joey found he had all he could handle trying to get his bike around curves at anything resembling respectable speeds?all too often, he was the rider wiping out on the instant replay.

Players can race a whole season, travelling to 12 international courses, or just dive right in for a quick race whenever the feeling strikes. Either way, the computer-generated competition is tough?be prepared to get run off the road by the other racers!

The game supports 3D accelerator cards and force feedback game controllers. We tested it using Microsoft?s Sidewinder Force Feedback steering wheel, and it rumbled and shook as advertised, adding a new dimension of realism to the gameplay. Up to eight players can connect to race over local area network, modem, or serial port connection, but there?s no provision for Internet connection.

A playable demo is available as a 26 meg download from the company?s website. Joey rated the game a solid eight out of a possible ten, praising its realistic look, feel, and sound.

If only it had a ?training wheels? mode, where new riders could stay upright a little longer!

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan