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Micromachines 64 Preview

Publisher - Midway
Developer - Codemasters
Platform - N64
Release Date - November 23 1998
Type - Racing

Based on the popular toy car series, the enjoyable multiplayer racer takes gamers back to those blissful days of playing with toy cars in their grandparents' backyard -- only this time, the toy cars are armed with deadly hammers, missiles, and mechanical arms. Better even, sitting on your trusty couch and staring at a big-screen TV should deliver all the fun of the real thing, minus the ants in your pants and the presumably healthy dose of fresh air. Plus, you won't have to worry about Timmy ripping off your favorite ambulance, that bastard!

Ahem... Instead of going for the full 3D treatment like most racing games, Micro Machines is presented from an overhead view, just like the NES classic. However, the graphics are now fully polygonal, presenting all objects in a three-dimensional view.

The Tracks
Races take place in a variety of everyday life settings: A backyard with a sleeping dog, a lily pond with frogs, an elementary school desk, a pool table, a beach, a dinner table, and even on a chemist's lab. The vehicles you can select are as fun as the environments, ranging from tanks, over race cars and swamp boats down to the obligatory ice cream trucks.

Micro Machines features a wealth of modes:

*Driving School: Learn the basics of control.
*Head to Head: You versus a computer controlled opponent on a group of tracks.
*Challenge: Three lap races against four computer-controlled drones.
*Finish each race in the top two and you progress to the next group of tracks. Pick up power-ups to take out your opponents and win a "Prize Car."
*Time Trial Challenge: A race against the clock on a group of tracks.
*Time Trial Single Race: As the name implies, you race on one track only.

Multiplayer Modes
One of the strongest features of the Micro Machines series has always been the multiplayer versus races. Since the action is viewed from an overhead view, Codemasters opted against using a smaller split screen for each player -- everything is one screen. The play mechanics in Micro Machines are as follows: Each player who is left behind (ie exits the screen) drops out of the race. When only one racer is left,the action stops, the cars are lined up at the spot where the leading racer was, and the winner gets one point. The player with the most points wins.

Since the N64 has a built-in four controller slots, the choice of a four-player mode was a natural one -- but Codemasters is actually planning to take things a little further. By having two players share one controller (D-Pad for the first player, C-Buttons up-side down for the second, and so on), up to eight players can compete at the same time. It's the ultimate party game.

The modes:

*Multiplayer Single Race: Up to eight racers compete on one course. The last remaining driver gets a point.
*Tournament: Select a group of courses and take on your friends.
*Teams Mode: You can choose to gang up. Four players can be split into two teams, with each player controlling one vehicle for their team. Six players can form three teams, and so on.
*Party Play Mode: Players compete consecutively for the best time. There are severl sub-modes, including Time Trial, Knockout, Player Share, Keepsies, and more.
*Stats Mode: Find out how your character has performed during their gameplaying lifetime.
*Sub-modes include Test Drive, Player Records, Time Trial Stats, and more.

Not bad for a little overhead racer, huh?

Outlook
So far, the N64 version of Micro Machines looks excellent, with the same level of detail (hey, even the Weeties box has all the textures) and smooth framerates. However, the version of the game we played is still early and none of the multiplayer modes were implemented yet. If the finished titles turns out as well as the PSX counterpart, prepare yourself for a highly addictive and refreshingly original racer that will easily stand out from the grunt of 3D touring car competitions.

Micro Machines is being developed by a Scottish "N64" team at Codemasters and will be published by Midway. We will keep you updated on the progress of this one.