Ah, Dreamcast racing games. Forgive me if I'm wrong (and I usually am), but to my untrained eye it would seem that the Dreamcast has more racing games than any other type. From the truly awesome (MSR, Daytona 2001), to the middling but still fun (Re-volt, Speed Devils), to the fucking abhorrent (E.O.S., Roadsters). There is, though, a common theme in the vast majority of the DC's racers - they almost all feature cars. Yep, boring old cars. With four wheels. Again, there are exceptions to this rule (snowmobiles, jet skis and motorbikes are hiding somewhere), but for me the most under-represented mode of transport has got to be the futuristic floaty car. Sure, there's Episode One: Racer and Looney Tunes Space Race, but where's the Dreamcast's Wipeout clone?! You know, with cool looking pointy ships, mental twisty racing circuits and amazing explosions? Well, I thought I'd found it. Only it's not the awesome thrill-ride I was hoping for. It's merely 'meh.'
Thinking about it, the PSX had the aforementioned Wipeout, the N64 had F-Zero X and Extreme G, even the Saturn had the alright-in-a-mid-ninties-sort-of-way High Octane...and the DC has...Magforce Racing. Hmmm.
OK, so we've established through association that Magforce is a futuristic racing game. Twisty tracks? Check. High speeds? Check. Cool looking pointy ships? Erm...no, actually. For some reason, the developers eschewed the usual style of vehicle for some truly hideous designs. Rather than have wedge-shaped formula 12000 beasts, Magforce Racing gives you the chance to strap yourself into the cockpit of one of a number of crap-looking 'tripods.' Tripods! Why? They look pathetic! The story goes that these tripods have a wheel under each 'leg' that is magnetically charged and allows the vehicles to stick to the track when they inevitably travel along upside-down sections of the circuit...and that explains the need for you to drive over the glowing yellow strips dotted about in order to charge up your 'magnet power,' or something. If this power runs out, you can't drive on the ceiling anymore, and if you're on the ceiling when it runs out you fall to the ground below. If this had some kind of effect on your vehicle (like visible damage or the depletion of a shield bar, ala Wipeout) then it might have had more relevance...but alas no such luxuries exist in Magforce Racing. In actual fact, the whole 'magnets' thing does little more than provide a nice title for the game (Magforce...geddit?!).
Moscow. In the future. You can tell because of the Palace in the background.
And the generic industrial - orange sky.
Speaking of a lack of any kind of damage model for the game, the inclusion of a weapons upgrade system seems like little more than an afterthought by the developer (little known VCC Entertainment, just in case you were wondering. They also made Killer Loop for the PSX, which is in effect the semi-prequel to Magforce). This is evident in the way that even though you can collect and upgrade various weapons (lasers, mines, missiles etc), when you fire them at an opponent the result is little more than a loss in speed for the victim. Obviously, this can help you get past them but there's little incentive to use the weapons...because if you collect four in a row without firing them off, you get a 'turbo ram' that makes you invincible and blasts you along the track at ridiculous uncontrollable speeds. Want to win any race with ease? Just keep collecting four weapons and turbo ram everyone else out of the way like a massive futuristic knob in a dodgem. I used this tactic quite a bit once I'd discovered it and you'll need it to unlock the higher class vehicles and tracks because rather than employ a normal 'championship' option, all Magforce offers is a series of one-off races. You know the drill - finish each track in first place in a particular vehicle and you open up the next class and a few new circuits...but the shit thing is that you can only play them with the vehicle you unlocked them with. Again, looks like another lazy design choice on behalf of VCC. Why couldn't they have put in a proper league mode or something? All you get is that single race mode and a time attack.
As mentioned, the 'cars' look a bit gash.
So what you get with Magforce racing is a pretty run-of-the-mill futuristic racer with really crap vehicle designs and very few play modes. It does have one thing going for it though: the graphics are fecking brilliant! When I first started playing it, I was quite overwhelmed by how smooth everything was and how slick it looked. Sure, by today's DiRT 2 standards Magforce looks horribly dated, what with it's lack of real-time shadows and specular lighting...but back in 2000 this must've looked the dogs bollocks. The tracks (whilst slightly generic) twist and turn all over the shop and feature some rather impressive enormous architecture - in places it reminded me of Wipeout on the PS2, with it's cavernous mountainside entrances and underwater translucent tunnels. It's just a shame that the programmers didn't go the whole hog with some over-the-top lens flares and the like - because with a few more effects lavished over the top of the ace track detail and eye-watering pace, Magforce could've been possibly the best looking racer on the Dreamcast. As it is, it's still up there with the best of 'em - but you can't help but ponder what else could've been done with the game engine.
To surmise, Magforce Racing is a generic futuristic racer. It's got a techno soundtrack, minimalist front end, a dearth of play modes...but is damn nice to look at. Oh, and it only cost me £3 from Chips in Gloucester. I believe the phrase is "wOOt." Cough.