Magic Racing GP 2

A new Top-Down racing game is here! 4 classes: Open Wheel, Kart (85cc, 150cc, 250cc) Race over 34 circuits with different game modes: - Pratice - Quick Race - Complete Weekend Race - Season Race against to 19 CPU drivers or jump into the XBOX Live! experience. The internal editor for full personalization of drivers and teams! Join the community and get more info at: http://www.magicstudio.eu

It finally clicked for me at Bahrain. Despite all the signs that Magic Racing GP 2 is not an arcade racer, I had been playing lead fingered since that what I kept wanting and expecting from the look of the game -- bouncing into walls, cutting through sand, and generally going nowhere fast. It was frustrating playing on Easy and continually bringing up the rear, but dropping the game's race speed setting down to 70% to slow things down and taking my time being careful hitting the turns did the trick. Magic Racing GP 2's Bahrain, modeled after the track's Grand Prix Circuit, isn't particularly difficult, but it has a few sharp turns that just cannot be cut and boosted through. Even on a mid-level difficulty track such as it, hitting the pylons and sand bunkers will slow the vehicle significantly, and it was only when I placed importance on avoiding these obstacles -- as one would in a "real" Formula 1 racing game -- that I suddenly found myself blowing through my competitors and taking 1st place.

Make no mistake -- Magic Racing GP 2 may have all the looks of a Little Racers, Super Sprint, or a Micro Machines, but it has more in common with Forza Motorsport and similar racing simulators. There are no turbo boosters or power-ups to be found as Cristiano Ruisi has released one very deep racing game, offering a wealth of options with which players can tinker, including the rain percentage KERS toggling, tire style, gear ratios, and more. Players can tweak collision and fuel consumption to make for a more friendly, arcade-like racer or go all out crafting a full season, selecting any of the game's 34 tracks against up to 19 CPU opponents. It can all be overwhelming, because while the options aren't quite to the level of Forza, there are quite a bit of menus to go through and choices to be made for, again, what will likely be viewed as a simple arcade racer. Magic Racing GP 2 is an excellent game but also one which will likely dispoint those looking for an F-1 Ivan 'Ironman' Stewart's Super Off Road as the game is too complex, too "serious," and doesn't allow for local multi-player.

The lack of local multi-player is likely the game's chief flaw in attracting an audience, which is odd given how robust its on-line and system link options are. On-line races allow for up to 16 players, but at home is going to be a single player affair without going through the effort to set up a link session. It's weird considering how eight of the game's available tracks are miniture kart courses whose layout is small enough to fit on a single screen and accomodate four local players. Granted, these kart races appear to be more of a bonus to the main game with its huge, sprawling tracks being the focus, but I can't help think many people will go in thinking otherwise. I've not had the opportunity to race on-line to check how well the netcode is implemented, and it remains to be seen if Magic Racing GP 2 can build a decent following to get people playing over Xbox Live. Despite some (potentially) impressive on-line options and snubbing local multi-player desire, rest assured that there is more than enough here to satisfy a racing fan thanks to the game's plentiful tracks and exhaustive season options.

Visually, the game is startling authentic. Nürburgring (listed as Germany 2), Silverstone (Britain), Fuji Speedway (Japan 2), Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari (Italy 2), and a host of other famous F-1 circuits are realistically represented and drive home the simulation focus. The tracks are large, extending far off the display and scrolling around to keep up, Magic Studio leaving no stone left unturned when it comes to scale and detail. The high definition artwork is great, but it can't help but look flat and lifeless. Minor track details such as sparks from colliding cars, dust from driving on sand, and the waving of flags and popping flash bulbs help breath some life into the game, but it's too little, often pushed far off track to where it'd be noticed. Sometimes the detail can be too much, too, as the developer has chosen not to make overhead graphics translucent when driving underneath, leading to items such as Circuito de Jerez (Spain 2)'s large observation saucer completely obscuring the player's view. This can happen during time trials as the HUD can overlap turns high on the screen, and it's bizarre that such an impedance on the player's view of the field would be left in the game, especially given how tough it can be to distinguish the tiny lookalike F-1 cars on the track. That first turn is brutal, more so with 20 cars on the track, and it's easy to get lost in the shuffle. Having to guess what's happening in a pack traveling under the extended crowd section at Marina Bay can be annoying to infuriating, depending upon what results when the car exits and how far into the race one is if and when something terrible happens while blinded.

While not as troublesome as the above, there are other gaffs which stick out from extended play. Why are shadows drawn into the map, never impacting the lighting of the vehicles as they dart through them? The small kart tracks are enveloped in a black void and would look far better fixed to the screen as with the open wheel circuits to have the courses feel tangible and not like some painted block in a vacuum. Given the difficulty of the game, I can't help but be annoyed on the victory stand as my 1st place avatar's head is obscured by the banner listing the top three winning names. Despite the incredible level of detail present in the game, the presentation and menus leave a bit to be desired, looking far too crude and incomplete against the quality found within. Even seemingly trivial gaffs -- why do the menu options' description begin with a question mark? -- make the GUI feel awkward. Little of this diminishes the excellence throughout the game, but when so much time is spent providing such a stellar product, surely Ruisi could have taken the time to iron out these trivial yet existing bugs, such as the way Saint Vincent and the Grenadines bleeds into the Nationality label on the player edit screen.

Thankfully, these should all be minor fixes, and perhaps if enough fans support the game then Magic Studio would have reason to release a patch in the future. Even with the few issues which keep the game's menus from looking as slick as its gameplay, Magic Racing GP 2 is a wonderful racer and fills a niche that I frankly never noticed existed. Are there F-1 and racing sim fans clammering for a top-down racer let alone enough to justify Magic Studio's release? Will they be able to enjoy the game without letting the tinny engine sounds and weak crash graphics and implementation bother them much? The buried manual option and how awkward it feels given the design of the game? I worry that Magic Racing GP 2 might find itself "too sim" for the arcade crowd and vice versa, and I hope that doesn't impact it negatively, because it's such a well made game. It's not perfect, sure, but with plenty enough content to enjoy and justify its price, Magic Racing GP 2 is a welcomed companion to the likes of Forza and their ilk and those looking for an overhead racer with more emphasis on strategy than rubberband AI and nitro boosting to win.

★★★★☆
Jan 14, 2012
December 14, 2011 | 240 points
Developer | Video | Download

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