“ A driving game developed by UDS and published by Crave. There are single-race championship and time-trial modes. The championship mode serves as the game's main attraction. Offering three tiers of racing - 500cc, 600cc and 700cc - the championship mode „
"Sno-Cross Championship Racing" is a racing video game. It was first released for the Sega Dreamcast in 2001 by Crave Entertainment. In the United States, the game received a guidance rating of "E" which deemed it suitable for all ages.
Offroad racing, especially in a snowy or arctic environment, is a real jewel in the rough when it surfaces on a home games console. There are very few examples which spring to mind when reflecting on the genre, and Sno-Cross comes across as something which was barely able to skip on the slushy waters.
The gameplay of this title is standard to what one may expect from a racing video game. The featured modes include championship, single race exhibition, time trial, and a two player mode for split screen action with another physical player at the same system. The bulk of the game is concentrated in its championship mode where players race through a series of 10 races across three progressive levels of difficulty represented by engine speeds; 500cc, 600cc, and 700cc. Successful completion of this mode will unlock the title's 12 different "Yamaha" licensed snowmobiles which players may then use in single exhibition races. The video game also boasts an in-game track editor, but I find it to be rather limited in its design as computer controlled opponents are not able to race on the player's creations. Players may only use their edited tracks with a friend in the two player mode or on their own in a solo time trial race.
While it could be credited to an excellent physics engine driving the video game, I find the controls to be very sensitive to the point of extreme difficulty. The snowmobiles are very responsive to the terrain below and, as the courses are often icy and slippery, players will teeter and slide in all directions while trying to guide their vehicle. Because of this there is a very steep learning curve when first starting out in the video game. I often found myself sliding into barricades and other environmental features of the course when attempting to make a turn as I'm used to a stiffer style of play. My typical "full force" pulls of the analog joystick usually send my vehicle spinning madly out of control, and I remember it taking me a long while to come to terms with this aspect of play. This sensitivity seems to have crossed over into the computer opponents as well. In a seeming lack of testing, I found most opponents simply crashed into a barricade at the first turn or were reduced into a permanent spin after sliding across a patch of ice. That's not to say each level of play sports this hindrance, but a lot of the gameplay experience does come across as a bit too easy due to the poorly programmed computer opponents.
The graphics are presented from a trailing view of the player's vehicle. For the most part the game remains consistently smooth and visually responsive to sudden turns; only showing obvious slowdown when several competitors are in the same frame. What is painstakingly apparent, though, is its high level of "blockiness" and pixelation in the environmental features. The snow on the ground resembles a coarse white sand which is accented only by the repetitive images of trees standing proudly in all of their flattened two dimensional glory. Despite the visual shortfalls, Sno-Cross features an excellent soundtrack. Exhilarating and lively musical scores follow the expected engine noise of the snowmobile, and make for a complimentary listen in a race setting.
It would be difficult to suggest this video game as worthy of purchase. The combination of several technically flawed instances in gameplay and below par visuals isn't the best showcase for the capabilities of the Sega Dreamcast. It's possible that those seeking a modern snowmobile racing game could forgive these aspects but a casual gaming audience should avoid this title.
Every once in a while a game comes along that provokes a real reaction. Goldeneye, Zelda, Half Life...... games that fill you with wonder and make you feel like you’ve never felt before. Good games that is, the games that make you stay awake until three in the morning. The games that make you have ‘just one last go’. On the other hand, every once in a while, a game comes along that is so utterly rubbish and mind numbingly bad that you want to go to the nearest cliff and throw it off the edge. You know the culprits, you’ve possibly even bought them. My favourite bad ones are Ford Racing on the PC, Mission Impossible on the N64 and finally this gem of ultimate badness – Sno Cross Championship. Sno – they couldn’t even be bothered to spell it properly, you could call the word ‘Sno’ unfinished. Well don’t worry, the word Sno isn’t the only thing that’s unfinished about this game – it’s time for a rant my friends!! You could be forgiven for picking up this game in your local shop and thinking, “snow mobile racing, that could be a good laugh”. In real life? Absolutely – it’s a scream in fact. As a game? Yes, why not, it’s certainly different to the average racing game at least. So, on paper at least, we have a pretty good idea for a racing title. Sadly, that’s where the good news ends. It’s a good idea that appears to have been made into reality by the game-programming equivalent of a school leaver. That’s certainly very blunt but I don’t make a habit of criticising anything unless it really is deserved. The races are quite straightforward like any other racing game. You can race against the computer or against a friend in an ‘exciting’ head to head race. First to the finish line wins and all that Jazz. I’m really sorry if that sounds a little u
ninspiring, but believe me, it’s VERY difficult to make this game sound any more exciting because it is without a doubt the worst racing title ever created – and if you’ve played Ford Racing you will understand that there is probably no greater insult!! ‘What on earth is wrong with it?’ I hear you ask. It’s at this point I realise that I just don’t know where to start, there really is SO much wrong with it. Audio: Ranging from bland to completely rubbish the effects rarely provoke any reaction other than wanting to turn the sound down or even off. The engine noise is realistic enough to put up with but other than that it’s all rather dull – just about every collision sounds the same. Visuals: Here’s the really good/bad bit (depending on how you look at it). On paper the Dreamcast is the second most powerful console on the market (that’s today of course). The team (and I use the term ‘team’ very loosely, gathering of individuals is probably more appropriate) behind this game appear to have written a game for the PSone, not the Dreamcast. Yes, that’s my way of saying that graphically I have seen better Playstation games. Which, taking the power of the Dreamcast into account, is absolutely shocking and more to the point – lazy. The in-game menus aren’t too bad although slightly annoying in their presentation as the design isn’t exactly the most polished I’ve seen. The in-game graphics though are in a league of their own – they’re quite simply appalling. Now I’ll be the first to agree that it’s about playability not graphics, but on a machine that boasts titles like Metropolis Street Racer and Virtua Tennis there is no reason why a game should have visuals that are as bad as this. I would be willing to say that this could be mistaken for a PSone title if you took a q
uick glance, that just isn’t acceptable – even if you’re a ‘Sno’ Bike fan. The Snow bikes are detailed enough and the rider moves as you go over bumps and have crashes (and you WILL crash). Some of the tracks are fairly adventurous, settings range from wide-open fast stretches to courses partly set in winter resorts with sharp turns and tunnels. So I’m sure you’re wondering what my big gripe is then. FOG. There’s so much of the stuff that you’d be forgiven for thinking that these races are set halfway up mount Everest. I wish that were an exaggeration, but believe me – the fog is absolutely unbelievable. This wouldn’t be so bad if the scenery was extremely complex or there were twenty players on screen at once but that just isn’t the case! Fogging isn’t exactly a new concept. When the draw distance of a game has to be reduced (to keep the frame rate up), fog is often used to disguise this fact. Unfortunately there is a fine balance between hiding the pop up and keeping the game playable and that hasn’t gone too well here. Just to add insult to injury there is still a detectable level of pop up!!!! As the fog disappears (about fifty ‘virtual’ metres in front of you), the pop up becomes slightly visible so to be honest the end result is just incredibly annoying. This is not so much of a problem in the town based courses, but as soon as you get onto the open stretches you will find trees and bridges appearing out of nowhere – it almost makes the game unplayable. Playability: Thanks to the graphics this game just isn’t much fun. The idea is a good one and this could potentially have been a great game but after persevering for just a few hours I found that I just couldn’t be bothered to play it any more – which is not good of course. There aren’t many courses to choose from al
though there are several different Snow Bikes with varying power levels – if you can be bothered to try and get the higher rated ones that is. All of the usual racing game elements are here with one off races, head to head races and off course the championship mode. It isn’t all doom and gloom, there is one good! The track editor. Being rather pessimistic about the game I would have to say that it’s just as well they included a track editor as you don’t get many courses supplied with the game. Thankfully the track editor is very simple to use and if I’m honest it’s probably the best part of the entire game!! Very sad but probably true. It works via a simple map, you select a square and then choose the piece of track you want to insert. Tunnels, bridges, jumps are all available and you’ll find that you can quite easily make a decent course – more than likely it’ll be better than the ones included. Oh I am being harsh aren’t I? Well, you’re going to have to trust me – stay clear of this game. Don’t even be tempted when you find it for £19.99 or less, you will be kicking yourself if you part with your hard-earned cash for this title. If you absolutely must see it for yourself then rent it – perhaps you’ll disagree with me and find it fun and playable but I seriously doubt it.