Wheeling and dealing

If this adults-only car racing game accurately depicts the goings-on in New York City in 1978, I am even happier that I moved to Israel in 1973.

racing 88 (photo credit: )
racing 88
(photo credit: )
If this adults-only car racing game accurately depicts the goings-on in New York City in 1978, I am even happier that I moved to Israel in 1973. Senseless mafia-style violence, drug addicts, bloody murders, foul language and immodest dress - plus the fact that it is a near-copy of Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto (GTA) racing games - make it undesirable for kids to get their hands on it. The game, the fourth in the Driver series, is short - blessedly, considering the content - but customers will be upset after paying NIS 149 for a game that can be completed in about 10 or 12 hours and has low-replay value. It can be played with a gamepad or (less effectively) the keyboard. The game is plagued by some bugs, and for some reason, I had to reinstall the disk when the program crashed after the first video clip ended. The opening screen declares that the story is "a work of fiction." You fill the shoes of TK ("The Kid"), an 18-year-old punk who came to the Big Apple from a small town to make good, that is, to do evil. Living in an apartment on top of a liquor store, he works as a "debt collector" for the Carlotti mafia family and thus gets to drive fancy cars very fast. TK quickly turns into a hard-driving ambitious criminal who is duped by his "friends" into taking the blame for a crime that earns him a 28-year prison sentence. He returns for a second round to New York of 2006, with its more modern settings and fancier cars, and aims to kill the people who did him in. It's the same city, but the highways and streets have been upgraded over a quarter-century, so you have to learn the ropes again. I specifically looked for the World Trade Center in the 2006 era, and was pleased that the developers had realistically eliminated it from the skyline (in keeping with what al-Qaida did in the murderous 2001 attack on the Twin Towers). To carry out his initial missions as a teenager and take revenge as a middle-aged man (there are 40 missions in total, plus a variety of side missions), you are able to drive up to 80 different vehicles. A big problems is New York's famous gridlock, which often keeps other cars driven by "innocents" going at a very slow pace and makes drag racing almost impossible. The missions are quite conventional, requiring you to shoot a specific enemy, steal a vehicle or serve as a courier for an illicit product. Beside driving, you also get to pound the pavement, which sometimes can get you to your target faster than sitting behind the wheel and shooting out the window. Maps are provided to help you find your way around town, and you can purchase a variety of deadly weapons, including the most effective Steyr August assault rifle. Surprisingly, there is no free-roaming mode but only one in which you carry out missions linearly. However, you can also access the multiplayer mode and compete against up to seven other players on the Internet. As in the GTA series, you are encouraged to violate every possible traffic law, speed through streets in the wrong direction, knock down pedestrians, avoid getting caught by the police and shoot at your enemies. Your car will get beaten up by collisions, unlike some other racing games that leave vehicles untouched. Sometimes the cars explode and are a total loss. But you have to pay the garage to repair the dents and bullet marks on your cars and upgrade the cars, as well as for new ammunition. The sounds of smashed car bodies and broken glass are realistic, and the graphics are good (maybe too good, as this may boost young people's urge to break the law and hurt others). When you drive on the wrong side of the road and get caught by the cops, they are - rather unrealistically - likely to shoot at you instead of stopping you and giving you a ticket. The "wanted" meters on the screen depicts the "heat" directed against your character separately from that against the vehicle you are driving. If the fury over your vehicle rises too high, you can dump it and steal another one; if the "heat" is directed at your character, the police will eventually find him even if you "adopt" another car, but you can go for repairs in a garage or a "safehouse" to bring down the "heat" and start again. This is no game for the fainthearted or those who object to the whole premise that murdering, running over pedestrians and breaking laws is innocuous entertainment.