Jarrett and Labonte is Off to the Races
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Jarrett and Labonte Stock Car Racing is a single or two-player racing game for the Playstation console. The goal in this game is to become lord and master of the World Stock Car Racing Championship. There are over 40 different cars to choose from, and a ton of options to give them the performance you need to be king of the road.
There are four modes of play in Jarrett and Labonte Racing. They are Quick Race, Time Trial, Free Race, and, Championship. All these modes seem self explanatory, but I'll go over them anyway.
The Quick Race mode is for those impatient types who don't want to deal with set up options. The game gives the player a random track, car, and weather conditions. All the player has to do is get in and put the pedal to the metal.
In Time Trial mode you race against the clock (obviously) and a ghost car. After choosing the track and automobile you wish, you will race against a default ghost car. Once you've blown the doors off of the default ghost car, your own ghost car will appear on the next lap. This ghost car represents your best run around the track. One nice thing is that you can save your ghost car, in case you want to wait for another day to try to beat that incredible time you set.
In this mode you can also access the Telemetry screen. This screen shows the performance of your throttle, gears and brakes from each of your laps on the time track. This screen, which is in bar graph form, supposedly shows you how to optimize your performance. As far as I'm concerned, the Telemetry screen might as well have been written in Cantonese. If you can follow this graph at all you should not be playing video games, you should be designing rockets for NASA or decoding human DNA.
Free Race mode is a good starting point for a new player to get a feel for the way the game handles. This is also the only mode that allows multiple players. If you have a multi tap, Jarret And Labonte Racing will let up to four players race together. In this mode you have access to all the set up options.
Championship is the main mode of play. This is where you compete to become the World Stock Car Racing king. When starting a new game in this mode, players pick which person they will control, Jarret or Labonte. Players start off in the national circuits, when you accumulate enough driving points you move up to the international circuits and eventually up to the World Stock Car Championship.
In order to move up to the international level, you must score 140 driving points in the nationals. To move up to the world championship, you must score 126 points in the internationals. As you gain driving points, you unlock special cars that you can use in the other modes. There are seven national circuits, North American, South American, British, German, Mediterranean, Japanese, and Australian.
Before racing any circuit, players must first join a racing team. Some teams have a requirement test in order for you to join them, such as running a track under a set lap time, while other teams will let any meathead behind the wheel with no test at all. Each team also has criteria that must be met while you're driving for them on the circuit, such as winning three of six races or ending the circuit with a certain amount of driving points.
If the criterion is met you will be rewarded with a cheat code that you can use in the other modes. At the end of a national circuit, you have to join another team for the next national and greater glory.
The game controls are pretty much the norm for today's racing games, steering, gas, brake, hand brake, rear view, toggle camera views, shift up, shift down, and car schematic. The controls in Jarret And Labonte Racing are easy to grasp but, if you're just not happy with the way they are set and reconfigure the buttons (which I did) the game will auto load any changes you saved to memory card when powering up the game.
Players also have the option of changing the car's set up. The car setup option is very similar to the one in NASCAR's game. You can tweak the suspension, anti-roll bar, gear ratios, down force, and tires. I tend to ignore most of these options because I firmly hold the belief that no matter what racing game these options are in, they do absolutely nothing to enhance the performance of the car. I have friends who insist that they do change the car's handling, but I think they're missing a few screws. These options are like that "light-dark" knob on your toaster; you can turn that knob any way you like, but the toast still pops out burnt. Regardless, the cars handle pretty well; it's just a matter of braking and accelerating at the proper times.
The graphics are okay and end up being just a notch below Gran Turismo or NASCAR. The big highlight in the graphics is the real-time car damage. This is absolutely fantastic. When something comes in contact with your car, be it another car or a wall, it shows. With my finely tuned driving skills, I did some amazing damage to these vehicles. I ripped off fenders and side panels. I had the hood flip off the car. I smashed every window. I drove the car on nothing but rims. I had the engine smoking and making horrifying noises that I hope to never hear coming from my real car.
The majority of the tracks are road courses; you're not just making a 140 mph, 10- lap left turn. There are plenty of S-turns, hills, and horseshoe curves to keep you on your toes. Some races have mandatory pit stops. Unlike NASCAR, the opposition will have to pit as well. The pit stops are easy to control. With a few button clicks the pit crew can put on some new tires or fix that ridiculous noise the engine is making.
The in game view shows about the same info as other racing games. Lap counter, lap time, race position, map, rev counter, gear, and speed are all displayed. However, I have a problem with the race position display. This is a minor problem, but the display will tell you are, for example, ninth. But I am ninth out of how many other cars? Am I ninth out of 45 or ninth out of 9? Sometimes it matters to have that info. On the other hand, the map is really helpful. On some racing games, the map leaves you guessing if it's that little left turn or the sharp right that is coming up. In Jarret and Labonte, the map rotates with the track, so you always know what is up ahead.
After each race you can replay the action from almost any viewpoint imaginable. On replay there are 17 different camera views. There are trackside, bumper, hood, driver, floating, far, reverse, roof, suspension, orbiting, far rear view, overhead, side, close rear view, left overtake, right overtake and helicopter camera views. They must have forgotten muffler cam, dome light cam and cup holder cam. I don't think that we really need all those cams. Five or six would do just fine. I don't watch the replays anyway.
Jarrett and Labonte Stock Car Racing is an action packed ride. I give it 4 out of 5 GiN Gems. There are so many car-racing games on the market, and they all differ slightly from the others. My advice is rent a couple and see for yourself, but be sure to give Jarret and Labonte a test drive.