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In Memory
Sean Pettibone




             





Hooters Road Trip for the PC isnít going to win any awards for technical innovation, excellent gameplay or intense graphics. Underneath its already contemptible surface of the exploitation of women, this Ďgameí is pretty awful. Itís an extremely basic racing title with awful physics and dull Ďarcade-styleí play that makes Pole Position look like Gran Turismo 3. The twist here is that when you finish a race in first place, youíre treated to a cinema featuring the infamous Hooters Girls. Hooray. So is this the end of civilization, a cynical ploy to rope in the truly desperate lonely gamer population, or just a crummy game using sex appeal to cover its many problems? We had a morbid curiosity and wanted to see just how bad it was. Unfortunately, itís worse than we feared.

Sure it might seem a little bit randy from the box art, but a closer examination shows that Hooters Road Trip has only been given a "T" (Teen) rating, for what is described as "Suggestive Themes." Which means you can probably find Sears catalogs with a more prurient appeal. In fact, the word suggestive is pushing the description a little. Donít expect much from this aside from giggling bimbos making terrible jokes. Once you get beyond the Ďracyí elements, Road Trip doesnít diverge from the standard PC racing game elements youíve come to expect. Players should find that the gameplay is simplistic and very easy to understand making this something you can get right into. Hooters Road Trip is no simulator, and the gameís arcade-style approach makes for an easy to pickup game thatís not overly complex. The racing action unfolds in a predictable manner. Road Trip allows the player to race a few practice runs around the test track before setting out in the open road. Once youíve setting in, you can then begin the road trip. Each leg of the road trip consists of several short areas that you can race on. The good news is that you can save after each segment, which means progress shouldnít be overly difficult. You have a choice of several different vehicles at the start of the race including trucks and sports cars. The handling of each one differs but is clearly labeled on the selection screen. The game initially offers a selection of 16 vehicles but 7 additional cars can be unlocked later on. Once on the road, you merely need to pass rival vehicles, dodge oncoming traffic, and other obstacles on your way to the finish line. In order to progress through to the next level, you need to place at least fifth in the final standings. The game takes you on a road trip across the United States and there are 6 sets of Road Trips, consisting of anywhere from 5 to 7 legs each. This means that youíll traverse many types of areas. This adds some variety to the game because it combines both street racing and off-road terrain. Despite this, most players should find the goings pretty standard.

With itís simplistic arcade style approach, you wouldnít think this would be a difficult title to play but there are problems with the interface that detract from the experience. Road Tripís controls donít offer enough precision, and the cars are generally over-responsive, no matter how you set the controllers. This means youíll frequently spin out on the tracks and also means its difficult to keep your vehicle straight, which makes play frustrating. To help you along, you have several different viewpoints you can switch during the race. Each car has a slightly different balance which can be upgraded by winning races and buying new parts. In addition, you can also win better cars when you win races. Unfortunately, the physics arenít very realistic and the player will find themselves crashing frequently. It doesnít seem to matter much, because the game allows plenty of leeway to the player. You can crash several times during a race and still finish first. This eliminates the concept of challenge from the game, and seemingly eliminates fun as well. Still, this is an arcade game at heart and as such, this isnít too terribly annoying. As you might expect, the main goal of this is to avoid the obstacles and keep from crashing, more than racing strategy. This means that youíll spend more time and energy on this than the other parts of the race, the defining hallmark of a slapped together rush-job. It makes for a somewhat easy title to beat and most players shouldnít have much trouble getting through even the tougher later levels. Though who would want to is another question entirely. Youíd have to be pretty desperate if you wanted to sit through level after level of this in order to see a short sequence of dumb bimbos in shorts and tank tops making lame comments and giggling.

From a visual standpoint, Road Trip looks far below the average with bland textures and environments that give the game some truly atrocious frame rates. There are several different viewpoints to choose from. The ground level angles are ineffective and make the game harder to play due to the lack of peripheral vision they let you have. Unfortunately, this problem also plagues some of the behind the car angles, making it hard to see what lies ahead. Itís too bad that the game suffers so from this and your best bet is to go from a far-away angle, this also helps to mitigate the lack of detail in the vehicles and environments. While itís preferable to play the game in this mode, it only adds to the unappealing visual presentation, making the game look terrible. Vehicle models are pretty ugly and lack detail and creativity. The courses are ugly and even the terrain canít save them. There are several dead-ends in each course as well which only adds to the poor gameplayís frustration. While it wonít tax your hardware, unless youíre trying to run it on a dated machine, the end result is that the game looks bland and washed-out throughout. A tad more creativity in this department would have been appreciated. Worst of all however, Hootersí Road Tripís embarrassing sequences with the girls are a tacky addition. This isnít helped any by the cinemasí short length and grainy appearance which is cheap from any way you want them to be. Far from feeling salacious, these asinine sequences only make the player feel lame for even bothering playing this title. These sequences break up the action just enough to underline the technical and gameplay shortcomings that are apparent in virtually every area of the title.

In the end, the inclusion of these sequences isnít enough to keep you motivated to continue playing, and in fact, make you want to play less. Itís embarrassing for all involved and we have to question who this title would appeal to. Itís not sexy enough to appeal to the pervert audience, and most normal players probably wouldnít want to be caught playing a game like this. Itís about a sexy as those Ďadultí anime movies, which means it isnít sexy at all. The only explanation for this title is that itís a cynical ploy to appeal to the mass-market. Unfortunately it backfires, because the use of the Ďsexyí sequences makes canít mask what is a sub-par racing game. These are so short and so dull in fact, that it only makes Hooters Road Tripís shortcomings all the more glaring. Overall, the racing is pretty awful, and weíve played deeper, more complex and infinitely more enjoyable racing titles....20 years ago...on the Atari 2600. You can find better racing games in the bargain bins at CompUSA, where this is likely to appear very soon, if it hasnít already, and the purely gratuitous Ďsex-appealí isnít shocking, itís pathetic. So the bottom line, this isnít a fun experience, the gameplay is poorly designed, lacks challenge or fun and the pathetic attempt at creating sex-appeal is laughable and lame. This is trash that only hurts the reputation of the game industry and gamers themselves. We also canít finish without condemning the despicable "caveman" approach to women, which is truly offensive on many levels, even though itís implemented in a way that sinks Ďcasual-gamerí targeted software to new-levels of incompetence. The sole recommendation for Hooters Road Trip is that the Uninstall program works well and will get this abomination off your machine quickly. Unfortunately, youíll probably still need a shower after erasing it.




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