This is the faltering point of Hardcore Heat. If one was to just pick up the game and start playing they would more than likely throw the controller against the wall within minutes. Essential to buggy racing if you have ever seen it on television is the ability to power slide through corners. Power sliding in Hardcore Heat does not exist. Therefore if you would like to take a corner at high speed, you will always end up on the wall. For some unknown reason, the vehicles in Hardcore Heat sport precise pinpoint handling and is definitely out of place. It will take patience and a lot of practice before becoming used to the game's over responsive control mechanics. It is unbelievable how difficult it is to keep your vehicle straight for more than a second.
Another issue is the driver A.I. If you make one miscalculation you have no chance of getting back into the race. This becomes frustrating and for many players it will turn them off from continuing the game.
The game sports 6 courses to race in, which is considered despicable by conventional standards for racing games today. There are 5 modes to choose from including: Championship, Time Attack, VS Game, Level Checker and Practice. In Championship mode players compete in three classes of competition on international courses. Points are awarded depending on what place you finish in. The total points earned by the end of the season determines your final standing. You start with the normal class. Normal consists of 3 races. if you place within the top three in the standings, you will then be cleared to advance to the next class. Normal consists of 3 races, Hard 4 races, and Expert 6 races.
In Time Attack you are able to practice your skills on any of the tracks you have unlocked from the championship mode. As you practice in this mode, your driving data (AI) is saved to your VMU for use in Auto-Pilot Mode. The more you drive in this mode, the more the driver (AI) is learning. The VS Game allows you to compete with your friends, any AI data you may have taught your VMU, or a CPU controlled car.
The Level Checker is unique in its own way. This allows your AI driver to learn about all of the races and practices you have done up until that point. This in turn allows the CPU to adjust to your style of racing. The auto-pilot allows the CPU to use this AI information to race for you as you would usually race. This is neat if you want to sit back and watch a friend race against you without you touching the controls. If you have the patience to learn the control and want to increase your AI then many hours of gameplay lie ahead. However, for the average player, a few days of play will be suffice.
Hardcore Heat displays some impressive visuals, but it's hyper-sensitive control mechanics ruin its overall gameplay value. The nice presentation does not make up for the unforgiving controls. Unless you cannot go without an off-road racing game, most players will find Hardcore Heat most sufficient as a rental. A vastly improved control system could have given this one or two more stars.
Review By: Mike Weatherup