Review: Chrysler Classic Racing (Nintendo Wii)

Chrysler Classic Racing
Genre: Racing
Developer: Zoo Games
Publisher: Zoo Games
Release Date: 11/25/08


Chrysler Classic Racing, at first glance, seems like a fantastic idea. Old-school Chryslers racing down the road in a 1950’s era game world, mixed up with some nifty nostalgia-themed design elements? That just screams awesome, and I’m frankly surprised no one else has really done anything with this sort of concept. The cartoonish presentation of the product isn’t exactly the direction I’d think of, and the Wii isn’t a system known for its great racing games either (Mario Kart Wii notwithstanding). Still, a talented developer can circumvent these things and make a game that’s truly worth playing. Unfortunately, Zoo was apparently not that talented developer, as Chrysler Classic Racing does nothing worthwhile with its awesome concept. Instead they seem to rely on the Chrysler name to carry the product, and the end result is a game that is, simply speaking, not very good.

There is, surprisingly, something of a story to the game, though not much of one. You take control of a character who, by all indications, is meant to be the absolute antithesis of cool, as they strive to win races in their Chrysler or Plymouth car to achieve this goal. The idea is that, as they win races, they become cooler by purchasing better, more tricked-out cars, buy cooler clothes, date hotter girls, and so on, until they become the true, “King of Cool”. Aside from the obvious problem (I.E., that you can’t play as a female character.), the game doesn’t really do anything exciting with the concept. It’s nothing but, “I want to be cool, so I’m going to prove I’m cool by racing,” even though winning races, in and of itself, only proves you’re a good racer, not that you’re “cool”. Obviously, the story isn’t meant to be anything exciting, but it isn’t even really capable of keeping the racing interesting either, which doesn’t help matters any. Insofar as the game modes are concerned, you can either play through “King of Cool”, AKA Story mode to become the King of Cool, Re-Race mode to replay tracks with one or two players, and… well, that’s it. You can look at your character’s status, poke around in the game options, and check out the extras (which amount, mostly, to pictures of Chrysler and Plymouth cars and all-time race stats.) if you’re so inclined. Otherwise, there’s Story Mode and Free-Race/Two Player mode, and that’s it.

Visually, Chrysler Classic Racing is… uninspired, shall we say. The graphics aren’t particularly pushing the capability of the Wii’s hardware to any significant degree, which would be fine if they actually had some type of artistic style. Instead the game simply looks low resolution and poor. The environments and cars are bright and colorful, to be certain, and the cars certainly look like the real-life Chrysler and Plymouth cars they’re modeled after, but the visuals are low-quality, not terribly detailed, and generally unimpressive across the board. The various cutscenes, if you want to call them that, amount to little more than your skinny characters bobbing their heads while text plays across the screen, which isn’t particularly impressive-looking either. The whole game just looks very low-tech.

The audio isn’t much better, though it is less noticeable for its poorness. The in-game music is mostly a mix of surf-rock and fifties sounding tunes with the odd country sounding track here and there. While none of it is impressive, none of it is really bad, either. The sound effects are mostly serviceable as well. The car sounds sound as they should, and the various other effects, from horns to crashing sounds and beyond, sound as you’d expect, though nothing here is particularly impressive, either.

As Chrysler Classic Racing is a racing game, the gameplay concepts should be immediately familiar to anyone who has ever played a racing game. Depending on your control style (You can play with either the Wii-mote itself or the Wii-mote and Nunchuck together.), you’ll either steer your car with the analog stick or by turning the Wii-mote. Buttons act as the expected acceleration/brake/handbrake/shifting actions. There’s also a horn button included if you want to honk at passing cars (or enable nitro as the case merits). The driving itself is mostly no-frills, but it works as you’d expect it to. Anyone who has played a racing game in their lives will be able to pick this up and play it without a hitch. The game also does the Mario Kart, “litter the track with items” thing that we’ve seen a few times here and there, and the various items you’ll find around the track will do things like increase your money and Cool Points (More on that in a bit.), repair your car (as it can take damage from crashes and such), defend your car momentarily, give you speed boosts, and unlock things in the Extras menu (as far as I can tell). This too, isn’t anything exciting, but it does its job well enough.

Most of your time in the game will be spent in the “King of Cool” mode, as this is where you’ll unlock most of the extras in the game. You’ll be tasked to play through fifteen races to prove yourself as the coolest cat in all the land, daddy-o, though that’s not all you’ll be doing. Aside from racing through your normal races, you’ll also be participating in other storyline challenges to make your character cool. Be My Baby challenges place you in an overhead maze of sorts where you’ll have to drive your car around to collect teddy bears in order to earn a date with a cool chick (who essentially never appears again). Gauntlet Challenges task you with racing against one challenger for money or Cool Points to see who’s better, though you needn’t accept them. Kings’ Challenges are essentially Gauntlet Challenges, only you’re competing against members of the Kings gang to prove how cool you are. As such, they are essentially mandatory Gauntlet Challenges with nothing at stake. Winning these various races will earn you cash and Cool Points as well, and will also earn you spots in the Race Kings and All Time Kings of Cool boards in the Extras menu, if you like to brag.

The money and Cool Points you earn will be used to upgrade your character and car in a number of different ways. These in turn help you be cooler and earn you more wins. You can use your money to buy new cars (of which there are about fifteen or so) or to upgrade the car you have. Upgrades for your car can either be functional (Tiires with increased grip, higher horsepower engines, better brakes, etc.) or aesthetic (Chrome, paint jobs, whitewall tires, etc.), meaning you can pimp out your ride to not only win races, but look cool while doing it. You can also buy new cool clothes for your racer to help you look the part of the King of Cool with your Cool Points. Racing through the King of Cool mode also unlocks new tracks for you to race on in Re-Race mode (in Normal and Reverse layouts) so that you and your friends can play around with those, and King of Cool mode itself is a few hours long, which gives you plenty to play with if you’re up for it.

This, of course, assumes you’ll be willing to get past the numerous problems with the game. The biggest problem with the game is that the racing mechanics are, at best, wonky, and at worst, not functional. Playing with the Wii-mote and Nunchuck combination is mostly okay, in that the car will go where you want it to go and such, but all of the cars are very touchy and end up needing massive corrective steering after minor adjustments. Otherwise they go all over the place. Turning is also problematic. If you turn too little, you’re in the wall. If you turn too much, you’re spinning out. While that might be realistic under normal circumstances, in this game it’s nearly impossible to tell when you’ve steered too much or too little until you mess up. Playing with the Wii-mote alone is even worse. The controls are so touchy that you literally end up all over the place. You are constantly correcting your turning because the sensitivity of the game is twitchy at the best of times. The game could honestly stand for some Gamecube or Classic Controller support, and yet none is present for some bizarre reason, which further seems counter-productive.

Aside from the spotty controls, there are many minor issues that can further hamper any enjoyment you might derive from the game. There’s no significant sense of speed in the racing, and even top-tier upgraded cars feel slow and plodding at top speed. There are a decent amount of car upgrades, but character upgrades are woefully lacking, and absolutely nothing you can buy really seems to be all that “cool”, to be honest. The fact that there’s no online multiplayer makes sense, but the fact that you can only play the game with two players on one console does not, seeing as how there are a good many racing games that support four player split-screen racing, and the game isn’t exactly pushing the graphical limitations of the Wii and as such, wouldn’t exactly be crippling the console by running four screens at once. The game is also exceptionally glitchy, though some glitches are more obvious than others. Track layout problems are frequent (I.E., driving straight ahead only to randomly skid out because you hit some random location on the track where the collision detection was messed up.), as are collision problems with other cars (Getting hit in the rear end should NOT send my car flying into space, and getting T-boned onto my side essentially means I have to start over because the game lacks a way to right the car, despite the fact that this is a fairly frequent problem.). There are also instances where you’ll hit the wall or an obstacle and get stuck in it because the game has allowed you to pass INTO it, but won’t allow you to pass OUT of it (see the school bus in the first Kings’ Challenge). This problem is universal for both CPU and human players, as several of my wins will attest (I ended up earning these wins BECAUSE my opponents ended up stuck grill-first in a wall.). I can certainly understand how the occasional glitch can pass undetected by the eye of even the most careful playtester, but considering I encountered at least two glitches per race, on average, it seems that the playtesters involved in this project were not particularly careful, if there even were any at all.

Basically, it’s like this: even the biggest Chrysler fan out there is only going to get, at most, an incredibly minor amount of enjoyment out of Chrysler Classic Racing. The CONCEPT of the game is certainly neat, and while the visuals and audio aren’t great, they’re certainly serviceable enough for a budget title. But the controls are spotty and unresponsive, there’s no reason to play the game longer than it will take you to make it through the King of Cool mode, there’s little to no variety to the product, you can’t play with more than one friend at a time, the racing feels plodding and slow, and the game features collision detection issues and environmental glitches galore. Even as a budget game, Chrysler Classic Racing isn’t worth a second look; Chrysler fans might find a very small amount of enjoyment in playing around with classic cars from their favorite car company, but for everyone else, the most fun they’ll have with the game will be when they eject it from the console, and that’s only assuming they then take the disc and bend it until it snaps.

The Scores:
Story/Game Modes: BAD
Graphics: MEDIOCRE
Sound: MEDIOCRE
Control/Gameplay: POOR
Replayability: DREADFUL
Balance: POOR
Originality: DREADFUL
Addictiveness: DREADFUL
Appeal: BAD
Miscellaneous: WORTHLESS
Final Score: BAD GAME

Short Attention Span Summary:
In case the above-noted final score doesn’t properly convey the concept sufficiently, let me spell it out for you: Chrysler Classic Racing is a bad game whose sole redeeming values are its (ultimately squandered) concept and its name-brand license (which it puts to absolutely minimal use). The game looks and sounds okay, but between the poor storyline, lack of gameplay modes, wonky controls, collision detection and environmental mapping issues, lack of multiplayer options, lack of variety, and general overall lack of a sensation of speed, the game is simply not fun in any possible definition of the word. It is entirely possible that someone, somewhere, will have fun playing this game, in much the same way that it’s possible someone, somewhere would enjoy being gummed to death by a toothless shark. For most people though, there are far better choices of racing games available on the Wii, many of which can be played by more than two people. Most folks will be better off with one of those games instead of this.

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