Oh, Micro Machines. The racing games that brought friends together before forcing them to come to blows after someone was pushed off the table or into the sink. Of course, this is back in the days when to play against each other, you had to be sat on the sofa next to your friend. I have so many fond memories of playing these games on the N64 and PlayStation 2. I was really happy to hear that the racing experts at Codemasters were bringing the series back. So has this been a successful revival or should the game have stayed away?
The first thing you’ll notice when you start this game up is that it’s just like the Micro Machines games that you may remember from back in the day. The top-down view, the stylised vehicles, and the tracks are all like they used to be. Obviously, the level of visual fidelity is a lot higher than before, but the rest feels just like going back in time to the late 90’s. This is no bad thing as the old games played brilliantly and the handling model feels just as satisfying as before.
This game is not just a nostalgia trip as there is one new important addition, online play. While the Internet, and even online gaming, was around when the last Micro Machines games were released, the only way you could play multiplayer was with friends in the same room as you and a brace of extra controllers. Online play is a no-brainer for a racing game and it’s good that Micro Machines: World Series embraces it with open arms. The default mode will try and pair you up with other online gamers and then fill the spare places with AI racers. It is possible to play offline, but you have to go into a specific game mode.
There are three main types of racing on offer here. As well as classic modes like race (standard lap-based racing) and elimination (touch the back of the screen and you’re out, touch the front of the screen and you win), there is now battle mode. This new game mode cranks up the weapons and sees you playing Deathmatch, King of the Hill, Plant the Bomb, and Capture the Flag matches. These new events fit in nicely, my only issue with them is that the maps can be a little confusing. I imagine this is something that would become less of an issue after more playtime and getting to know the arenas.
The game runs at a fairly smooth 30 frames-per-second. I did get some lag and a few drops in the frame-rate but that only happened when people were dropping out mid-game. I came across a little bit of screen-tearing but it was never too bad. The AI can be brutal, with death pretty much assured when you’re in a group of cars. It’s never unfair, as you have as much chance to destroy them as they have of crushing you, however, you want to get out in front as soon as you can to get a gap between you and the cars behind. There is an element of luck involved with every race, but Micro Machines has always been this way. It does make the inclusion of online-ranked matches with an ongoing league a strange choice. Skill can shine through in races, but a healthy dose of fortune is always more beneficial.
The return of Micro Machines is very welcome. There isn’t a whole lot of content here, but at $30 it’s still a good value. The racing is close, frantic and fun. The online implementation is well done. I can’t wait to get some friends over to play this again, so we can argue about who pushed who off the course!