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Motorhead is a racing video-game developed by Digital Illusions CE or DICE (Known for many popular games like Mirror's Edge or the Battlefield games) and published in 1998 by Gremlim Interactive in the European Union and by Fox Interactive in North America. The Microsoft Windows was also published by the previously mentioned companies the next year.
Motorhead is a futuristic racing game that mainly inspires in many known arcade racing games of the time, like Ridge Racer and Wipeout. It has five main gamemodes: The quick race, which consists of a single race with a pre-established vehicle and track, the single race, where you can race against two or five rivals using your vehicle and choosing your track of preference, the league mode, which is the "championship" mode of the game, a mode where you finish to get points and unlock vehicles and tracks, the time attack mode, where you compete against your best time record and the ghost mode, which is very similar to the time time attack mode, but here you can race against an opponent which is created by your previous records. The PC version has an online multiplayer mode that was powered by a dedicated host that allowed many different kinds of customization and interaction with the game and the other players, like the ability of choosing certain hotkeys to send a previously configurated message by the player.
- While the North American cover art looks decent and represents what the game is about, the European cover art looks strange and ugly at the same time. It consists of a front shot of two sport cars overtaking each other mutually, something that looks great for a racing game, the problem is that the cover art has a strange visual effect on the top and the bottom of the picture that reminds of a distorted or a melted screen, and inside of that "distortion", there are some letters that can't be adequately read because they are spliced in a very bad way, the only readable characters are "km/h" and some random numbers like "260".
- The graphics are alright for a game released in 1998 and there aren't many issues with them, but the problem is that all of the tracks of the game contain a great amount of fog, making the range of view extremely short, specially in the PlayStation version.
- It's possible that this was added on purpose to hide the fact that the game was not properly optimized or to feature a high frame-rate on the many platforms where the game was released, mainly on the PlayStation, a console that wasn't able to run games at 60 fps by default, a good example of this theory is when you play in the hi-fi mode from the first Gran Turismo game, as you can see that the backgrounds are not as detailed as they were in the original tracks.
- Despite being an arcade racing game, the handling and the controls are terrible and inadequate for that kind of genre:
- If you try to drive off-road, your car will start losing control and your speed will decrease drastically, hovewer, this mechanic seems to be completely intentional, since the developers thought it might add some kind of realism to the game.
- Even if you're driving on the road, pressing the left or the right button of the d-pad (Depending on where you want to turn) for too long will make the car drift and lose control, something that a racing game should never do if it wants to have a good driving gameplay, and because of this, sometimes it can be incredibly difficult to take a curve without drifting and losing a lot of speed, specially in the sharp curves.
- Using the manual transmission is a nightmare because the car will slow down too much or not enough when you're making the transition from gas pedal to brake, and even if you want to shift gears, the car will accelerate in a very strange way just to get the gear shift done, it's not like other games that will shift it immediately and reduce your speed if you didn't shift gears at the appropiate time.
- The game suffers from a horrible collision detection that mainly affects the collissions between your vehicle and the many structures of the levels, mostly because they can make your car stop abruptly, even if your car just slightly rubs an object, it will be enough to make you stop completely and lose the momentum of your vehicle. Due to this, you can think that the physics of the game are broken or are badly programmed, kinda like FlatOut 3: Chaos & Destruction.
- Apparently, every car can be differenced by its maximum speed, its acceleration and its handling, however, the only real difference between the many cars of the game is the maximum speed, as all the vehicles have the same handling problems and accelerate almost immediately, making these two stats a complete joke.
- For some strange reason, the transition between the two available cameras (Front and third person) is very inconsistent. Switching to the frontal view is immediate and it has no issues, but the problems begin when you switch from the frontal view to the third person view. Somehow, depending on the track and your location, the transition between cameras can be immediate or last more than one second, this wouldn't be a problem if it wasn't by the fact that the transition begins in the frontal part of the vehicle or the left side of the same, which can disorient you, specially when you're taking a curve or driving through a narrow zone.
- Most of the layouts of the tracks are generic and feature a lot of problems in relation to the gameplay:
- Redrock has a beginner's trap where two ways are presented to continue with the trail of the track, but the only way that works is the right one, if you decide to choose the left one, you will enter in a tunnel without exit, making you crash and lose a lot of time. However, this only affects the PlayStation version, the PC version has some signals that kinda block the entrance to the tunnel, making it easier to avoid that way.
- Neocity has a curve that takes you to a bridge at the middle of the track where you need to be necessarily on the right side of the road to take it adequately, if you don't do it, you will crash into a wall that blocks the way, and if that's not enough, there's another curve at the end of the bridge that has the same bad layout design. This level is much worse on the PlayStation version, because the fog that covers the track is darker than it should be, making these walls almost impossible to notice in your first try.
- Ruhrstadt is the worst track of the game, the general layout of the track is horrible because it's infested with a lot of sharp curves, tight angles, fake roads that lead you to crash into walls and areas that should not be there just because they're not adequeate for a racing game, like a parking zone, and since the track is based on a pier, there's a part where you have to avoid many boxes, crates and other badly placed obstacles in an extremely narrow area.
- Olympos has another beginner's trap near the beginning of the level where you have to avoid a fountain located in the middle of a very small square area, what makes this worse besides its small size is that it was placed at a very bad area of the level, the first section of the track has many open curves and downward slopes, meaning that your car will probably get a high speed, thus, the pacing you could probably expect is a very fast one, specially when the minimap doesn't even show adequately that an obstacle will show up.
- Horribly unfair AI that will always race faster than you and take curves perfectly without losing speed or drifting, even if you change the difficulty level to easy, the AI is still very unfair and winning a single race is a matter of luck that is not helped by the terrible layout design of the tracks. However, in a similar way to Cyberpunk 2077 vehicle AI, if you block the way with your vehicle, the AI will never try to evade or crash you to continue with the race, instead, they will just stop and wait paciently until you decide to move.
- The sound design is horrible, mostly because all of the vehicles of the game share the same ugly engine sound that resembles more of a blender or a modified RC car, and it only gets worse on the PC version, as the sound effects of the crashes is absolutely horrible and it can make your ears bleed in matter of seconds due to its high volume and pitch.
- The game was ported in 2015 on Steam, but instead of publishing the original PC version of the game, the publisher, which is not the original one that published the game back then, decided to publish a badly done port of the original PlayStation version, besides being bad, it's also illegal because it's almost for sure that they never had the permission of Digital Illusions to publish it.
- If the last sentence is true, it could possibly explain why the game isn't available in some countries like Argentina, Australia, Poland, Ukraine and Vietnam.
- The idea of adding a speedometer design for the many menus that the game has is quite original, the problem is that the PlayStation version has a very unintuitive background that consists of an animation of a very opaque blue circle wave, which can make the game look uninspiring.
- The game claims to have an auto-save feature, and while that's technically true, the game will only save when it feels like, specially after finishing certain races that are not so important. Finishing a race or a classification in the league mode will almost never trigger the auto-saving, something that can be critical if you decide to believe what the game is saying.
- To make things worse, the game won't allow you to save your progress in the league mode until you complete the whole league, something that can take a lot of time, mostly because of the unfair AI.
- Painfully long loading times that can only get worse if you're playing on an actual PlayStation, the fact that a horrible music that reminds more of some machinery sound effects accompanies most of these loading screens just makes them worse.
Microsoft Windows Version
- For some reason, some of the 3D layouts of the different tracks when you're about to select a track are insanely big, to the point that they even clip through the circle of presentation of the track, being the redrock one the worst offender, as it can be seen here.
- The HUD elements (Speedometer, timers, map radar, etc) are insanely small, to the point that you can barely see what the game is indicating, and it just gets worse when you play on a modern resolution.
- As expected from a game released in the 90's, the PC version suffers from compatibility issues in newer operating systems, even if you install the 3.0 patch (Which was the last patch released oficially by the developers). In some occasions such as playing the "Quick Race" mode, the game will crash.
- The physics and the collision detection are even worse than the PlayStation version, in some cases like crashing into a wall with a fast car, your vehicle can abruptly get out of the road or ascend insanely high, to the point that you can even see outside of the levels, like here.
- While the PC version is not that great, is still superior to the PlayStation version:
- The handling and the controls are more comfortable and the cars don't drift as much as the PlayStation ones, as you can press the left or right button while driving and still keep the control of your car.
- The menu interface looks much better than the PlayStation version. It still conserves the speedometer design for the different menus available, but the background is more appaling for the sight, and it even features a better way to show the different tracks available that can remind of the one featured in Need for Speed III: Hot Pursuit, even if the 3D renders of the layouts of the tracks clip through the circle of presentation.
- The graphics look even better thanks to the Glide API developed by 3dfx Interactive (Currently known as Nvidia) and they look brighter, making some of the gameplay elements more fair and easier, like the lighting.
- You can paint your car like you want, set your racer name and also set hot key chats for the multi-player mode, which means that by pressing certain key, the message you wrote before will appear without having you to write it letter by letter.
- The PlayStation version is one of the few games that can run at fluent and stable 60 frames per second by default. However, you can only race against two rivals in this case, if you want to race against five of them (Something that can be changed in the options menu), the framerate will change to 30 frames per second instead of 60, but since the framerate is still fluent, you probably won't be bothered about this.
- Despite being faulty, it's one of the few PlayStation games that feature an auto-save function.
- The CGI cutscenes that play in the intro and after winning or losing a league race look awesome for its time and remind a lot of many sci-fi movies and games of its time, like Blade Runner.
- The soundtrack composed by Olaf Gustafsson is awesome and memorable, which is reminiscent of the British electronic music duo Orbital. One of the best songs is the one that plays in the first track of the game, take a listen.
- The design of the vehicles is great and futuristic, fitting very well with the atmosphere of the game. Something curious is that most of them take inspirations on real-life sports vehicles, like the Italdesign Calà, the Vector M12 and the Lamborghini Gallardo.
- Despite the excessive amount of fog that the game uses for all the levels, the graphics are still alright for a 1998 racing game, even comparable to San Francisco Rush 2049.
As strange as it may sound, the game received generally positive to mixed reviews from the critics, being the PC version the highest rated, holding a 71% of 100% on the extinct GameRankings, while the PlayStation version holds a 65% on the same website.
Computer and Video Games magazine gave both versions an 80 out of 100, shortly describing: "A worthy competitor for Gran Turismo. It looks amazing and plays extremely well, too. A must for fans of arcade-style racers."
On Steam, only a 19% of all the reviews are positive, with most of the users complaining about how the inferior PlayStation version was ported to Steam instead of the original retail PC version and, in some cases, technical problems related to the port.
PlayStation Version Reception
Absolute PlayStation gave the game the score of 87% out of 100, one of the highest reviews for this version. They praised the great quality of the FMV cutscenes, the attention to the detail in the graphics, the speedometer interface that seemed original and intuitive for them, the soundtrack and the designs of the vehicles, while criticized the sound effects of the game, the lack of a mirror while using the frontal view and the rubberband AI. Shortly describing: "As such anyone who compares Motorhead to either G.T or F1 is completely missing the point - it's aimed at those who like a pick up and play racer, rather than become immersed in the technicalities of ride height, downforce levels etc. This game could have been a classic if they had spent more time on the computer car A.I and added a few more tracks. Features like a rear view mirror, longer races and a link-up mode may also have helped the overall lifespan considerably. If the coders set out to update Ridge Racer or Wipeout, then they have succeeded admirably; however I think that they possibly should have tried to emulate the additional features that were present in Rage Racer."
PC Version Reception
James Bottorff from The Cincinnati Enquirer rated the game with 2 stars out of 4 (The equivalent of 50), his review wasn't exactly long, but in the good qualities of the game he talked about how fluent the game ran and its perfecly implemented soundtrack, while in the bad qualities the mentioned the generic gameplay, the lack of detail in the graphics, more specifically, the details of the levels, something that contrasts a lot in comparision to other reviews. He said the following in his verdict: "Despite its flaws, Motorhead is enjoyable if only for the adrenaline rush the game delivers. However, its tired formula ultimately produces a less than memorable racing experience".
The German magazine PC games rated it with a 46 out of 100. saying the following: "No matter which vehicle you choose, you will always be left standing at the start by the opponents. Even at top speed on long straights you can still be overtaken without any problems. If you try to push your rival off the track in such a situation, he'll only scratch the guardrail - while you skid yourself. The graphics try to compensate for the suffering suffered, but even the use of all known lighting effects cannot save what the game designers have spoiled."
- The game itself was going to have a sequel called "Motorhead 2", but it was ultimately cancelled in 2002 and two of its cars: Avalanche (Renamed to "Asp") and Serpent MK2, got recycled as hidden, unlockable vehicles for the 2003 video game Midtown Madness 3.
- Parking your car in front of the Black Lotus Club in Ruhrstadt will make the following message appear in your screen: "Welcome to club TBL! - Tonight's Guest DJ - Randolph Carter".
- Digital Illusions created one year before a game that used the same engine of the game called "S40 Racing - The Game", which was ordered by the Swedish car-manufacturer Volvo to promote their racing-team. This game was the first 3D game developed by Digital Illusions and it features two tracks that were later added in Motorhead.
- GameRankings page of the PC version: https://web.archive.org/web/20190602020451/https://www.gamerankings.com/pc/89642-motorhead/index.html
- GameRankings page of the PlayStation version: https://web.archive.org/web/20190501135537/https://www.gamerankings.com/ps/198008-motorhead/index.html
- Absolute PlayStation's review: http://www.absolute-playstation.com/api_review/rmotorh.htm
- The Cincinnati Enquirer's review: https://web.archive.org/web/20010701224756/http://cincinnati.com/freetime/games/reviews/motorhead.html