IndyCar Series 2005 PlayStation 2 & Xbox
Developed by Codemasters
Released - Out Now
Price : £29.99
It's not often that we get to look at the same game on more than one platform. We've been fortunate enough to take a look at both the Xbox and PlayStation 2 versions of IndyCar Series 2005, the sequel to last year's IndyCar Series. Last year we looked at the PlayStation 2 version of IndyCar Series and we were impressed by it. Some things could have been done better and some things, such as an online mode, could have been added but overall it was a title that IndyCar fans would have appreciated. In fact like IndyCar Series, IndyCar Series 2005 is a game for fans of IndyCar racing and not a general driving game that has masses of variety like Race Driver 2 for instance. Let's take a look to see what improvements have been made.
So what additions have been made this time around then? Well for starters there is an online mode (which we'll talk about in a moment). The game also now supports the use of a steering wheel which is great news as the game is essentially a simulation. 15 circuits are included in IS 2005, including the new twin ring Motegi Speedway in Japan and you can now pick your favourite racer and drive through a full season as them. The excellent Masterclass training mode has been improved upon too. The single player modes on offer are Quick Race, the aforementioned IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500 which is practically the same as last year's game.
I suspect most will view the inclusion of online play as the main improvement in IS 2005 but your opinion of the online play will be completely dependent on what version you purchase. Using the well established Xbox Live online service, it's a doddle to create or jump into an online race. Games can have up to 12 human drivers and 8 AI drivers and it's a good experience all round. I always managed to find a race on each occasion I attempted to and I didn't suffer any lag. The PlayStation 2 version is a different matter entirely. You can only have 8 human drivers in a game as well as the 8 AI drivers but that's the least of the problems. It's virtually impossible to get a race. I've tried so many times to have an online race and each time I'm greeted with the message that there are no races available and I'm asked whether I'd like to create my own. What a disappointment, and whose fault is it? More people own a PlayStation 2 and I would imagine that the PlayStation 2 version will sell more copies but why isn't anyone playing online? If you own both consoles and fancy the idea of online races then definitely opt for the Xbox version as it's a lonely and disappointing experience trying to play online with the PlayStation 2 version. Split screen, LAN (PlayStation 2) and System Link (Xbox) races are also available.
Control in driving games is everything and here again the Xbox comes out on top. The Controller S is far better suited for driving games than the Dualshock 2 (in my opinion of course) and the analogue sticks have a more precise feel about them. Acceleration and braking is handled by the right and left triggers and it feels natural. The PlayStation 2 version uses the X and square buttons which doesn't feel as good. You can use the right analogue stick to brake and accelerate though if you prefer. Although I preferred the Xbox controls, the PlayStation 2 controls were perfectly OK though I would rather have used the directional pad for steering rather than the loose feeling left analogue stick. Of course if you're using a steering wheel then the feel of the game will be dependent on the wheel you are using.
Graphically IS 2005 isn't what it could be on either system. The Xbox version looks better with better textures and generally has a cleaner overall look to the game. By comparison the PlayStation 2 textures look a little murky. In terms of frame rate and sensation of speed the Xbox again is the better version of the two. I only really noticed slowdown in the replays on the Xbox version. The PlayStation 2 version just doesn't seem as quick (yes the Xbox version was played in 50Hz mode for direct comparison) and is prone to the odd moment of slowdown during a race although it's not really a major issue. Pop-up is there for all to see on both versions but again this doesn't cause any problems to the game play but does take away from the look of the game. In IS 2005 you'll see the AI drivers crash more often but some of the crashes can be wildly over the top with cars occasionally flying through the air when they really shouldn't. There are better camera views this time around and I think the cockpit view is great, especially as it now comes with fully working mirrors that allow you to see what's going on behind you. The HUD is excellent and provides you with all the information you could wish to know including the amount of damage your car has sustained.
IndyCar Series was mostly OK for deaf gamers with only the pit radio communications during a race not being subtitled. Unfortunately there has been no improvement upon this with IS 2005 and pit radio communications are still not subtitled. These communications inform you whether a rival is approaching or is to the left or right of you. They will also tell you your position in the race and if anything is wrong with your car. Of course this time you can see where your opponents, who are behind you, are because of the mirrors and you can find most of the details you need from the HUD but these require you to momentarily take your eyes off the action and this can be dangerous if you're not quick enough. Once again the Masterclass tutorials have been included (and added to) and once subtitles are enabled in the options menu, you'll be able to fully enjoy them. The Masterclass tutorials are actually very important and it's great to see that they are subtitled. IS 2005 is more enjoyable when you turn all the driving assists off but to do this you'll need to take in all the information that's delivered in the Masterclass tutorials. Prior to races in the IndyCar Series mode you'll be given some information on the circuit in question and (with the subtitles option enabled) this is all shown in text.
IndyCar Series was a great first effort from Codemasters and IS 2005 is also another enjoyable simulation that IndyCar fans will enjoy. The biggest disappointment for me is that both versions could have looked better than they do but it's the game play that counts and there isn't much to complain about on that score. The biggest single addition to the game is the online play but as we said earlier it's practically none existent on the PlayStation 2 at the moment where as the Xbox Live races seem to be popular. If I had to pick a version out of the two it would have to be the Xbox version because of the better frame rate, the online play and because the game feels more suited to the Controller S. That said though if you can only choose the PlayStation 2 version you'll still enjoy the game but until the online side of things gets into full swing, it won't feel like a significant improvement on last years version and you'll also have to put up with the occasional moment of slowdown.
Game Rating: 8.3/10 (Xbox) 7.5/10 (PlayStation 2)
Another enjoyable driving simulation from Codemasters. Both are good games but the smoother frame rate and the fact that you can jump into an online race when you feel like it make the Xbox version a better option, if you have the choice.
When the subtitles are enabled you'll be able to fully enjoy every aspect of the game with the exception of the pit radio communications, which are not subtitled.