Like the sprint cars it features, this budget-priced racer gets the job done but isn't much to look at.
- Lengthy and rewarding Career mode
- Believable AI opponents.
- Ugly and technically challenged visuals
- Controls take a good while to feel comfortable
- Limited and mostly disappointing multiplayer options.
All racing games are not created equal. Many now feature incredibly detailed car models, realistic sound effects, and numerous famous race circuits from all over the world. World of Outlaws: Sprint Cars, on the other hand, features heavily aliased vehicles, sound effects that don't do the engines justice, and just a dozen oval circuits confined to US soil. You shouldn't immediately dismiss this budget racer though, because it also boasts good vehicle handling, a reasonably deep Career mode, online play for up to eight people, and believable AI opposition.
Fortunately for World of Outlaws: Sprint Cars, all oval circuits are also not created equal. Far from it. Sure, racing on any of them involves a lot of turning left, but where the dozen featured tracks are concerned, the similarities pretty much end there. Some are wide enough for four cars to run alongside each other during rolling starts; others can manage only two. Some corners are banked; others are almost completely flat. Some are enclosed by walls; others have room for you to run off the track. Some use surfaces that afford you a lot of traction; others can feel like you're racing on ice. You get the idea. The point is that this seemingly very limited track selection shouldn't be a reason that you avoid this budget-priced racer. And nor should its presentation.
World of Outlaws: Sprint Cars isn't a good-looking game. In fact, it's so ugly at times that you might feel inclined to check that you haven't inadvertently traveled back in time, or at least that you have it running at the correct resolution. Furthermore, the frame rate is occasionally unstable, and unlocking an achievement with your console's notifications turned on invariably causes the game to freeze for a few seconds. The visuals become less jarring as you spend more time with the game, though, in part because this type of racing requires so much concentration that you cease paying attention to them.
As in real World of Outlaws sprint events, every race gets under way with a rolling start. Up to 24 cars snake around the track either two or four abreast waiting for the green light, and when it comes on, the potential for both collisions and overtaking opportunities is pretty high. The starts are made unnecessarily tricky by the AI in control of your vehicle prior to the green light, which insists on weaving from side to side at all times. The idea is presumably that the drivers are trying to keep their tires warm, but the result is that when you're unceremoniously handed control of your car at the start, it's almost never pointing in the straight line that you need it to be. It takes only a second to straighten yourself out and slam down on the accelerator, but when complete laps are being run in well under 20 seconds, every one of those seconds counts.
Taking part in your first race can be a very unforgiving experience. With their slanted roof- and hood-mounted wings, and different-sized rear tires (the right is significantly wider than the left), sprint cars are probably unlike any car that you've ever driven before--even in a video game. Even keeping them moving forward in a straight line can be challenging on some surfaces when you're driving at speed, and getting them around corners while maintaining that speed is practically an art form. Turn in too sharply, and there's a good chance you're going to spin around and end up facing the wrong way, but fail to turn sharply enough, and you can look forward to hitting either a wall or a run-off area. Even without opponents on the track many of the circuits are deceptively challenging, and while practice clearly pays off in time, mastering one oval certainly doesn't mean you've mastered them all.