Picture a racing game with high-quality graphics, eight-player multiplayer, and realistic physics. You’d probably assume that this game costs money – but it’s named Driving Speed 2, and it’s free. This isn’t an arcade-style racing game where cars fly up into the air – it’s got realistic handling. There are lots of great freeware games out there, but free racing games with high-quality graphics are a rare breed.
Driving Speed 2 runs on Windows 7, Vista, and XP. Be careful when installing it – it tries to install a toolbar by default. It’s understandable that the developers want some revenue, but bloatware toolbars are bad.
Driving Speed 2 offers three different game modes:
- Quick Race: Select and customize a car, pick a map, and start racing.
- Championship: Buy a car, win cash prizes by participating in race events, and use the cash to upgrade and repair your car.
- Multiplayer: Race with up to seven other people, over the local network or the Internet.
Some free games take a shortcut by going multiplayer-only, but this game has computer-controlled opponents with decent AI – up to 11 AI opponents per track.
Driving Speed 2 features five different cars with customizable color schemes. These aren’t just different skins over the same car – each car handles differently and has its own strengths. There’s even a Tune Car option that appears when the race is about to start, allowing you to tweak your car’s drive ratio and other internals. These options are over my head, but I’m sure some racing fans will appreciate them.
The game includes two different tracks – Adelaide, which is on the urban side, and Bathurst, a more rural race through pastoral farmland.
Graphics & Sound
Driving Speed 2 has nice graphics and offers a number of graphical effects you don’t usually find in free games, including particle effects and post processing. In spite of this, it’s not a very demanding game – all you need is a 1.5Ghz CPU, 512MB of RAM, and a DirectX 9 graphics card with at least 256 MB of RAM. Most computers currently in use should have no problems meeting these specs, even computers that are a bit long in the tooth. It offers good performance, too – tracks load quickly and there’s no stuttering during gameplay, although I tested it on an older system.
Driving Speed 2 doesn’t just have a good graphics engine with a “by the numbers” list of features – the developers have given a lot of attention to detail. For example, there’s a slick-looking motion blur when you reach high speeds. The crowds aren’t 2D cut outs – they’re 3D people. There are sparks, scorch marks, and mud. The cars become dented as you crash them.
The sound is also good. There’s only music in the menus – the game doesn’t distract you with music while you’re playing. The sounds of the engine, acceleration, and breaks all work well. I particularly like the sound of the breaks, which helps the control feel solid, as if there’s actual contact between the wheels and pavement. Many racing games of inferior quality have unsatisfying controls and handling.
Multiplayer doesn’t have a fancy match-making system. To host a game, you’ll have to forward the appropriate port on your router and provide your friends with your IP address. Up to seven other people can join – they’ll need the IP address, port number, and password to join your game.
With only two tracks, this probably isn’t a racing game that you’ll be playing all year. That said, it’s a very high-quality bit of bite-sized racing, whether you’re racing against the AI or your friends.
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