Let’s Talk About Micro Machines V3

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Are you not aware by now that I have definite opinions on the entirety of the Micro Machines franchise of video games? I do indeed have definite opinions on the Micro Machines franchise. You know those games in the Micro Machines franchise? I have opinions on them. Definite ones. Suffice to say that Micro Machines 1, 2 and 96 are AMAZING and mostly everything else in the series sucks the big one.

Except MAYBE this one… but to be fair and honest, it is not exactly up to the same lofty standard as the first three games in the series. Of course we don’t talk about Military (oh bugger… just did. Fuck.) and we NEVER speak of that one on the PS2 because THAT IS NOT A MICRO MACHINES GAME EVEN THOUGH IT SAYS MICRO MACHINES ON THE BOX. Seriously. Fuck that game. That was an absolute shambles.

And there was Micro Maniacs too.

Oh good freakin’ God, there was Micro Maniacs too…

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So essentially, Micro Machines’s leap from 1994 onwards was basically a travesty when they suddenly realised that there wasn’t really… much they could do that was different. 3D almost felt like a step too far for a game that based itself so heavily in 2D top-down territory. However… the thing is…

Look, I’ll level with you here. There’s a reason as to why memories of this game and the series are vaguely tainted. Back in my uni days, there was a game that my flatmates and I would play till the wee small hours. Usually until about 4am. I mean, seriously, we would be up playing it frequently because it was absolutely fucking phenomenal and it’s an absolute disaster to think that that game turned into Wrecked: Revenge Revisited. Seriously, what even was that game?

That game was MASHED on the PS2.

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Seriously, if you ever play a PS2 game in your life and you have at least one friend, you have to make it Mashed. It is one of the best, most addictive, infuriating, dangerously brutal and vindictive games ever created and it is FUCKING AMAZING for it. It was created by the developers of Micro Machines 2 and 96 – two of the best games ever released for the Mega Drive and ONE of which is one of the best games ever released FULL STOP. They were able to redo that success on the PS2 with the glorious Mashed. It was superb fun, the camera didn’t flit all over the place, the tracks were highly imaginative and inventive, the power-ups didn’t feel OTT but it was fun, frenetic and exciting at ALL times. Plus, if you got knocked out of the multiplayer rounds, you could use cross-hairs to attack the other cars left on the track…

WHAT GAME AM I EVEN REVIEWING?

Sidetracking aside, the reason I mention this game is that Mashed did everything that Micro Machines V3 sort of could have done but didn’t and it’s difficult to really explain why.

But intriguingly, I’m still saying this is a good game. I haven’t actually complained about this game yet but you can already tell (OH YES YOU CAN) that I’m going to… can’t you? The thing is… I AM but at the same time I’m not going to carve this game a new one when it’s actually a really good game.

It’s not brilliant though. Mashed is. Micro Machines 2 and 96 are. Micro Machines 1 sorta is. V3 is not.

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Set up time! Eight racers are… going to race on tiny tracks. So they do. They do it a lot. Then someone wins.

It’s a bloody racing game based on miniature cars; are your really expecting a story to be included? Micro Machines V3 is the same old brand of ‘top-down’ tabletop racing that involves teensy weensy drivers tearing around snooker tables, zipping across the kitchen table, beaming around the garden, trying not to plug the cat’s arse up somehow, and zooming through schools and science labs to the sounds of children chittering in the background like they’re actually doing work as opposed to creating ruler bridges and textbook tunnels.

Just me? I don’t mean when I was a child. I mean today. I’m 32. I teach for a living. I’m still doing that shit today. Don’t judge me.

In reduxing this game for the next generation of consoles, the developers, Codemasters themselves this time, stepped back in time to their first foray into the series and hand-picked a selection of original characters. They went for the more memorable ones of course. They left out the Joels and Emilios and Annes of this world because who the fuck remembers those guys?

Oh boo fucking hoo. You were all shit. None of you even made it to the second game. THERE’S A REASON. I always got the impression Emilio just transformed into Emile for MM2 but I dunno.

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Anyway, they cherry-picked PUN INTENDED Cherry HO HO HO HO, Spider, Jethro, Walter, Chen, Dwayne and Bonnie from the original game – Bonnie’s only other appearance being the first game and inexplicably absent from other games – as well as adding in a new character in the form of green-mohican-sporting Scotswoman Jade who trills a very husky-sounding ‘Hello’ when you pick her as she tilts her head rather lackadaisically. She seems chill. That’s for certain. The other characters are seem to fit a certain model now. Walter is now American (CLICHÉ FAT AMERICAN CHARACTER), Jethro is incredibly Jamaican, Chen is now very Chinese-sounding, while Bonnie is proper Cockney, Cherry speaks the Queen’s English and Dwayne gets to be surfer dude to go with his ridiculous new appearance. I mean… he never looked particularly… er…

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I mean…

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And er…

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Yeah… they don’t paint him well at ALL do they? So basically, they stereotyped the bugger into being the stupid surfer dude with TUBULAR language and all that gubbins.

And of course Spider doesn’t speak because he’s FAR TOO COOL for all of that. Only when he does break character, he’s another posh tit who’s all like “oh brilliant!” like a private schoolkid. You get the feeling that he’ll suddenly ask for lashings of ginger beer or something next.

Now… I do have a gripe with the characters in that there really aren’t enough. They look monstrously ugly nowadays and the way they move is very primitive. Granted, this was meant to be cartoony but even cartoons could look good and move well. It didn’t QUITE have the charm it wanted to.

But then again, when the developers spent all of their time on creating this:

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…then maybe I can forgive them. Basically, from the off, you are thrown into this glorious little hub world that acts as the game’s title screen. You choose an option, your car heads through the garage and takes you to the next selection. It can seem as though this slows things down a little bit but to be honest, you’re so taken in by the charming little pixel people and the way the hub world is presented that you actually don’t care. You actually want to choose the wrong thing so that the cars go back and forth and you see the little dog and the little people jumping up and down. It is a fantastic way to introduce your game.

There is also, for the uninitiated, a driving school – which is a bloody brilliant idea for newbies AND experienced players alike. Essentially, Cherry takes you through the game in a simple enough tutorial. Yes, it’s a tutorial. But this was back in the day when tutorials were just about starting to be a thing in games. See, it used to be that you got thrown into games without so much as a helping hand or a cheese sandwich to tide you over. Nowadays, you get led by the hand into dangerous territory but at least you get the chance to understand WHY you’re so shit when you fuck up. In my day (OLD REFERENCE), if you were shit, you weren’t even sure why. THINK YOURSELF LUCKY.

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And so you’re into the game! It is… Micro Machines… in 3D.

And if that isn’t enough to warrant it a few gold stars, then something has gone seriously wrong. Basically that is the crux of this game. That is why it is a really good game. But it’s also why it’s… not so good. I suppose I could just simply leave you with a note saying “this game is Micro Machines in 3D” and be done with it. I mean… that’s all it is. It’s Micro Machines in 3D. It does actually make a really good transition to 3D but there are limitations to that by the same token. Giveth with one hand and taketh away, as it were.

The controls on the 2D versions were generally tight and there was easily margin for error. It felt simpler and easier to control without feeling as though it was too simple or easy. You could easily make mistakes and certain cars did slide about a bit. I mean… hovercrafts anyone? In V3, the controls are a bit looser but at the same time, the cars do move tightly if you’re sensitive with them and don’t overdo it. They can take a lot of getting used to, given that the previous games were 2D. The 3D graphics mean that the controls were always going to have to make allowances.

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What does make the game trickier is the way that they camera moves through the level. It’s OK to do that during the transitions between parts of the track, like when the cars are flicked out of the toaster or boats are transforming cars again (which is a REALLY neat touch for the game by the by). That’s not a huge issue. The camera wants to make it look dramatic so why not. In this case, the camera moves rather bizarrely as if to say “here, let me make it slightly easier for you!” when in reality, it can feel very off-putting. You’re on a straight and the camera starts to move around the car inexplicably and suddenly you’re wondering “WHAT’S HAPPENING NEXT? IS THERE A BEND? AM I GOING TO FALL OFF THE END OF THE TABLE?! FUCKING HELL, WHERE’D THAT CAT’S ARSE COME FROM?!”

It doesn’t work in the way the game wants it to. It’s not MASSIVELY off-putting. It can easily be overridden and ignored after a while. It’s just… not necessary… because it wasn’t a thing in the 2D games. Which seems to be my main argument against this game’s BRILLIANT status. Probably unfairly. I don’t fucking care.

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However, in response to my own argument, the game itself is full of the usual Micro Machines charm. The tracks are neatly designed, they have several nods to old tracks and there’s enough challenge involved in the tracks to make any player happy. There are now five players in each race instead of four, the speed of the cars is ample, albeit very tricky to get to grips with in harder races, and although there are plenty of things that I would change in this game – characters, character selection, that fucking camera – there’s so much to like about it by the same token. The presentation in general is inventive and appealing, the game is an absolute riot in multiplayer and the game brought back the head to head matches that were lost during Military (oh fuck… mentioned it again…). Not enough characters for league matches sadly. Maybe one day we’ll get that one back provided they actually make games like that anymore HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh Wellsy, you card. That’s a good one…

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Now then, I’m off to get all of the school’s metre sticks and make the most epic track around my classroom.

BEFORE THE KIDS GET IN.

BECAUSE THEY’LL RUIN IT.

COMPLETELY.

KIDS, DON’T FUCKING TOUCH MY RACE TRACK.

And stop reading my reviews. I’ve already told you. I swear. You don’t want me to be a bad influence, do you? DO YOU?

*sigh*

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