Game Freebies: Racer

Latest Update: I’ve done the reinstall now, and it’s fixed the problems – working fine again now. This can mean only bad things for my productivity.

Introduction: Since jkOnTheRun pointed it out, I’ve been having a bit of a rummage through the freebes on offer at the Windows Marketplace, including quite a few free games. They’re mostly demo versions, with just the first few levels, or racing games with just one type of car and track, but they’re generally small enough to download (takes a while on dial-up, but still do-able), and if you’re not really into gaming much (I’m not), the first few levels might be enough for you. Many of the games are quite old, but if you don’t have the latest PC specc’d up for gaming, they might be as much as you can run anyway.

What Is It?

A car racing game. The difference with this one is that it’s actually free, not just a demo of a commercial game. You get the full version of the game for free, then you can download cars and tracks that other people have designed – also free.

Worked well on my machine (a Toshiba M200 Tablet PC), but hardly worked at all on Sam’s PC. My tablet has a GeForce grapics ‘card’ in it, which probably makes the difference. According to the FAQs, Racer relies quite heavily on hardware accelleration of OpenGL graphics. If you don’t know if your machine does this or not, you can always give it a go – it’s free, so you don’t lose anything either way. Keep reading for more info, and some tips on the best bits to download…

Any Good?

I’m really enjoying it. It’s not as polished as most commercial games, and some of the cars and tracks are a bit flaky, but for the most part it’s a lot of fun. The basic installation gives you one track and two cars, but with a bit of browsing around some fan sites, you can soon pick up plenty more.

Installing

It’s not qutie as quick and easy as most games are. You need to download and install the game first, which gives you one track and two cars. After that, you pick and choose the cars and tracks you want, and download and install them separately.

The easiest way to get started is to pick up the game from the AusMac Archive link below. Download racer053b20.zip, and unzip it to where you want to install it – a folder called Racer under Program Files if you want to be neat about it. You’ll need to add your own shortcut to racer.exe in this folder to your desktop or Start menu – just use the right mouse button to drag the file to the desktop, then when the little menu pops up, choose ‘Create shortcut here’. Run config to set the resolution, and tick the box for ‘full screen’. Then, you should be able to run Racer from the shortcut you created.

Worth Downloading?

Yes, definitely. I’ve had more fun with this one than any of the other games I’ve tried recently. I’ve linked to a few of my favourite tracks and cars below too, to give you a good start.

Downloads

Some of the downloads were a bit tricky to get – since there’s no big company paying for hosting out of their profits from this game, they’re hosting the files in various free places, and some of the cars and tracks are broken links. The official site links to two different places to download the latest version of the game. I couldn’t get one to work at all, and the other one said there was a 34 minute wait before it would let the download begin. I found an alternative, though, so go to the official site to read about the game, then carry on down this page for the downloads šŸ™‚

Easier downloads

When I had so much trouble getting the beta release file downloaded, I Googled for the filename, and found the AusMac Archive – looks like an archive for Mac related stuff, but they’ve got copies of all of the files – including the Windows versions.

More cars

My Favourites

I’ve not tried all that many, so there’s probably plenty of gems still to be discovered, but the ones I’ve enjoyed most so far are…

  • Mini Cooper S – a nice little car, perhaps one of the best to start out with. Quite speedy, and corners well. Enough power to keep things interesting, but not enough to make things too difficult to handle.
  • Porsche 911 GT3very fast, but can be a bit much. Fun on the ‘ring, but a bit had to handle around Detroit.
  • Toyota Supra RZ – surprisingly powerful, and well-balanced.
  • Nissan Skyline GT-R V-Spec (R34) – very fast, but quite predictable. A good fast car, without the quirks of some of the really flashy ones.

More Tracks

My Favourites

Again, I’ve not actually tried many, but my favourites so far…

  • Nurburgring – still a work-in-progress, and there’s something badly wrong with the sky, but you’ve got to try the Nurburgring. I can’t get a Porsche 911 GT3 around there as fast as Sabine Schmitz can get a diesel Ford Transit around, though.
  • Detroit Grand Prix – very challenging. This is a nicely made track, with good cityscape scenery, but not too big to download still. The circuit at Detroit is unusual – it’s almost all straights and right-angle bends, including one point where you snap around two right angles on a steep slope, and come out under a bridge. Quite startling the first time you hit it, and still hasn’t quite lost its impact for me.
  • Swiss Stroll – a big track, with lots of detail. Includes a cow. You’ll need a reasonably speedy PC for this one – it’s a bit too slow on my little tablet, but the graphics are impressive.
  • Donnington Park – a very nicely done track. One of the best I’ve tried for general racing, with some really nice tight bends.
  • Scalextric – a very cool track. Made from Scalextric parts, and the background is a living room. Great fun. Mostly straights coupled with fairly tight bends. To make this one look right, you need to turn the distance vision up to full, then turn it down again for performance reasons before switching back to other tracks.

One Last Note

Between writing this post in the first post, and getting around to actually posting it, Racer seems to have broken on my machine – it now runs at a crawl, much as it did on Sam’s machine. I’ve not tried uninstalling and reinstalling, but obviously something I’ve done has upset it. It may be a little flaky, but it’s worth a go for free.

Update: reinstalling did the trick – it’s working fine again now.