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Indianapolis 500 Legends Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . As far as racing games with only one track goes, Indianapolis 500 Legends isn't half bad. Unfortunately its limited scope makes it difficult to recommend over some of the better racing games on the console. Rating: 57%
Indianapolis 500 Legends
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  • Review Score:

  • C+
It's easy to be skeptical about a game like Indianapolis 500 Legends. While the idea of making a licensed racing game is nothing new, it seems awfully risky to base an entire game around one race. These days it's not uncommon to expect dozens of tracks to come with your typical racing game, yet Indianapolis 500 Legends completely bucks the trend and only offers one track. It's a crazy concept that seems like it's destined to fail.

Thankfully Indianapolis 500 Legends is a lot more exciting than the title lets on. The game is presented as a history of the classic race, taking us from 1960 all the way up to 1971. Along the way we are introduced to some of the masters of race driving, including A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Al Unser, Johnny Rutherford and many, many more. Toss in some extremely cool (and extremely dangerous) cars and you have the makings of a solid racing game.

There's just one big problem, the game only has one track. I know I'm said it before, but it bears repeating a few more times. When I say that the game has one track I mean it, there's no mirror mode or alternate path here. Instead you get the same track that some of the greats made history on. If you're the kind of gamer who could care less about the history lesson and wants diversity in your game, then you might want to check out one of the other racing games on the console. However, if you're the type of gear head that wants to go back in time and recreate some of the best racing rivalries of all time, then Indianapolis 500 Legends may be worth your $40.

The good news is that this racer isn't nearly as monotonous as it sounds. My greatest fear was that this game was going to force me to race a 200 lap race eleven times in a row. As much as I love racing games, I'm not sure I could handle sitting there and racing one of these vehicles for 200 laps straight. Even if it was the best racing game in the world, the idea of doing the same thing 200 times just sounds incredibly boring.

Thankfully that's not what Indianapolis 500 Legends asks you to do. Instead you get something called the "Mission Mode" which assigns a bunch of unique tasks to each racer and each year. One of the common missions is to finish off a race, which means that you will take control when there are only two or three laps left in the 200 lap race. In another mission you will need to swerve out of the way to avoid multi-car pile-ups. In yet another mission you will need to pass a certain amount of cars in order to advance, a mode that was taken directly from the Burnout series. There's even a mission/mini-game that has you using the Wii's motion controls to change a tire and refill the gas tank. For the most part these various missions are a lot of fun and do a good job of adding some diversity to the theme. Unfortunately you'll be asked to do most of these missions over and over again, so eventually the monotony will start to creep back into the overall racing experience.

Indianapolis 500 Legends also comes with a more traditional "Classic Mode," which allows you customize a race to your liking. Not only can you set the game up for two players (no four-player support here), but you will also be able to choose the number of laps you want to play (all the way up to 200), whether or not you want to run a qualifying race and what year you want all of this to take place in. For some strange reason the developers have decided to lock all of the years out from the get-go, so you're going to have to go through that single player mission mode and unlock everything. While I'm sure there's a good reason to do this, it's sad that people just looking for a fun two-player game have to go through the single player experience to unlock the most crucial parts of the game.

Outside of the two main modes there's not much else to do. Beyond viewing your profile and changing the options, the only thing left for you to do is check out the Indianapolis 500 Museum. As you can guess from the name, the museum is a collection of photographs and videos from the race's history. While this isn't the kind of thing I look for in a racing game, I'm sure there are plenty of Indianapolis 500 fans who love seeing this kind of nostalgic footage.

While a lot of Wii games give you a number of different control options, Indianapolis 500 Legends limits you to one way to play the game. Thankfully the one and only control scheme works well for what the game is trying to accomplish. You won't need the nunchuk for this racing game; instead you take the standard Wii remote and flip it on its side. You play the entire game like a steering wheel, similar to what we saw in Nintendo's launch title, Excite Truck. I've had issues with this control set-up in the past, but I was pleasantly surprised by the feel of the game. Perhaps it has to do with the way the cars handle (kind of like a missile with wheels) or maybe Torus Games did a good job of balancing out the controls, but whatever it is the game feels good.

Then again, in the year 2008 we should expect that every racing game released should have workable controls. The fact that Indianapolis 500 Legends is easy to steer shouldn't even be something I should have to address. The big problem is that the controls are perfectly unremarkable. The game's one noteworthy gameplay mechanic is the drafting boost (when you are behind a car an invisible gauge will fill up that allows you to push the "B" button and get a short boost of speed). Unfortunately even this is nothing new; we've already seen this kind of mechanic employed in games like Midnight Club and Burnout. As it stands the controls in Indianapolis 500 Legends are good, but not great.

The graphics are also good, though rarely memorable. This kind of game is all about small details and the nuance between the years, and Indianapolis 500 Legends manages to get a lot of that right. The problem is that the artists are being asked to make small changes to the level they've completed, which sounds more like busy work when you think about it. The developers do a good job of recreating the world of 1960s auto racing, but none of the effects are going to wow you.

The game does have one thing going for it - the cars. While I'm not usually much of a car person, even I was interested in all of the different makes and models. After playing racing games for so many years I thought I had seen it all, but Indianapolis 500 Legends allows me to race in the vintage cars that I've only low-budget drive-in movies. I'll admit that it's also fun to watch how the cars evolve over the decade covered in this game. The game is certainly good at telling an intriguing story of drivers and their cars, I'm not sure that's worth the price of the game, but Indianapolis 500 Legends definitely gets that one thing right.

Going into Indianapolis 500 Legends I was skeptical about the gimmick, I worried that I wouldn't enjoy going through the same course over and over again. Now that I've gone through the full experience I'm not going to say that I'm completely sold on the concept, but this certainly isn't a bad racing game. I won't lie to you, the game does get repetitive and I could have done with more variety, but at the same time I'm not sure what I would have added to the game. At best Indianapolis 500 Legends is an interesting experiment, at worst it's a slightly above average racing game.
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