Virtual Karts



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Even if Super Karts by Virgin was not a realistic simulation, it had at least excellent game play and descent speed, even on low 486's. This, however, is not the case for Virtual Karts, the latest simulation by MicroProse.

The system requirements claim that a 486 processor running at 66Mhz "should" be enough to play the game in its lowest resolution. This is unfortunately untrue as you will have to decrease the window size in order to have the minimum speed to enjoy the game. We tested Virtual Karts with two different configurations, a Pentium-60 PCI with a double speed CD-ROM drive and a 486 DX2-66 VLB with a quadruple speed CD-ROM drive. The Pentium was of course faster than the 486, but the gain in speed was still not enough to use the SVGA mode in full screen. No wonder the game comes with so many options to change the resolution and screen size. Unless you have a really fast Pentium (100 Mhz or higher), you can't expect to get the most from Virtual Karts.

Besides the problem of CPU speed, there is also the loading time. Virtual Karts belongs to the category of games that install a minimum amount of files onto your hard disk. While I agree with the idea of saving space as much as possible, I don't support it when loading times stretch on for several minutes before entering a single race. The CD-ROM speed won't help you much with this issue, as the 486 with the quadruple CD-ROM speed gave the same results.

If you make abstraction of these major inconveniences, you will find Virtual Karts to be a very good product. The game supports both VGA and SVGA resolutions, provides networking possibilities for up to eight players and a simulation realism with which Super Karts can hardly compare.

For a moment, I asked myself why the company chose the name "Virtual Karts". The number of possible views during the race might be a clue. In most racing games, you can only see the race through different angle views with cameras placed at various positions on the track. In Virtual Karts, there are only three camera views, but there are five from the driver's seat. You can look to the left, right, behind you, in front of you and look down at the track. You will also be able to look up and down in any of these views making the game come close to a first person perspective game regarding immersion.

Virtual Karts' graphics are very good using textured graphics for tracks, buildings, trees, other karts, etc. Among the racing games, it is definitely the one I would choose for the realism of its graphics, but the last one regarding speed! There are options as usual to decrease the resolution and to reduce the size screen, but it is a shame that the only comfortable setting to play in SVGA was to use the smallest screen size not bigger than a standard VGA screen.

If you play alone, you can select a single race or a championship. In both, you can choose the colors of your uniform, your team logo, and various items of the kart like the kart number, chassis class, tires types, engine and the gear teeth. Then, you will have to select on which track you want to race. Twelve tracks of various difficulty are available, located in cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Baltimore. I found it quite bizarre to see the same type of buildings passing by from one city to another. Los Angeles does not look exactly the same as New York or San Francisco, or am I the only one to think so? The textures are too similar and given a track at random, you wouldn't be able to distinguish it from the others except by the track design itself. The other choices let you change the number of laps to race, and the weather which can be set to sunny, cloudy or rainy.

Controlling your kart won't be such an easy task. The game only supports mouse and joysticks, while the keyboard is exclusively used to switch views, resolutions and to move your head up and down. Controls were not as precise as one would wish, often giving the sensation of responding too late to your commands which was especially true with the mouse.


If I had to compare Virtual Karts to another game, I would choose Flight Simulator 5. They are both realistic for graphics and the simulation, but amazingly slow on average configurations. I would therefore recommend it to simulation fans only equipped with fast Pentiums.

System Requirements:

486 DX2-66 Mhz or higher,
Min 8Mb memory,
MS-DOS 5.0 or later,
Double speed CD-ROM drive or faster,
SVGA video graphic card (VLB or PCI recommended),
Microsoft mouse and 100% compatibles.

Sound Blaster, Sound Blaster Pro/16/AWE32 and compatibles; Ensoniq Soundscape; Gravis Ultrasound (mono); ESS Audiodrive sound cards supported.

Joysticks supported.


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