Planet of Death

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POD: Planet of Death
Developer(s) Ubisoft
Publisher(s) Ubisoft
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows
Release date(s)
  • NA February 28, 1997
  • EU 1997
Genre(s) Racing game
Mode(s) Competitive, Online, Players: 1-8
Distribution CD-ROM

POD: Planet of Death (titled simply POD in North America) is a futuristic racing game for Windows released by Ubisoft in 1997. The game is set in the distant future on the planet Io. A mining accident unleashes a virus from within the planet on its inhabitants, causing widespread panic. After most of the population escapes the planet, a few survivors remain on Io, with only one ship remaining. The survivors soup up cars which they race in tournaments, the winner of the final tournament taking the last ship and escaping to safety, leaving the others to die.

History[edit]

POD was published in 1997. It was one of the first games to support the MMX instruction set and came bundled as an OEM version with computers using Intel Pentium or Pentium II MMX processors, and some AMD K6 systems. The OEM 1.0 version did not support 3dfx cards or network mode. A retail version of POD (called POD 2.0 by Ubisoft) was later released and featured more circuits and cars, plus support for 3dfx video cards and network play. A special multiplayer program called "Game Service" was provided by Ubisoft for POD players so that they could race on Ubisoft servers. POD was among the first games optimized for video cards with a 3dfx chipset using the Glide API. Only video cards with the 3dfx Voodoo 1 chipset were supported upon the game's release. Ubisoft later published patches which added support for the Voodoo 2 using the Glide API and non-3dfx chipsets via Direct3D. Less than a year after publishing POD, Ubisoft issued an expansion pack under the title Back to Hell (also known as Extended Time in France) in late 1997. This pack contained 19 circuits and 15 new vehicles including motorcycles, a floating purple bat creature, and a witch riding a broom.

In the winter of 2000, Ubisoft released the game's successor, POD 2 (also known as POD 2: Multiplayer Online and POD: Speedzone), available for the Sega Dreamcast console. It is another futuristic racing game, but players are able to attack their opponents. Each player is a miner on the colony of Damethra, and an alien virus has taken over the cars on the colony, creating mutant cars. It was one of the first games playable on SegaNet, and one of the few games to support the Dreamcast Broadband Adaptor. The game featured eight vehicles to use on five tracks. Bonus cars and tracks could be unlocked if the game was played online and the user had a Game Service account.

On October 6, 2011, POD was re-released by GOG.com, with added compatibility with modern operating systems.

Reception[edit]

POD was generally given high marks at the time of release, and later re-releases of the game often included several of these ratings on their packaging. The game was considered to be a showcase of what computers could do, and updates were often released to adapt the game to newly released hardware. At one point, so many various updates and patches were available for the game that several sources claimed they were confusing, even for the reviewer.

There were mixed opinions regarding game-play, however. Some reviews claimed that the simple style and easy controls made the game more accessible and more fun, while others argued that the game was too simplistic, and that more effort should have been put into adding more features and elements to the game. However, most sources seemed to agree that the game offered an easy to use system that made it simple to learn and play.

Reviews of the track design and graphics were also mixed. Some commented that the game amounted to learning how to go through an entire track at full speed without applying the brakes, while others countered that the tracks were far more detailed and complex than those found in other racing games. There was also argument over graphics, with some bewailing the native resolution of 640x480, while responses countered that the game was stunning, and that only the passing of time had reduced the quality, with new releases pushing further and further past the abilities of this game.

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