|Designer(s)||Les Spink and Ade Carless|
Fatal Racing can be considered to be a hybrid of Stunts and Destruction Derby. The player picks among a broad selection of cars and drives through tracks with loops, corkscrews and insane jumps while trying to smash into other cars to destroy them and at the same time cross the finish line first. There is a variety of different camera views available in the game, "in-car", chase-cam, etc. Multiplayer is supported by IPX/SPX network and modem, in addition a split screen option is also available. Fatal Racing supports graphics resolutions of 320×200 and 640×480, the latter being very demanding on the hardware available at the time of the game's release. The game also runs in a 16:10 aspect ratio and not the more common 4:3 aspect ratio at the time.
The names displayed for drivers of cars in the race not controlled by human players all come from famous robot or computer characters from science fiction movies and television (Kryten from Red Dwarf, Slave from Blake's 7, Robby from Forbidden Planet, etc.), though this can be changed within the game's options.
- Auto Ariel - France - Fouette 270ZX - Car Numbers 1 and 2
- A green and magenta car (cyan/magenta in the Advanced carset) with a top speed of 190 MPH for the normal car set and 196 MPH advanced. It is a good all rounder (though slightly more biased to cornering rather than speed) with its only weakness being its somewhat less than average durability. The AI generally finish in the middle of the pack. This car has an appearance similar to that of the Renault Laguna of its time. The default computer drivers are Hal and Sal (from 2001: A Space Odyssey).
- DeSilva - Italy - 511 GTi - Car Numbers 3 and 4
- A magenta and yellow car (blue and hot pink in the Advanced carset) with the best acceleration in the game, but it has the drawback of having the slowest top speed on the grid (186 MPH normal, 191 advanced). Another downside is that its weight/mass is very low, making it easy to get bumped around. Although on paper the durability looks better than average, due to its light mass the car spins easily when slammed into and therefore ends up taking more damage than other cars would, and at that, it cannot do nearly as much damage to other cars. The AI almost never win, but they may, on some rare occasions, finish in the top 5. Next to the Million Plus team, the DeSilva AI are quite destructive despite having low weight, thanks to their likeness for going the wrong way (and sometimes ruining a race). Despite its cons, as a player-driven car it can excel on the tighter tracks providing you can stay out of trouble. The car resembles an Alfa Romeo 33. The default computer drivers are Zen and Slave (from Blake's 7).
- Pulse Engineering - Great Britain - Errant V8 GT - Car Numbers 5 and 6
- A near all-red (near-all orange in the Advanced carset) car that is one of the few teams that have the ability to power-slide, done by turning at quite an extreme angle. It has fairly average stats apart from its poor grip, but has a pretty good top speed (193 MPH normal, 199 MPH advanced), but cornering with other cars out on the grid ends up in disaster if the rear end of the car collides with another car in the wrong way while power-sliding. The AI on this team usually don't finish last unless they get destroyed first. It takes a bit of getting used to but can be a very quick car when driven well, and provided that the driver doesn't get into trouble. The car looks like a Mercedes CLK. The default computer drivers are Bishop and Ash (from the Alien movie series).
- Global - USA - Celerity MKII - Car Numbers 7 and 8
- A very quick and durable car overall, this white and red (which changes to green in the Advanced carset) vehicle has great top speed (196 MPH using the normal car-set, 202 MPH for advanced) and has the best durability in the game, therefore it can take the most punishment before being destroyed or even having to pit. It also has a heavy mass, but its grip and turning ability are sub-par, so cornering ability is not as good as the more nimble cars such as the Mission Motors and Million Plus cars. The acceleration is fairly poor, but is significantly better than Reise Wagon and Million Plus. Because this car has so few weaknesses, the team is usually battling against the Reise Wagon team. Its boxed look does not resemble any car in particular. The default computer drivers are Nomad and Voyager (from Star Trek).
- Million Plus - Japan - Ninjato - Car Numbers 9 and 10
- The Million Plus is a white and blue (changes to pink in the Advanced carset) car, with the best grip out of all the cars available, as well as a bit of weight to avoid getting pushed around too often. However, its top speed is only 187 MPH with the normal car set, 193 MPH for the advanced. This leaves it the second slowest on the grid and is paired with equally slow acceleration and the worst durability. Although on paper the turning looks poor, the excellent grip actually makes this car incredibly nimble, able to take most corners at full speed. The AI drivers for this car are easily the most destructive and will often turn round and drive the wrong way around the course, leading to some serious collisions, more so when the other teams' drivers are in large groups. Despite all this, the car can end up being a race winner provided the driver doesn't bother with destroying opponent teams' cars. The car resembles a Honda CRX. The default computer drivers are Bob and Vincent (from The Black Hole).
- Mission Motors - USA - Spectre/Chimera Turbo SE - Car Numbers 11 and 12
- This green and light purple car (changes to orange and cyan in the Advanced carset) is an alternative choice to an Auto Ariel for an all round car. It has the best braking, excellent grip, a decent top speed (189 MPH normal, 194 advanced), and accelerates almost as quickly as the DeSilva cars, as well as good turning. Sadly however, the car does not last long because with bad durability and quite low mass it can be knocked around quite easily and not be able to do much damage to other cars. It is, however, a safe choice due to its combination of high grip keeping the car out of trouble and instant brakes and fast acceleration allowing for easy pitstops and reducing the window of vulnerability to getting rear-ended while moving slowly before or after a pitstop. It does not look like any real life car in particular. Interestingly, one of its sponsor decals actually says 'Sabotage'. The default computer drivers are Marvin and Eddie (from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy).
- Zizin - Japan - KLR 330 - Car Numbers 13 and 14
- A white with blue and red car (changes to cyan with red and orange in the Advanced carset), this is one of the very few teams that can drift. The stats of this car is somewhat similar to the Pulse. It's significantly slower than the Pulse car in respect to top speed, traveling 191 MPH on the normal car set, 197 MPH in the advanced, but has better acceleration. It has the worst grip out of all the cars in the game paired with the best turning, at least on paper. In reality however the back end of the car swings out while power-sliding around corners and colliding with other cars is sometimes difficult if not impossible to avoid in large packs. Although the car is fairly heavy and durable, due to colliding with more cars on corners it is usually worse off (at least time and speed-wise) than lots of other cars with worse durability. Due to its many weaknesses, the team is classified last if no other teams' cars end up getting destroyed. This is quite easily the hardest car for anyone (AI or human) to drive and is best avoided. However, any player that picks this car and wins should be commended if merely for their incredible skill (or luck). It resembles a second generation Toyota Supra. The default computer drivers are Holly and Kryten (from Red Dwarf).
- Reise Wagon - Germany - Merkur/Mercur GT - Car Numbers 15 and 16
- An all blue car (all pink for the Advanced carset) with the highest speed. It is capable of going 203 MPH in the normal car set, 209 MPH in the advanced. It is the heaviest and second most durable car on the grid, as well as the fastest of all the cars available in the game, but it comes at a high price: Acceleration. This car is metaphorically a snail off the line and it can slide around corners somewhat, albeit at a very slight angle. The turning is very slow and therefore relies on sliding around the corners to get around them safely. Also, due the pairing of high speed and extremely heavy weight this car becomes like a moving wrecking ball. For racing however, the acceleration and poor braking can make pit stops quite slow, and cornering can be somewhat difficult while trying to either avoid other cars or destroying them. They are sometimes seen taking the checkered flag, most often in a one-two finish in the Gremlin Cup events, but are otherwise low midfield finishers. If the driver has the skills and wants to beat lap records, this is the car to use as the lap times it can reach are usually untouchable by other cars. It looks like a Ford Escort Cosworth. The default computer drivers are Robby and Gort (from classic 50's sci-fi films Forbidden Planet and The Day the Earth Stood Still).
Corkscrews are difficult for beginners to navigate. The recommended approach is to stay 'high' (as in, on the side of the road that rises) and following the gutter along the side. Driving straight down the middle will cause you to fall off.
Twister jumps appear on two tracks, sending cars into a barrel roll. The timing on these is tricky, but usually involves turning slightly upwards and slowing down a bit. Cars that can powerslide, such as the Zizin and Pulse can increase or decrease the rate of mid-air spin by leaving the jump while performing a skid.
Moving speedbumps are a unique feature and appear on almost all tracks. Ranging from almost unnoticeable waves in the road to sheer mountains, these obstacles constantly flex up and down, causing jumps of varying height and distance.
Open Pits appear on several tracks. They can appear in the middle of the road or along the edges. On some tracks, pits are added to the edges of banked track sections, creating a Pinball Wall.
Loops appear in various sizes and with various modifications including split paths and a loop combined with a corkscrew.
Le Grande Royale is the simplest of all courses, featuring a turn which features two alternative roads, various series of winding turns, and a hairpin. The longest circuit of the game (not counting the Bonus Series), taking just slightly over a minute to complete a lap. This is easily the easiest circuit in the game as the course offers no real stunts - thus, if driven through well, pitting may not even be required.
Snake Pass is a short and winding course which has extreme height changes and jumps which constantly change in slope. The final turn and the third to last turn are the most difficult to take for any car. This is probably the most technical course, though the attacks of opponents are easily fended off due to the constant jumping.
Big Dippa features a combination of technical turns and long wide straights. The track features a moving speedbump that often causes a long jump straight into a turn, several hairpins, and even more extreme height changes than Snake Pass. The trademark feature of this track is a long straight that slopes up and down at extreme angles; despite looking dangerous on the track select screen, the car does not take off here.
Death Drop is a maze of sorts; this course has various paths which have a huge impact on laptime. This track has two "roundabouts" which extensively feature this, the first one having a ramp which constantly varies in slope, the second holding one of two pit areas in the middle. The pit area is located off to the right after the two round abouts and the second to last turn. Because of this, it's very difficult to defend your position here because the paths on this course are unpredictable. Note that the manual mentions a drop hazard and there is a flat straight section with warning signs, which may hint at a trapdoor obstacle similar to the one on Reise's Bonus Cup track. Considering all the issues with the latter, it is no surprise that the trapdoor does not appear in this track.
Tsunami Twister is a course which features a jump which causes the car to barrel roll in mid-air. Due to the poor pitting AI here many of the AI drivers will often end up getting eliminated. The timing on the barrel roll is very difficult; the idea is to turn slightly to the right while slowing down slightly. There is a spoken message to alert you if you are going too slow or fast, but this does not take into account the angle of attack and is therefore not very useful. The pits are located to the left of the first turn, which is quite narrow and short, thus causing some problems when pitting, more so in the faster cars.
The Bridge is a multiple path oval-like circuit which features a bridge that drops and rises. Next to Le Grande Royale, this circuit is one of the simplest. Like Tsunami Twister, this course also has its pit area off to the left on the first turn, but is nowhere near as narrow or short. The starting straight leads to a series of speedbumps that constantly change height, potentially launching a car over the pitlane or towards a hard landing. A potentially dangerous section of this circuit, at the last turn, features a ravine over which the track splits into two narrow lanes unprotected by guard rails while curving, which also feature moving speedbumps. Taking this section too fast and at the wrong angle can result in one's car jumping or falling into the ravine, causing major loss of time and massive damage.
Siamese is a circuit featuring two loops, a hairpin, and a 270 degree turn. This course's pits are at two locations, similar to Death Drop - one after the first loop, the second after the second loop and the 270 degree turn. The former is located just before the second loop and is therefore not recommended if your car has slow acceleration.
Gateway is the final circuit in the series. This course is oval shaped. It is set in a canyon and introduces a corkscrew followed by a zigzag section with banked walls, a left hairpin and a loop. After the loop is a large jump, which if taken poorly can cause badly damaged cars to miss the pit area after it.
The Reaper This course is packed to the gills with jumps. Similar to Tsunami Twister, a lot of competitors end up getting eliminated due to taking damage at the multitude of dangerous jumps and getting taken out by more healthy opponents at the fast final section. Widest, but one of the longest. The pit area is located on the seventh turn, off to the right (and like Tsunami Twister), it is very narrow and short. This course is one of the few courses where destroying all the competitors before going the full race distance is possible, but it is extremely rare.
Free Fall has a course shape similar to Gateway, except there is a huge "forked" curl which merges into a single road about midway into it. This track feature is basically a loop with a corkscrew at the top. It is not possible to fall off, but the sharp downhill bank may require some braking to avoid a collision with the wall. The course also features a small jump that is bugged and may sometimes cause the car to drop like a stone and crash into the ravine. This course features four turns, not including the loop.
The Crab has a completely unique feature, making a half loop before leading into a barrel rolling drop which may sometimes cause cars to land on their roof provided they go too fast or going too far off to the left of the track. the pits are located just before the starting line to the right, and due to its dangerous location and lack of a dividing wall make for some nasty side-on collisions. Driving this track in the reverse direction straight to the half-loop will cause a divide-by-zero-jump, which, if jumping too high, can crash the game, but otherwise fatalities, especially the less durable cars, instantly on hitting ground.
The Switchback utilizes 2 corkscrews and a balcony on a lower part of the circuit, which can cause cars to fall off at the end of the lap and end up on the track below back at the start of the lap. One of the longest tracks, it takes about 45 to 50 seconds to lap the circuit. The pits are located off the left after the first corkscrew. Though it seems like falling off the balcony near the end of the lap is a bad idea, it can shave off valuable time and seconds on the final lap because the finish line is below. Colliding with the balcony wall from below may cause a divide-by-zero jump, sending the car miles into the air; computer opponents occasionally make this fatal mistake.
Fly By is a figure of eight which has a similar jump to Tsunami Twister in the middle of it after the first turn. It also features a fork with gaps in the middle and along the sides, similar to what can be encountered in The Bridge. This course is nowhere nearly as difficult as its Gremlin Cup counterpart Tsunami Twister due to the track being far wider in many areas, and is also easier to make a pit stop on. Here, the pits are before the first of four turns. Note that the manual mentions two twister jumps, even though there is only one such jump; the second jump seems to have been replaced with a narrow catwalk.
The Coffin Run is a circuit which features a corkscrew followed up by a small jump as well as several narrow bends. The start of this course is the same as the Bridge, except it is much more extreme. After that section comes an area with a left-hander which leads into a long right-hand turn with 'pinball walls' that bounce cars away at high speed, occasionally leading to a disastrous series of bounces back and forth. The pits are located off to the left on the starting grid.
Devil's Hairpin is a circuit which features a small balcony where it is possible to land on another part of the course, and end up falling behind in the process. This course consists of two ovals side by side, with the first oval leading to a fall-off section above the starting line and the second oval going back down. Falling off returns you to the start of the lap. The pit lane is located to the left along the starting line. The long straights, very long and wide pitlane and lack of difficult obstacles make this one of the easier tracks to survive.
Nemesis shares similarities to Gateway, but are now taken to a much higher extreme. The large jump of Gateway's is now gone, but the zigzag section is now a series of angled bumps which can cause a car to flip if taken wrong.
The Bonus Cup is a secret, hidden cup that only becomes available once the Premier Cup has been beaten at the highest difficulty level. None of the races have names, they are simply referred to as Race 1, Race2, etc. Each one is an extreme, physics defying course in which the race is usually ended through the destruction of all competitors rather than driving the full distance. Examples include a small high-walled circular course with an average 10 second lap time, and a long T-shaped course with randomized jumps causing huge levels of damage where pitting to repair is usually required every other lap.
Race 1 is a short oval that is literally one long corkscrew with a short starting straight and pitlane. Although it looks intimidating, the corkscrew is magnetic and it is therefore impossible to fall off.
Race 2 is a very short and flat dogleg oval. Its defining features are the pit lane in the middle of the road with no cover and the 'pinball walls', similar to those found on Coffin Run, along the entire length. The slightest brush with such a wall causes your car to bounce all over the track back and forth taking major damage. There is also a gap between the track and said walls which you can fall into.
Race 3 is the second most difficult track in the game. It seems to be bugged, requiring far longer to complete than the others, up to 30 minutes on Impossible difficulty. The track is a T-shape at the bottom of a deep canyon and is just wide enough for one or two cars side by side, making it hard to escape from bullying opponents. Additionally, the pitlane is short and dangerous. The most deadly feature of the track, however, are the moving speedbumps which exceed anything found on the regular tracks and launch a car very high into the air, causing major damage on touchdown. One of the speedbumps even tilts backwards past 90 degrees, causing a car that hits it at the wrong time to fly backwards and land upside down.
Race 4 is the most difficult track on the higher difficulty settings and especially damage settings. It is basically an endless straight road that curls down until you are upside down, then curls back up. The road at the middle section is transparent so you can see the opponents driving upside down. Although it obviously does not require any cornering skill, the risky location of the pitlane in the middle of the road with no protection from speeding cars and the lack of corners to evade opponent attacks means that a race on Impossible/High settings usually results in the player car and almost everyone else getting destroyed. It is very easy to take damage from opponents due to the blind curls at the ends of the track which hide such things as opponents going the wrong way or standing still in the pit section, and slowing down for any reason (including car damage or trying to pit) will result in getting rear-ended multiple times and destroyed quickly.
Race 5 is a cloverleaf shape: a square walled off by buildings with 270 degree turns at the ends. You can take the obvious shortcut at the intersections and easily win this race. The pitlane, despite being in the middle of the road again, is not much of a hazard because the track is long and there are no hazards that cause damage. Note that this track causes a significant FPS drop even on a decent Pentium.
Race 6 is an oval that narrows in the middle, with a drop-off balcony. The most 'normal' of the Bonus Cup tracks, it is fairly long and lacks defining features.
Race 7 is basically a wide circle in a canyon. Ten second lap times are common. Due to the very short length, the cars tend to bunch up on this track, and the outer edge of the circle is banked but has little grip. Also, the walls are 'pinball walls'. Colliding with an opponent or driving too fast may send you sliding into the outer pinball wall, causing you to bounce back and forth, usually until your car explodes. This is also a good strategy against opponents, though. The pitlane spans about half the length of the track and is on the slippery bank.
Race 8 is an oval with many graphical features of the other two Reise Wagon tracks. It has two loops along one straight, moving speedbumps that launch you into the air along the other straight, and a unique feature: two trapdoors that periodically open to swallow cars. You can avoid these by driving on the sidewalk, but the AI goes straight in, usually in such large quantities that many cars bug out and freeze upon respawning, never moving again until another car hits them. This problem, along with the very long duration of 30 minutes, makes this track unplayable for serious racing.
Artificial Intelligence behavior
When the player (or other AI car) inflicts a large amount of damage on them, at the next given opportunity they may strike back. Behavior is also team dependent; Global tend to be more aggressive than the others, DeSilva tend to try to impede other racers, Million Plus may sometimes try to go the wrong way or simply stand in the way. The player's AI teammate can also follow (or disobey) his or her orders. At the beginning of races, all the AI cars accelerate at the same rate to keep the grid formation until all cars are at full speed, regardless of the respective car's actual acceleration. This usually keeps the AIs in front clear of the initial pack-induced collision damage, which gives them another advantage.
Higher difficulty settings make the AI more aggressive and also make the race last longer, which allows the AI to pull out some of its more dirty tricks. Although the driving model is quite primitive, races on the highest difficulty level (Impossible) with High damage last about 10 minutes and require good racing tactics and a thoughtful pitting strategy to survive, let alone finish in a good position.
- When one driver of a given team is in a high position and the other driver is doing poorly, the latter may turn around and go the wrong way to cause chaos and head-on collisions. Although this usually leads to its own destruction, a stricken opponent loses speed, is forced to pit and may even be destroyed, allowing its teammate to move up in the pack. This is usually a tactic employed by the lighter and more reckless teams, or as a suicide tactic when a driver is down to its last life.
- The heavy and fast Reise Wagon and Global drivers tend to tailgate slower opponents, pushing them down the track. As the victim takes more damage, its top speed slows down, making it even harder to escape. If the track is too narrow for an evasive dodge, this may lead to an elimination in 15 seconds or less. For this reason, Impossible/High drivers are advised to swerve out of the way if they are damaged and a Reise or Global is approaching behind them. If there is an elevation change ahead, slamming on the brake may cause the assailant to fly overhead.
- Some drivers may race through the pit lane at full speed instead of following the regular track. Because damaged vehicles need to stand still in the pit lane to get repaired, this may lead to a high speed collision, launching the damaged car back onto the track with even more damage than before. The crippled car is usually eliminated shortly thereafter unless the driver is exceptionally good at damage avoidance. This tactic can be avoided by hugging the pitlane wall, staying on the inside if the pitlane is curved, parking against another car or if you are in an agile car, parking backwards in the pitlane. This tactic is unavoidable on the Bonus Cup tracks with a pitlane in the middle of the road, making these tracks very difficult to complete.
- Plain old sideswiping. While not very dangerous in and of itself, if this happens at a banked ramp, corkscrew or drop-off, it could lead to the victim falling off or landing upside down, after which the vehicle respawns in the middle of the road and usually gets rear-ended instantly, taking major damage.
Artificial Intelligence bugs
There are a few bugs with the artificial intelligence in Fatal Racing:
- If too many drivers fall off the road into a pit trap at the same time, the 'respawn spots' may get filled up and some of the cars will freeze upon respawning. This is especially noticeable on Global's Premier track and Reise's Bonus track.
- Drivers going the wrong way will not take into account jumps and corkscrews and will usually drive right into oblivion.
Enhanced 3D version
Later, there was an enhanced 3dfx Glide version of the game made. This was bundled with some Voodoo Cards as "Fatal Racing 3D". This enhanced version is however hardware specific, so it requires a Voodoo I Graphics Card to function correctly. There were also patches available for the original versions of the game to add support for 3D Graphics Cards such as the Rendition Verite and the S3 ViRGE.
Version Differences and Fatal Racing 2.0
An official 2.0 update was also later released that included 3D Blaster support as well as several other changes, although the patch notes do not list the full changes. Listed below are the most obvious changes:
- All cars on both the normal and advanced set are around 10%-15% faster.
- Additional network support including both serial link and modem connections.
- Several user interface changes: Confirmation dialog when selecting 'Exit to Dos', 'False Starts' renamed to 'Engine damage' under miscellaneous options and arrow keys are usable to navigate the mid-race pause/options menu.
- The colour of Million Plus on the in game minimap and arrow below the player names are changed from grey to turquoise for better visibility.
Retail copies of the game after a certain date are all version 2.0 with no apparent way of downgrading. These new retail versions however also have the option of switching between the default and advanced cars set via an additional menu option which seems to be lacking from both the original 1.x and patched 2.0 versions. The American version 'Whiplash' seems to be based upon these final retail versions.
Like some DOS games, Fatal Racing had audio CD tracks for realistic music performance. It can be chosen as a music option in the Sound and Music setup program. This was used to replace low-quality MIDI choices. While the title, race victory and championship victory tracks are high-quality versions of their respective MIDI equivalents, the menu track and in-game tracks are completely different on the CD. The audio and the sound effects (featuring the 9 songs) were produced by Neil Biggin.