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Cross Racing Championship 

I do not get to see that many games but now and again it is nice to regress and see just what originally tempted me to a life in computers. I think my first foray was with a Commodore Pet, however a Tandy model 1 was my own first PC.

This is a rallying game over a range of surfaces using a range of cars. It was originally produced by Invictus and while the 210 seconds from initial load to being ready to start has a lot of good graphics you will be pleased to know that most of it can be cut out.

No less than thirty - yes thirty - of the keyboard keys do something within the game and while eleven of these are camera angles I would certainly initially suggest printing out the screen grad of the game controls so you have a chance of staying on the track for more than a few seconds.

Free Practice is obviously the place to try to find your feet, I tried it first with off road and I was soon bouncing over a crash barrier and requiring a rescue (conveniently this is 'R' on the keyboard) The really basic keys are shown in red these are the cursor keys, left and right for direction, up for accelerator and down for brake while the left hand has Ctrl for handbrake and A, Z and C for changing gear and the clutch.

The real first priority is your PC up to running it? It requires Windows ME, XP or Vista. A 2.2GHz Pentium IV hard disc space of 700MB (I found it took 800MB from me) and 512MB or RAM. It mentions various graphics cards but worked with my onboard graphics chip and assuming you want the full experience then speakers are a must. For multiplayer mode you can have two networked PC's or it says it can be played over the Internet.

Given the crazy world we live in everything needs a rating and this is shown as '3+'. I know this is new to Focus but I could find no mention of when it was first released by Invictus.

Even at the really basic Free Practice level everything is videoed and it is possible to replay your efforts - possibly in the hope you may learn something - more likely in my case to give everyone else a good laugh.

There are a total of 65 race courses - dirt tarmac ice etc - and I am told five levels of difficulty. The real experts can spend hours customising their vehicles before they even pass the start line. Things like Drive Train, Engine, Transmission, Brake, Suspension are all set by default to 'Stock'. Tyres should of course be set for the surface you are driving on. These are just some of the options but to be honest at my level just getting round is an achievement.

Just lets say you could spend a very long time customising once you master the basic controls, the sound effects and visuals are impressive and while most of the graphics were good I am sure they would be even better should you possess a stand alone graphics card. I noted it is said to work with Vista but as I did not test it I do not know how much of Vistas graphic engine would help here.

To me this was a fun way of passing far to many hours trying my hand on a variety of cars over a number of the surfaces. Certainly I would need several weeks - probably months - of practice to make even a respectable finish in any of the races. But I doubt this game is aimed at my age group. 

Should you - or more likely - your children fancy it then 9.99 from Focus - link below - or their dealers and should you buy it why not let us know what you think about it.

http://www.focusmm.co.uk/shop/Cross-Racing-Championship-pr-1173.html

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