Golden Age of Racing tries to put a slightly different spin on the heavily saturated racing genre back on the PlayStation 2 by putting you in an open wheel racer from the 60’s.
The tracks themselves range from speedways to road courses and as such helps to add some variety to the scenery. The game gets a few things right as the graphics are generally appealing even if they are far from a technical marvel. There are several other cars on the track with you at a time and I did not notice any clipping or framerate slowdown, even when there were several cars jockeying for position.
Speaking of cars bumping into one another, this is one area where realism gets thrown out of the window. Even the slightest bump of a car’s rear wheel can cause some very funny airborn antics. The computer controlled cars seem less effected by collisions than your vehicle does, however. You can send an opponent flying into the air, only for them to land and immediately be right back into the thick of things.
By contrast, your car can pick up front and rear end damage, visible in the wobbling of your wheels as you drive. Those crashes have a tangible effect on the racing as well as your car may then struggle to turn or get up to speed again depending on the type and severity of the damage. And here is where thing start to really go wrong.
The cars really do not control very well. They have a back heavy feel to them that makes tight turning almost impossible at speed, using the brake option does not seem to slow you down enough for some turns, and using the hand brake option has a tendency to spin you around so you are facing the wrong way. These lead to crashes, which you have no way of fixing mid-race, but since your computer opponents do not seem to have the same problems, you have to put together an almost perfect race, even on easier AI settings.
To do that? You really have to just race over and over again. Right off of the bat this feels like something of a budget title because while there are a handful of modes (single races, challenge mode and championship mode – the last of which was the best in my opinion), there is no upgrade system for your car. This feels like a fairly glaring omission and really hurts the long term replay value. Another odd omission is the lack of a racing map either before or during the race. The turns are not always clearly indicated on the track as you approach them, and by the time you see them, the aforementioned issues with steering have you slamming into a wall and damaging your car.
It is hard to say who this title was aiming at, really. It feels like something geared toward the more casual racer because it is lacking any sort of upgrade/purchase system, but newcomers or casual racing fans may find the controls too hard to get used to and could grow frustrated and give up before learning the nuances of the racing system. This is a title that I cannot help but feel would have been a bit underwhelming back when it was released for the PlayStation 2, and unfortunately it has not aged particularly well since that time.