Diddy Kong Racing Online Hands-on
We hit the internet to see how well this racer handles in multiplayer.
by Craig Harris
January 29, 2007 - When Diddy Kong Racing ships in early February, it will support a whole slew of multiplayer options, including full-on six player online racing via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service. Late last week Nintendo hosted a batch of online sessions so gaming editorial could zoom around the courses against other (competing) publications to see how well the game can handle the load. And pre-release, so far so good.
We'll give the nod to Nintendo's NST team for Metroid Prime Hunters still having the most elaborate online experience, but Rare's Diddy Kong Racing team comes a close second. The game has a "smiley face" system that's actually quite helpful: if a friend is online, for example, a smiley face will show up on the "Friend Roster" option of the menu. Clicking on this selection will take you to the list of friends you've entered into your game, where you can see what that friend's status is: offline, online, starting a game, or in a game. This is also where you can check out the statistics of how many times you've won or lost against this individual in the game's races and battles.
If a friend has set up a game, a smiley face will show up on the "Join Friend" option. This is a pseudo lobby system where you can host a match-up; anyone who's in your friends list can join in, but you can't restrict and lock your match-up to specific friends. You can, however, decide to cut off your list to less than the chosen amount as friends come in, which is really handy since many online games will sit and wait until the match-up times out before starting.
For random competition, you can choose two player, four player or six player races from the menu and the game will play "matchmaker" with random folk also seeking out that style of racing. This does require that whole "critical mass" thing of thousands of people owning the game, which won't start for another week...so we couldn't really do much of that whole random match-up thing in our early playtest. But from what we've experienced, it's much like Mario Kart DS: players pick a track and a type of race, and the most selected track and type of race is the one players will compete within.
Once a game's set up in the friend match-up, the host chooses the tracks and the type of race, whether it's in plane, car, or hovercraft. If the host hasn't unlocked the track, mode, or character in single player mode they won't be available in multiplayer...which will definitely encourage players to play through as much of the adventure as they can before jumping online.
Lag and dropped connections hasn't been much of an issue, but again -- we're playing Diddy Kong Racing a week before it ships. Once people start buying the game next week all that can (and will) change. And we're also playing against people we trust...we haven't experienced •••••••s who love to drop out of a race mid-session because they're losing, so we haven't seen how Rare handles this in-game. We did test out dropping out in the middle of a connection ourselves, and it seems that the game will continue if there's still at least two players connected. Good to know.
Diddy Kong Racing ships next Tuesday. We'll have our full review around that time.