Review by Dr Explodo

"You Have To Check This Game Out"

Since the coming of the Playstation 2, Sega has been under a lot of pressure to keep pumping out a steady flow of games worthy of the spotlight. Personally, I can't get my hands on a PS2 yet, and I don't mind at all. Sega has been waiting until now to drop some of their greatest games yet into the market, and plans on staying successful through games like Quake 3: Arena, Shenmue and Jet Grind Radio. Jet Grind Radio is innovative, stylish and will satisfy fans of several different gaming genres.

Jet Grind Radio takes place in the near-future city of Tokyoto. You play as various members of a skater gang called the GGs; teenagers who head a pirate radio station called Jet Grind Radio. Three other gangs occupy the city of Tokyoto and contend for your territory. The story is nothing groundbreaking, but it's more interesting than most video game plots. You can tell from the beginning that the game is intended to come across to young adults as ''dripping with style''. Although at times characters can act a bit corny, between the game's fast-paced gameplay, creative art and incredible soundtrack I was eager to slip into the style of the game. The most important and immediately evident innovation in Jet Grind Radio is easily the graphics.

Through a process called cel-shading, polygonal figures in Jet Grind Radio are outlined and displayed in such a way that the game looks like a cartoon. Although a still picture from Jet Grind Radio would appear to be hand-drawn and two dimensional, the game is three dimensional and very much alive. Each playable character has a manner unique to him, such as Combo, a black rapper who carries a boom box on his shoulder and wears a gold necklace with the symbol for ''yen'' on it. Rival gangs do as also, like the Noise Tanks, software pirates who wear creepy biohazard masks. The Keisatsu, trigger-happy corporate-funded police, were done particularly well and are downright scary to have on your tail. Characters move fluidly and lighting and shadow effects are expertly employed. Cities are fairly large, using a wide variety of textures on houses and cars. Civilians and various small structures fill large areas to keep things interesting. Jet Grind Radio has a look that has to be seen; it is totally different than any previous game. There are a couple of graphic imperfections, such as moderate quantities of visible pop-up objects in a few particular areas, but nothing that affects the overall experience. Periods of slowdown due to high polygon counts also occur on rare occasion.

So what is life like for a skater-punk in the BBs, living in contested territory? Jet Grind Radio is more or less mission based, with a variety of goal-oriented levels worked into the storyline. Usually your task is to go to a rival gangs hot spot and chase them out of town by going around spraypainting your gangs' graffiti over the rivals, and adding a few new tags while you're at it. Once in a while you'll do something different, like directly confronting a rival gang and trying to spray-paint them repeatedly. The controls are easy to get the hang of and the game mechanics are designed to help you perform tricks. You'll be performing Tony Hawk-esque tricks pretty quickly, and eventually will learn to do things that are just unreal. That's a good thing, too; Tony Hawk never had a police SWAT team after him, armed with tear gas. Most Jet Grind Radio levels are fast paced and moderately difficult, and everything is exaggerated in a very cool way. A resourceful player can use almost everything around him to his advantage. You can grind on almost any narrow object, change direction in midair by kicking off of a wall, or hitch a ride on the back of a passing car. Jet Grind Radio gives the player a sense of freedom and awesome capability, not unlike Crazy Taxi. The controls have been fairly well done, although they are a bit simple. My only complaint about the controls is that the button used to center the already mediocre camera is the same button that is used for spraypainting. Jet Grind Radio only uses three buttons. It was totally unnecessary to make a button perform two unrelated functions, and I've messed things up due to that on several occasions. The game isn't especially long, but most players will want to keep playing long after they've beaten it. There are a few levels that are a bit frustrating, but most of them are great and gameplay is addictive. Some extras have been included to further increase replay value, including customizable graffiti. You can choose what your graffiti will look like, either from one of many pre-drawn designs that can be unlocked by grabbing hidden or hard to reach icons in the game or you can draw your own and save it to your VMU.

One more thing that must be noted about Jet Grind Radio is the music. Normally I don't care a great deal about the music in a game, but Jet Grind Radio's superior soundtrack makes a big difference. Not only are the songs in it good, they are well suited to the game and there are many of them, covering several different fields of music. I can remember a few games that had really good music, like you'd hear listening to established bands on the radio, but that only had five or six songs, making them annoying to listen to for extended periods of time. Jet Grind Radio has a good assortment of rap, hip-hop, punk rock, pop rock and techno music. Without such an exceptional soundtrack, I don't know if Jet Grind Radio could quite achieve the general flair and attitude that its designers aspired to create.

Jet Grind Radio is a nearly perfect game; a novel concept that has been expertly executed. It is not a cartoon Tony Hawk, it is not Sega attempting to come up with something that's ''hip for the youngsters,'' and it is not merely a good game. This game is exceptional. There are both lots of original games and lots of good games coming out right now, a number of which play on a new machine of revolutionary power. You have to check this out, though. Seriously, whatever type of gamer you might be, you owe it to yourself to check this one out.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 11/07/00, Updated 11/07/00


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