Review by tForce2k

"Be sure to pick up a few extra controllers, you'll need it..."

Alright, this is easily the MOST frustrating game I have EVER played. I cannot count the number of times I have thrown my controller against my TV/wall/PS2/etc. Good thing I know a thing or two about electronics or I would have spent a lot more money than planned. Also, expect a stream of vulgarity to flow from your mouth, as well as having bruised knuckles from beating the crap out of the wall (or the poor, unfortunate soul that happens to cross you at the moment).

That being said, it is also one of the greatest games I have ever experienced. How many games can actually claim to be this addictive, yet this frustrating? The computer BLATANTLY cheats by ramming into you. The traffic often seems to INTENTIONALLY swerve into you! And yet, more often than not, you come away feeling like it was partially your fault for not reacting fast enough. Once you finally DO beat a difficult race, the feeling of accomplishment is unparalleled.

Front End/Modes:
Simple and Clean. The choices include Career, Arcade, Network, Race Editor, and Options. In Career, you find and challenge other racers until you conquer them all and meet up with the city champ. Tracks include LA, Paris, and Tokyo. Should you complete the gauntlet, you go against Savo in the World Championships. Arcade more allows you to play Cruise (free roam), Circuit (lap racing), Custom races (created in Race Editor), Detonate and Capture the Flag. Detonate is similar to capture the flag, but you have to destroy the car to make the person ''drop'' the ''flag''. It's also worthy of mention that there are several powerups for CTF and Detonate modes. Network is online play. Race Editor allows you to create your own races by picking a city and mapping out your own checkpoints. Finally, Options are options.

Graphics:
The graphics are not astounding, but good. However, we're all jaded now, so it's harder and harder to be impressed by visuals. The rain effect is stunning, in my opinion. The cars are nicely modeled, even if they are merely loosely based on actual cars. Although there are only 3 cities, they are huge. Also, the cities are extremely intricate, from alleyways to sidewalks to even ceilings, everything is your playground (though there are pesky invisible walls). An annoyance is a lot of shimmering of the textures. Crash near a wall and you'll see the ground switching textures rapidly for no reason. However, it's merely an annoyance. You have more than enough things to look at (direction arrow, mini-map, road, traffic, pedestrians, other racers, road hazards, etc) to be to worried about frivolous things such as texture seems or swapping. The framerate is fairly steady, but when there are multiple cars on screen at a time, it can get somewhat choppy.

Controls:
This is not a sim. Don't expect it to control like one. It's more Ridge Racer-esque than GT3. Taking a corner at high speeds generally done by pumping your accelerator and holding on the the handbrake to ''drift''. However, since the cars do indeed handle differently, you'll need to grow accustomed to your car before you can take corners properly. And you damn well better practice, because there are a LOT of sudden SHARP turns.
-sidenote-
There are THREE motorcycles in this game, an awesome alternative to the tried and true cars. While they aren't equipped with nitros and are easily knocked over, a master of the bikes can be just as good as someone in a car, and might even have an upper hand on the tight corners/small gaps.
-end sidenote-
Weight shifting also plays a role in the controls. In a car, weight shifting allows you to lean a car in the air (very useful if you are about to do a corkscrew or if you are flying a bit off-course and need to correct yourself) or drive on 2 wheels ala James Bond. 2 wheel driving is more of a gimmick than anything, but in-air controls are vital. In the motorcycle, weight shifting allows you to perform endos (cool, but useless), wheelies (increase speed greatly), leaning forward (increase speed moderately), and lean into turns.

AI:
A lot of people complain about the cheap AI. Yes, the game does indeed cheat. Yes, it is EXTREMELY blatant. However, it serves a purpose. The computer crashes into you because they WANT YOU TO LOSE. The will willingly sacrifice themselves to take you out of commission. Annoying, yes. But remember, you have to beat ALL OF THEM to win. It's the three musketeers concept, one sacrifices himself so the rest may beat you. As for the traffic, it often DOES get in your way, but it DOES disrupt the computer as well. Just like you might run a perfect route sometimes, the computer can do the same thing on occassion. More often than not thought, they DO crash... into walls, into cars, into each other. As for the ''rubberband AI'' crap, I don't buy it. I can beat the computer by 30 seconds or lose by over 30 seconds. At the same time, all the racers can finish inside of 5 seconds of each other. It's refreshing to see semi-intelligent racers and not ones that drive that perfect line all the time.

Sound/Music:
The sound is what you'd expect from a racing game. Engine roaring, cars honking, pedestrians screaming when you run them over... okay, maybe not the last one. The ''leader'' spouts insults and that ilk, while you often have a ''backseat driver'' giving you nuggets of information or support. The music is a mixture of techno, trance, and hip-hop. It's not gonna win any soundtrack awards, but it's serviceable. You'll probably find a few tracks you like and keep using those for the races.

Online:
No comment, as I haven't played this aspect.

Closing comments:
It's impressive the range of emotions this game invokes in you. Ranging from fury, to frustration, to smugness, it's easy to get absorbed. This is not a ''pick up and play'' type of game. You have to devote at least SOME TIME to remembering paths before you can beat the computer. Also, if you are in a bad mood already, do NOT play this game. Homicidal tendencies may result.

Final Verdict:
If you have a acute case of road rage, I suggest avoiding the game altogether. Actually, if you have any anger problem whatsoever, this is not a good game for you. Also, if you utterly SUCK at racing games, this game would be better served on your table as a coaster than in your PS2.

That being said, this is definitely a buy for racing fans. It's not intricate to the point where you can customize your car, but the AI and way it delicately walks the thin line of frustration/challenge makes it a worthy purchase. Just make sure you play the game the way it was intended to be played... that means NO CODES!

Remember, everytime someone cheats to win, God kills a kitten.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 04/24/03, Updated 04/24/03


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