Acclaim delivers the fastest racing game ever -- and it's a winner!
When Nintendo first sent out its N64 development kits to third-party developers, there must have been a sticker on the box that said please make a racing game. There is no way around it: You all have at one point played an N64 racer, be it from Midway, Human, Boss Game Studios, Imagineer or Nintendo itself. Luckily, Extreme-G, the latest one out for the N64, is quite unique (at least until Nintendo's own F-Zero 64 arrives next year).
Lovingly called XG by its developers, the game pits up to four players against each other in insanely fast cyber bike races down tracks that make Six Flags look like a golf course. There are more than a dozen magnetic tracks, bikes, weapons, boosts, loops, drops, corkscrews and jumps -- but if you had to choose only one trait that sets XG apart from the slew of other N64 racers, it s SPEED. The game is very, very, very fast. And most of time, that s what makes it fun.
It s evident from the start that the developer, Probe, tried to make Extreme-G live up to the high quality marks set by other N64 racers (no, we re not talking about Cruis n USA). And while it can t quite compete with the graphics, physics and control of Wave Race and Top Gear Rally, it is a solid and well-designed game that is sure to appeal to action and racing fans alike.
First off, the graphics are quite nice, with four different worlds filled with tracks that up the ante on every other racing game out there. Imagine double loops, steep drops, sudden turns, lava, driving on the ceiling, and corkscrews that make the whole screen spin. Speed-wise, Extreme-G is second to none. Unfortunately there is that dreaded layer of fog (a different color for each world) to hide pop-up and keep things moving at high speeds. While it doesn t disturb the gameplay (the fog is not as close as in Turok), it comes at the expense of any sky texture or backdrop that could have lent the tracks more personality and made the loops and twists more dizzying. Another problem is the frame rate. XG often moves so quickly, the N64 is having a hard time to keep up a consistent frame rate. But in the end, XG s incredible sense of speed, the excellent track layouts, and some very cool roadside graphics and lighting effects quickly make you forget these cosmetic shortcomings.
The stereo sound effects are right on, with booming explosions, convincing rocket launcher fumps, and futuristic engine sounds that add just as much to the gameplay as the good Rumble Pak implementation. Extreme-G also features a cool techno soundtrack that does exactly what it s supposed to do: Provide a pulse-pounding background beat to the races. The drum beats are a bit weak, but cranking your subwoofer up to maximum levels should give you (and your neighbors) enough enjoyment for days to come.
The bike designs look like they ve been inspired by the movie Tron, featuring aerodynamically rounded bodies with no trace of a rider. Each machine has unique handling, shields and acceleration, and is equipped with a built-in laser weapon. Controls are pretty tight, but they definitely take some getting used to. In the beginning you will probably drive all over the place and have a hard time aiming at your opponents, but after a while, you will be amazed how you re able to keep track of things at speeds exceeding 300 miles per hour.
But the real thrill lies in taking out your opponents with some of the awesome power-ups found on the tracks. There are more than 12 weapons types, including all kinds of missiles, flash bombs, mines, laser tripwires and even a flame thrower. If you thought using Mario Kart s lightning item was a dirty trick, wait until you see XG s portal holes, sling shots or the static pulse ray that reverses your opponents controls.
An awesome arsenal, to be sure -- but what good would it be if you couldn t try it out on your favorite buddy? Good thing Probe took the extra time to include some solid multi-player modes. Two to four players can race at the same time, either head to head, compete in a capture the flags mode, or hunt each other down in the Mario Kart-style Battle Mode. Unlike most polygonal racers out there, Extreme-G also features a two-player Grand Prix mode (Extreme Contest) that lets you and a friend compete against six other computer drones, and an awesome Tournament where up to 16 (!) human drivers are pitted against one other. As most other racers, the two-player mode splits the screen horizontally, and things can get tiny in the four-player split-screen battles. But there s an added surprise for all you triplets out there: When playing with three, the first player gets 1/2 of the screen, while the other two get quarters. N64.com predicts bruises and bloody noses in the battles for the first controller, comparable only to the good old who gets to sit in the front seat fights. Despite some slowdown and lower framerates, XG s multiplayer modes will keep you coming back for more while your other games are already collecting dust on the shelf.
Kudos also for the good data management screen that lets you refresh without having to press Reset every time you flip data banks in your switchable Mem Pak.
All in all, Extreme-G is a slick arcade racer that proves yet again that Acc lame was a joke you won t be hearing again for quite a while. If you like simulation and more realistic racing games, you might want to rent it first -- but if you ve ever felt like blasting your little brother out of the sky with a Laser Limpet Mine (and I m sure there is not one older brother who hasn t at least considered the option), get this game!