The Final Say!
by Yianni Pak
(not based on an average)
Distributed By: Acclaim
Why is it always
assumed that sports of the future will involve weapons of some
description? Is this the direction that professional sport
appears to be taking? With the exception of soccer hooligans
occasionally throwing sharpened pennies at players/referees/each
other, and ice hockey players sometimes belting the sultanas out
of members of the opposing team, itís not very often that any kind
of maiming/killing implements would appear to be called for in
order to win the game.
Then again, George
Orwell predicted that by 1984 we would all be running around
trying to dodge Big Brother and the Thought Police, and no-one
makes a big issue of him getting it slightly wrong, so perhaps
itís time for a little suspension of disbelief in the name of
Racing Association, or XGRA, is a futuristic racer that involves
players riding super-powerful bikes equipped with an arsenal of
deadly weaponry around a selection of twisting, neon-lit tracks.
And when we say powerful, weíre not talking about the latest 500cc
Kawasaki road bike. Weíre talking sound-barrier-breaking,
organs-turning-to-mush, space-shuttle-takeoff powerful.
The main component
of the game is the Season mode, which involves racing for a team
over a series of leagues, which, unsurprisingly, become more and
more difficult as you progress. Players start with a bog-standard
bike, with more models being unlocked as more races are won.
Similarly, youíll ride your first few races completely unable to
use any weapons, with a veritable arsenal becoming available as
you progress through the game.
Great care seems to
have been taken by the developers to present XGRA in a real TV
style, right down to the lengthy write-up about the racing
association in the manual. The commentator at the beginning of
each race is often quite funny as he gives players an overview of
the track, and itís clear that the presentation has been designed
with tongue firmly placed in cheek. Which, overall, is quite
endearing. Another nice touch is the rivalry between the player
and the numerous computer riders. Nail an opponent with a missile
and a little video-link box will open in your screen as he/she
mocks/threatens/abuses you. Obviously the aim here was to provide
a more immersive experience, and it works quite well.
At the end
of the day, however, XGRA is a racer, and its playability will
succeed or fail on the strength of the racing action. So how is
it, you ask? The answer is: good, but not great.
One of the most
important issues at stake is obviously the sense of speed. In this
regard, XGRA delivers very well. It is, at times, blindingly fast,
particularly when driving over the ďboostĒ areas of the track. Races
become very hectic, which is good, with all kinds of weapons being
dropped/shot at other riders, and explosions rocking the track with
alarming regularity. On the downside, the game does tend to slow down
quite a bit, which is never good and is particularly undesirable in a
racer of this type.
Controls are nice
and responsive, although the default controller setup seems a little bit
weird, using shoulder buttons to accelerate/brake and the facia buttons
for weapons and such. Luckily there is an alternative configuration
which is far more like the traditional racing game controls that players
will be used to, so itís all good. The bikes seem to be slightly twitchy
in the steering department, and itís very easy to find yourself bouncing
from wall to wall for the first few races until you grow used to the
sensitivity and learn to steer properly.
The track design
is quite inspired and very well thought out, and some of the courses are
really rather spectacular. Not that youíll notice much of your
surroundings as you whiz by at 600km per hour, but itís nice for anyone
whoís watching you while they wait for a turn. Jumps, loops, and
corkscrews all make a welcome appearance and there are plenty of
obstacles to keep you on your toes.
XGRA should keep
you going for a fair while, with five different leagues to play through
before the season finishes. In addition to winning the race, players
need to complete secondary objectives to keep their sponsors happy.
These challenges offer a little bit of variety to the races, but
ultimately seem rather pointless. Apart from climbing through the
leagues, however, thereís not much on offer here. Just a time trial mode
and a pretty naff two player game, which is unfortunate.
is very nice, with the tracks having a lovely futuristic look to them.
The slowdown mentioned earlier is rather unfortunate; it would have been
nice if the framerate could have been kept a little higher overall too.
As mentioned before, the sense of speed is generally pretty good, which
is really the most important thing here, and there are plenty of
beautiful weaponry effects on offer that make use of the PS2ís lighting
actually features 2 different soundtracks, a rock track and a techno
track, so you can take your pick depending on your preference. This is a
nice idea, because Iím sure plenty of players donít want to HAVE to
listen to techno just because theyíre playing a futuristic game, so the
twin soundtrack idea offers more scope for everyone to appreciate it.
The sound effects are pretty sweet too, but some of the voice acting is
a little bit dire.
If youíre a fan of
futuristic racers, then XGRA is certainly worth investigating. Itís a
pretty solid game let down slightly by twitchy controls and some mild
framerate issues, but overall is very playable and a fairly good way to
while away your time. Worth a look.
- Yianni Pak