Putting aside Nintendo's recently revived F-Zero series and Sony's Wipeout series,there have been few futuristic racing games that have really been good enough to leave an impression.Though the previous naming convention has been discarded, XGRA marks the fourth game in the Extreme-G series. It's bigger and more ambitious than any of its predecessors and happily, it's also the best. It's a good thing, too, as it's hitting shelves just in the wake of Nintendo's own rocket-speed racer F- Zero GX.
XGRA functions much like its predecessor and, by extension, virtually every other futuristic racing game conceived- race at phenomenal speeds on dizzying tracks that defy the funadamental laws of Physics. The bikes are futuristic and almost every aspect of the game is super sized even the roles of the riders. Each of the eight riders has his or her own involved history and story line. You take them through a career mode from rookie to ringer.
Previously, there was a system in the career mode where you would earn money for winning races, and that money could be spent on performance-enhancing add-ons, entirely new engines, and a variety of weapons upgrades. Now, during the career mode, you're simply awarded a number of points for your placement in a race, and if you accumulate enough points by the end of the last race in that particular speed class, you advance to the next speed class, and your bike is upgraded automatically.The weapon selection has also been upgraded. After the beginning of each race, you have unlimited access to your initial weapon, which will be machine guns, rockets, energy weapons, bombs, or electrical weapons, depending on which bike you choose. Your initial weapon is pretty weak at first but can be upgraded twice over the course of a race by destroying your opponents.
There are also a variety of secondary power-ups and weapons that can be activated by picking up special green orbs scattered across the track. Each secondary weapon requires a specific number of orbs in order to be activated. There are a total of 10 different secondary power-ups, including the vampyre, which will suck energy out of any other bikes that are in range; a variety of temporary performance enhancements; and, at the top of the list, the deathstrike, which is an ion blast from an orbital weapons platform that completely incinerates its target. in order to unlock the high-level power-ups, you'll need to complete some of the race-specific contracts. With these contracts,
you're given a secondary goal in each race, such as beating a specific opponent, blowing up a number of billboards along the track, or beating a preset lap time. The best part of any futuristic racing game, and certainly this one, is the track design. They're massive, sprawling, vertiginous tracks, dotted with glowing accelerator pads and pick-up items. Turbo boosts throughout the game are rare, however instead the tracks are littered with accelorator pads that, when passed over, give you a temporary boost. The screen bluring effect lives on in XGRA, with the accelorator pads placed at inopportune moments, marring your vision and crippling your ability to race effectively.
The sensation of speed is excellent, and the track designs are as incredibleand vertiginous as have ever been seen in a futuristic racing game. The locationsare pretty sensational too, including Mars, a defunct nuclear power plant, adeep-sea research facility, and an asteroid, among others.
The game also offers a multiplayer mode, which supports two players on the PlayStation2 and four players on the Xbox, helping to add to the fun of the game as youfrantically race against your friends.
The visuals in XGRA are sound. The courses are simply massive, with plenty ofdetail and movement along the sides of the track adding an extra level of reality.The bikes themselves also look very slick . There are some nice bits of flashscattered all over the game, such as the long, glowing tracers emitted from thebacks of the bikes, the blue glow that precedes the deathstrike ion cannon attack,or the effect that kicks in whenever you pass over a speed strip.
The music has been divided up into three soundtracks- dance, rock,and mix. Themusic is licensed, including tracks from BT, The Dwarves, Cirrus, and others.XGRAwill appeal to fans of the genre of fast, frantic futuristic racing and if thisis your preferred choice of game XGRA is well worth a look at.
by James Skelton