Tokyo Xtreme Racer 2 (DC) Review
Now comes the sequel, which attempts to fix all the "problems" with the original. Complaints were many that the single course was boring. Sure there was only one circuit with a couple of branches, but the highway loop was huge and took plenty of time to navigate. Then there were some graphical problems that popped up that, while not affecting the game play significantly, were truly an annoyance. So now that the sequel has hit our shores, is it an improvement over the original?
The over 100 miles of Tokyo highways modeled in the game should quell the complaints about the lack of courses. However, the game still lacks licenses for the cars, so car fans will have to live with the generic names for the autos. To compensate, the racing is deeper. Completing Tokyo Xtreme Racer 2 is a longer process, as there are now well over 300 opponents to defeat. Graphically, the game stalls out like the original.
Presentation/Graphics : 75
The trackside detail is spectacular. Road signs appear in their original Katakana and Kanji characters and have realistic looks to them. Since the game takes place strictly in the evening hours, a mixture of rooms in the buildings along the course have the lights on or off. Highway traffic, which has been reduced somewhat in the sequel, looks good. A diverse collection of pedestrian traffic awaits. Cars ranging from taxis to road crew vehicles pop up every now and then.
The game has four views available. A first person bumper camera offers the greatest sensation of speed, but for those who can't handle this perspective, three third-person views provide a bird's eye perspective of the action. If you take the plunge and race in the first person, you will be richly rewarded. The rush of adrenaline as you plunge down the highway at over 120 miles per hour dodging traffic and passing the pillars of the acutely modeled highway system is exhilarating.
Where the game starts to suffer is with the replay system. The replays exhibit clipping and in general lack the excitement of the first version of the game. In addition, replays capture the same negative aspects of the in-game graphics, namely slowdown. At some points during the game, slowdown is a certainty. The game slows to a crawl to the point where you drive in slow motion. While this is isolated to less than 1 percent of the time, it occurs often enough to be bothersome. To make matters worse, there are times where the game actually comes to a halt for about half a second. If you're near a wall or barricade, the slowdown can certainly affect the outcome of the race.
Presentation/Audio : 80
Cars in TXR2 have unique sound effects. As you upgrade your car, engine and transmission modifications affect the sounds. One area where the car sound is deficient, however, is tire squeal. I can generate more tire squeal with my 1994 Saturn in real life than I can with a similarly powered car in TXR2. Since the only feedback generally available in driving games is sound, the lack of it keeps you on your toes. Instead of listening for squeal you find yourself driving by the seat of your pants and looking at the speedometer as you round tight curves. Finally, crash sounds are the same whether you hit a wall at 100 miles per hour or at 5 miles per hour.
Interface/Options : 85
Away from the game modes, the game's menu system quickly guides you through all the settings. The simple menu design makes up for the sparse documentation of the manual. The manual won't win a Pulitzer, as it lacks any useful information. For example, the back of the TXR2 case makes mention of support for steering wheels. However, you'll find no mention of a steering wheel in the documentation, let alone any ways to calibrate it. In fact, there is no way to calibrate a wheel (at least that I have found).
If you are left playing TXR2 with the standard controller, the control scheme is simple. Gas and brake pedals are the traditional left and right analog triggers, respectively. The Y button cycles through the available views, the B button challenges an opponent, and the X and A buttons down- and up-shift, respectively. There are numerous configurations at your disposal if the default is less than adequate.
Gameplay : 90
Of course, winning is based on the raw horsepower under the hood, your driving ability, the strength of your rival's car, stretches of the courses, and the cunning nature of your opponent. The Quest mode of the game is a sort of career mode. You start with 15,000 credit points which can be used to purchase a low-end car with a few upgrades. Your first car will go a long way in earning some cash which can be used to purchase more upgrades or even a better car. Upgrades include engine, transmission, suspension, and aerodynamic changes. As you apply the upgrades, the car's performance specs are updated. The more punch under the hood, the more rivals you can beat. And you'll have to continually upgrade if you intend to beat all the rivals in the game, which number over 300.
Along the way, additional stretches of highway are opened up. At the beginning, you'll recognize one of the main stretches is identical to the only circuit available in the original version of the game. While I never had a problem with the one track, the developers listened to the criticism of many and opened up the track. What you have now is over 100 miles of Tokyo highway, a substantial jump over the original. The additional track includes long stretches for flat out drag racing as well as tight turns for more nimble cars.
The strength of the rival car varies tremendously in the game. In the beginning, the racing is very simple. The weak AI cars are no match for even your low-end make. Yet as you progress through the game, the rivals have better performing cars and you have to rely on your driving skills. Unfortunately, the driving skills of some of your rivals can be downright nasty (and cheap). You'll find rivals which cut you off as you try to pass or clip your back end, sending you into the wall. The AI in this game is mean, so you need to bring your most aggressive driving tactics along. To win races, you have to have the perfect balance of skill and power. Furthermore, you'll need to rely on certain stretches of road which play to your driving characteristics and car's handling. This is an arcade racer where you have to set up your opponent rather than just muscle by.
The handling of the cars is somewhat a function of the car type. Four types of cars (front engine front drive, front engine rear drive, mid-engine rear drive, and 4 wheel drive) are included, but most of them seem to have similar driving characteristics. The possible exception is the mid-engine rear wheel drive (MR) class, which offered better turning characteristics. For the most part, the cars feel sluggish. Even though this is an arcade racer, you can't turn on a dime. Realistic driving techniques are required to a point. Unfortunately, you can't seem to duplicate the erratic yet tight control of your rivals. If you attempt to take turns at the speeds they can, you'll end up in the wall with substantial speed scrubbed off. In this respect, you feel the deck is stacked against you before the race even begins. To make matters worse, before a race starts your car is put in "auto pilot" mode for about 5 seconds. During this time, the CPU controls your car. For the most part it does a good job at placing you right behind the rival. However, on many occasions the CPU would slam my car into another car, a wall, or a barricade and I'd lose precious time. One thing which has improved since the original is the traffic. Traffic no longer darts out in front of you at the last moment. Instead, I have seen cars head to an open lane as I approach and quickly return to their lane. They employ more of a defensive approach to driving. Furthermore, there is less traffic on the road. While you still have to avoid civilians at over 120 miles per hour, there are fewer of them.
Moving over to the Quick Race mode, the action is identical to the Quest mode. However, in this mode you start with a full supply of speed points, but this time the CPU challenges you. Your remaining speed points are carried over from race to race. Thus, if you botch an early race you are at a disadvantage for subsequent races. While not as deep as the Quest mode, this mode does lend itself to a great deal of entertainment. In either case, the action is fast and furious.
Replay Value : 87
Overall : 85