Go Speed Racer, go!
The nightlights are bright against the darkness of the 2 A.M. hour. Conversation is muted by the dull roar of our mufflers and sound of the wind passing between the trees. After a long night of spinning records at a local club, the weary gang and I head home. Our little caravan of rice rockets comes to a stop at one of San Francisco's many traffic lights...and then, it begins.
A Mitsubishi Galant pulls up alongside, sporting one of the ugliest body kits I've ever seen and a muffler that could wake the dead. In fact, it has. The sleepy occupants inside a finely tuned Honda Prelude have come to life. The light turns green and all hell breaks loose.
While I still have no idea why the driver of the Galant thought he had a prayer against us that day, I do know one thing for sure: street racing is the drug for driving fanatics everywhere. And since driving enthusiasts can't always be behind the wheel, Crave Entertainment and the Sega Dreamcast have come together to bring gamers the next best thing - Tokyo Xtreme Racer 2.
As the sequel to one of the Dreamcast's top-selling launch titles, Tokyo Xtreme Racer, TXR2 has a lot of expectations to live up to. While a better game than the original, this racer still carries its fair share of oil leaks.
Right away, you'll notice the amazing graphics that Tokyo Xtreme Racer 2 sports. It's hard to believe, but the graphics are even better than the first. Each car is exquisitely detailed and has the perfect shine as if it had just rolled off the showroom floor. The lighting effects are brilliant, with each individual nighttime light dancing across your car's exterior. With the right camera angle, you can even see the driver inside the car along with the glowing lights of the interior instrument panel. Some small anti-aliasing problems mar the perfect look of the cars at times, but the eye candy clocks in at the top of the list for Dreamcast racers.
Getting yourself started isn't as easy as it was in the first Tokyo Xtreme. The quality of cars that you'll be able to buy at the start of the game has gone down noticeably. Oh well, I guess that Integra (or that Type-DC2M that looks like an Integra) will just have to wait.
Selecting a car will also be more of a chore due to the lengthy amount of time it takes to load each car on screen. Surprising, since the original didn't really make you wait much.
When you've finally decided on your new ride, it's off to the mean streets of Tokyo to battle over 350 rivals whose sole purpose is to burn you like dry brush in the Oakland Hills. With so many enemies, you be spending plenty of time in the driver's seat.
TXR2's physics engine has been overhauled and runs much more smoothly than before. Cars in the original would often skid around like the road was made of ice and hitting the rails often helped more than it hindered. Now, the handling of the cars is much tighter and bumping into the side of the freeway can quickly result in a lost race.
The battle system has also been tuned to produce a greater challenge. As before, each car has a "life" meter, which begins to drain when the racer trails his rival. As a new feature, cars will also lose life if they run into objects. This means that you can have a monster lead and lose the race by running head first into a wall at 200 mph. It's just like real life… only without the crushed ego, crushed car, and crushed body.
One of the biggest complaints about the first TXR was that only one course was provided. This "freeway" was way too short and there were no multiple paths. Fortunately, TXR2 has taken that complaint to heart and made a change for the better. While there is still only a single freeway to race on, you'll notice that it is indeed a massive freeway (over 100 miles long) with plenty in the way of multiple routes. Players can even unlock other sections of the freeway as the game progresses for an even larger track than before.
The game has over 120 cars for you to choose from. The initial pickings are slim, but as you begin to rack up thewins, you'll also begin to unlock cars left and right.
To fix up your dream machine, you can head over to TXR2's parts shop. Here you'll find everything you need, from the top of the line engines to the meanest looking body kit you've ever seen. You can even customize the color of your car or create your very own racing decals!
With all these great improvements and features, it is with a heavy heart that I bear the bad news. Remember the slowdown that occurred in the first TXR if too many cars got onscreen at once? Well, it's still there, and now there's even a hiccup or two when your car is the only one on screen.
Then there's the autopilot problem. As before, an autopilot takes over at the beginning of each race. Several times this insane program sent me into the bumper of a civilian car right before the start of the race. I've also been sentenced to a death by wall collisions a time or three. It's truly frustrating to know that you've lost the race before it has even begun. All this courtesy of the DUI convict that somehow got a job programming the autopilot.
Avert your gaze - there is still more trouble. In a fast-paced game such as this, there shouldn't be too much stoppage of play between battles. After completing a race, the replay will automatically pop up. While this is great for showing off the game's graphics or reliving that amazing race you just had, it doesn't need to be done every single time. This wouldn't be so bad except that it takes time to load (and unload) the clip. Even after you get past this, you still have to deal with a menu and the evil autopilot all over again. This game is all about racing, so get on with it already!
And sadly, there's no multiplayer. Why they took out the two-player versus mode from the original is beyond me.
Now, don't get me wrong. I really enjoy this game. It's just that too many things slow down what could have been a truly amazing experience. Still, if you're an import tuning freak or the kind of person who can overlook the technical problems, Tokyo Xtreme Racer 2 won't let you down.