KITT! I'm in trouble! Turbo boost now!
For those of you unfamiliar with the Cruis'n franchise of games (and this includes Cruis'n USA, Cruis'n World, and Off Road Challenge), a word of caution. These are not racing sims, nor do they pretend to be. Straight arcade style racing all the way. Hardcore NASCAR, CART and Formula One fans may want to look elsewhere, but for those of you that want a decent racer without getting bogged down in a million car options or are sickened by the kiddie kart racers, these may be some games worth looking into.
This is one of those games that you and a bunch of friends can sit down and play without a lengthy explanation about hitting the apex of a turn or a gnarly learning curve. Steer, gas, brake, shift, try and smoke everyone. What could be simpler than that? In fact, the strong point of this game is its inherent simplicity. This is the perfect game for those of you who're burned out trying to remember who's carrying what materia.
There's a total of twelve cars to choose from ranging from your standard muscle and sports cars to a military truck (complete with cab-mounted 50mm cannon) and a strange three-wheeled contraption that looks like one of those carts the meter maids go tooling around in. Each car has different speed and handling characteristics and while the differences may be subtle, the stats are not just psychological fodder.
The coolest part of Cruis'n World are the tracks. There are fourteen different tracks spread throughout eleven countries. Each track takes you past that particular country's most notable landmarks. For example, if you're on the France track, you'll pass by chateaus and vineyards, catch a glimpse of the Concorde and the TGV, blow by the Eiffel Tower and finally end up at l'Arc de Triomphe. Oui, oui.
Cruis'n World offers three modes of play. Probably the most useless is the Practice mode where you are the only car on the track and you can race a "ghost" car of your fastest time. In the Cruis'n World mode, you race every track but you must finish in the top three in order to advance to the next track. Pretty straightforward. In the Championship mode, you race for points. Achieving a certain number of points will uncover power-ups for your car such as a new paint job or a higher top speed. Championship mode covers three skill levels (Easy, Medium, Expert) and the higher the difficulty, the more points you will be able to earn. You also have the added feature of a turbo boost function in this mode.
It also appears Cruis'n World lifted a few tricks from San Francisco Rush as well as coming up with a few of their own. Skid marks appear on the track as you burn the tires and a few gravity-defying jumps appear on some of the tracks. There are also some new features that cut down heavily on realism and credibility but add to the fun and silliness of the game. Pressing the gas and brake together allows you to perform a highly exaggerated four-wheel drift around corners. Also, you can perform "tricks" with your car such as 720 degree tabletops, huge end-over-end flips, and awesome barrel rolls that would seem more suited in a game like Top Skater than a driving game. All this in addition to "Back to the Future" style flaming burnouts, wheelstands and side-wheelies. Half the time you feel like you're in an old episode of "Knight Rider" and turbo-boosting KITT to the finish line.
Graphics look good, but like its predecessor Cruis'n USA, there's some heinous pop-up at times. Cruis'n World covers some of this up with a bit of fog on the horizon, but it's not enough for some of the larger structures that suddenly appear out of nowhere. Otherwise, the graphics stay pretty true to the arcade version. Sounds in this game are passable but nothing spectacular.
One aspect worthy of note is that different cars have different engine sounds. From the throaty growl of a 510hp V8 to the high whine of a twin turbo V6, I found this to be a rather pleasant and unexpected surprise considering how other high-profile racing sims really cheese out on engine sounds. There are also ten different music tracks all fully accessible at any time while you're racing. I know every single one of you out there fiddle with the radio while driving so why not do it in a video game, too?
While Cruis'n World offers some mindlessly easy and fun gameplay, I really can't recommend purchasing this game at full price. There's just not enough depth in this game to give the average consumer their $50's worth. Definitely worth renting, however. Just add a few buddies, a few six-packs of the beverage of your choice and sit back for some tire-smokin' fun.