Do you want to fly or do you want to race?
I've been playing video games for a while now, a much longer time than I would care to admit. In that time I feel as though I have gained some sort of sixth sense when it comes to predicting if a game is a shining gem or a useless piece of shist.
One thing that always grabs my attention is games that try to cross genres. More often than not, these games shoot themselves in the foot by trying to accomplish too much (Die Hard Trilogy 2 springs to mind). Occasionally though, a crossed genre game can hit right on the mark (Die Hard Trilogy 1 springs to mind).
NGEN Racing from Infogrames is one of those crossed genre titles. By taking the racing element from driving games and applying it to a flight simulator, NGEN attempts to be an exception to the rule.
Here it is, July 2000, the Playstation's last few months. To many of us the PS is already dead in the water. The eulogy is all said & done, and the mourning period has come & gone. To put it succinctly - the Sony Playstation is (I can't believe I am saying this) "old-school."
When someone says "good graphics" these days, most gamers think of the Dreamcast or the highly anticipated Playstation 2. So it's a breath of fresh air when you see that really good graphics can still be done on the original Playstation.
NGEN has some of the best graphics and background textures that I have seen in a PS title all year. The colors are bright and vivid. The areas are huge and nicely detailed, with very well done particle and light-sourcing effects. Infogrames did a great job making this one look good.
Smooth. You gotta be smooooth. That's what my older cousins used to always tell me. "All the girls like the guys who are smooooth." Well, what about games? Do girls like games that are smooth? If they do, they will love this one. The framerate is extremely smooth and constant. Forget Barry White - when I grow up I want to be smooth like NGEN Racing.
There are nearly 40 (wow!) planes with which gamers can live out their Tom Cruise, Top Gun fantasies. Race across 14 different tracks night or day to gain funds to spend on outfitting your plane. Each plane can be upgraded with propulsion units, various aerodynamic enhancements, weapons, engines, etc. With five modes of play and a plethora of planes and accessories to unlock, NGEN has plenty to offer. It's just too bad "fun" is not among the list of offerings.
The most fun I had playing NGEN was when I was choosing my plane. Circling lap after lap in a fighter jet, firing ammunition at five opponents that I can't even see is just a few notches above 'tying my shoelaces' on the fun-o-meter.
Flying and racing isn't an inherently bad idea. However, flying laps around a track while trying to shoot the guy in front of you is kind of lame. The Wipeout games worked well because your vehicle was a variation of an automobile and was therefore supposed to be confined to a track. But why be forced into laps when flying a plane?
If you were placed in an open environment without the incessant lapping, NGEN would have worked better. But isn't that just a simple flight simulator? I guess it is. Maybe that's what NGEN should be: a combat flight simulator rather than a genre crosser.
NGEN is far from a flop. Its good graphics and variety will entice some gamers. But if you want to race and shoot, go play Wipeout XL. If you want to fly and shoot, go play Colony Wars. In this case, the apples and oranges just do not come together very well.