Crazy like an old, tired fox.
Crazy Taxi 3 is the next chapter in the Crazy Taxi saga, the epic plight of a disenchanted, downtrodden gang of extreme cabbies. These proletariat pedal pushers are forced to bus the bourgeois back and forth to satisfy their fiendish fetish for danger and disaster.
Ack, who am I kidding with fancy alliteration? You drive people around and stuff.
Crazy Taxi 3 sticks to its classic formula of fast and furious gameplay. Unfortunately, it's getting old and this Xbox version offers little new. It goes for broke, but ends up breaking the formula with some graphical slowdown that seriously detracts from the craziness.
The key to conquering the Crazy Taxi games is mastering the tight control, and thankfully that hasn't changed. Your indestructible jalopy guns, twists, and stops on a dime. And thanks to the power of super shocks introduced in Crazy Taxi 2 (called the 'Crazy Hop'), you can even jump on top of buildings and find shortcuts via air bound leaps.
One minor addition is the flame trail that shoots out the back when you pull off boosts and hairpin turns. It's a helpful and flashy visual indicator.
The group passenger pickup from CT2 also returns. Driving a full posse of customers, whether they are a football team or some high-kicking showgirls, will score you more time on the clock, but the stakes are raised. You won't get the payoff until you've dropped off every member of the gang.
Crazy Taxi 3 only offers one new level - Glitter Oasis, patterned off of Las Vegas. Even the outskirts of this desert hideaway have been translated with canyon highways and a water dam. There are some attempts at pseudo casinos, like 'The Fountain' and 'Valhalla', but the level just doesn't convey the glitz and glamour of the city of sin. PLus, it's pretty small considering it's the one new level.
Vegas is a city that never slows down. Unfortunately, Glitter Oasis literally slows down in CT3. The hectic gameplay is hampered by framerate problems. There are fill-in problems as well, as skyscrapers suddenly appear from out of the darkness. One culprit behind these fatal flaws seems to be too many lighting effects at once. It's surprising considering the burly power of the Xbox.
Despite the stutter, the game looks much like the original Dreamcast Crazy Taxi. The visual improvements are all very subtle and ultimately forgotten in the wake of the slowdown and magically materializing buildings.
Also included are slightly upgraded versions of the West Coast map from the original Crazy Taxi and the Small Apple map from Crazy Taxi 2. These additions only prove that in the coastal wars, the West side is still the best side. Uh, yo.
The West Coast stage, referenced from my fair and windy city of San Francisco, is still by far the most fun. West Coast has even been upgraded with such additions as a theme park and a highway redesign, and is still joyously fun with the chance to hop over lanes for great shortcuts. Small Apple is now set at nighttime, apropos for the city that never sleeps.
But shouldn't they be working towards building better, newer maps? Or at least why couldn't they offer the two other maps from the previous games? If they are only going to make one new map, at least give me all four old maps. Or at least make the new map more cohesive. I'm talking to myself, aren't I.
When you play the older stages, you are initially limited to the respective original drivers. Glitter Oasis introduces us to 4 new drivers, marinated in the same stereotypical attitude as their predecessors. It's definitely crazy and definitely obnoxious.
The mini-games make a return visit with a grand total of 25 challenges to test your driving, turning, and hopping skills. Like the other games, they can get pretty hard at the higher difficulty levels.
The soundtrack still resorts to its former mainstays Offspring and Methods of Mayhem. Silver Bullitt and Brian Setzer round out the set, offering up some southern rock referencing tunes that fit Vegas nicely. Musically, it's all very cut and dry; you'll either like it or hate it. Sadly, you cannot use your own music, despite the Xbox's hardware capabilities.
I know Crazy Taxi has arcade roots, but as a series, it's time to build up and move forward. What can Crazy Taxi do to stay relevant beyond recycling the same graphics, formula, and style that were the mainstays of its origin? This game doesn't even try to answer the question. How about cabbie competition or canoodled coppers? Isn't it about time to have a 2-player mode? Or even something gimmicky like being able to crash through a building and drop your passenger off at the front desk? And how about an honest to goodness graphical upgrade? Give me something more than flames!
Crazy Taxi 3 does very little to distinguish itself from its predecessors, which might be its point. Those were successful games, and I guess Sega figured it if wasn't broken, there was no reason to fix it. Unfortunately, that doesn't really cut it for a game that's now about 2 and a half years old. While still fun in certain doses, the seduction is waning, and Crazy Taxi 3 is running on empty.