Realize your potential energy.
Every scrawny young video game junkie dreams of raw physical prowess. But obtaining this, dependending on how hard you game, can be near impossible. So often we create and play video game characters that best represent our ideal selves. Capable, agile and preternaturally proficient is usually what we we're working for. We want our digital images to possess Olympian abilities and look just as cool when performing their actions. And if they don't, stomping feet, pouting lips, kicking walls, screaming to heaven and a flood of tears most often follow suit.
Sony apparently knows this and has decided to make Kinetica, an amalgamation of the Playstation's Wipeout series and Olympic figure skating. Hard to imagine, eh? Well. hopefully we can paint a decent picture and provide a bit of information as well.
Kinetica is a ferociously fast racing title with a few cart battle elements and some tricks to boot (that's the figure skating part). It's a cool game that's been suspended from greatness due to its less-than-stellar track design, lame weapons and stunts that are often not as cool as they should be. But don't be fooled, the game is a lot fun if you like yours fast and furious.
Like most arcade racers, Kinetica is another relatively storyless game. Obviously, it's the future and here the affluent masses dump tons of cash into their greatest addiction: the underground and highly illegal Kinetica races.
The contestants have been outfitted with thin mechanical exoskeletons that are called 'kinetic' suits. Dusting off my brain so I could mentally search its dark unused recesses for old physics facts, I slowly recalled that kinetic energy is the energy of motion. And that's exactly what these kinetic suits do - collect energy, then release it in the form of blazing speed.
I can't express enough just how fast this game is. Thanks to a blazing, rock solid framerate, there is never the slightest bit of a hiccup or slowdown. For that matter, everything looks great, from the riders and their crazy anime style design to the massive tracks. This is why games on DVD-ROM kick ass.
There are a total of twelve contestants per race all wearing kinetic suits, which makes for some much welcome chaos. You race across huge, elaborate areas that are very reminiscent of the bustling outside scenes in Blade Runner.
During the race, you collect yellow crystals and perform dazzling stunts. After picking up five crystals, one of the game's half-dozen power-ups will be randomly selected for you to use. The power-ups don't add much to the game at all. Three of them are various turbo or boosting abilities, but there are no missiles, bombs, oil slicks or anything particularly exciting. A power-up that allows you to do faster tricks just doesn't cut it. They could learn a lot from the Wipeout series.
Successfully executed stunts build up your boost meter. The more difficult the stunt, the more boost you will receive. This makes performing tricks pretty essential as it gives much needed boost energy that can then be used as nitro boost or turbos. I usually link a three or four move combo together and then activate the boost before it even fills the meter. This keeps your speed and momentum at its best. It's fun to do, and even more impressive to watch an elaborate stunt followed by a perfect landing into a turbo boost. Awesome!
The tricks themselves are a mixed bag of great fun and poor design. They're executed the same way for each character (hold R1 and spin the left analog stick in various ways), which makes learning them a breeze. However, each rider has their own brand of stunts to perform based on their driving style. Some are fast and flashy, some are slow and more stylish and the others are just weak.
But overall, the trick system is pretty slim. Look, you are just guys and gals with wheels attached to your extremities. Trick-wise, the sky should be the limit. The animation is done really well, no problem there. So why not blend a little running and ground acrobatics in with the racing or some obstacles for you to trick off (ala Tony Hawk's Pro Skater)? One of the characters is listed with "martial-art style" stunt moves. I thought, "Ok, this should be cool." WRONG! I've seen a lot of martial art moves, stances and techniques and never felt that I was watching anything remotely martial. It's more like a glorified Disney On Ice.
Though certainly fast and big, the tracks aren't exactly inspired. There is a fine line between dizzying and fun. "Dizzying" is more akin to "sickening" than it is to enjoyment, and unfortunately some of the Kinetica tracks are just that: sickening! All the Wipeout games suffered from this on one track or another. Apparently in the future we're all going to be nauseated beyond belief.
The two-player split is good fun as well but it limits the viewing area. A link option would have been ideal. Here we go again with no one supporting Sony's link feature. Curses, foiled again!
But with that said, I must confess Kinetica is a good game if a bit thin. It's faster than a cheetah hopped up on meth and the simple stunts are fun to pull off. More thought could have gone into the trick and track designs, but it doesn't cripple the game. It's worth more than a rental if you're a fan of the Tron style, Extreme G, Wipeout thing. At any rate, it's a solid distraction until Wipeout Fusion arrives.