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- Upshift StrikeRacer
Not the same old grind.
Say "online RPG" to most people and the first image you’re likely to cast (with a very long social life cool-down) into their mind is one of thick rimmed glasses, oddly dressed video game characters, stacks of unwashed plates on which once food existed solely to fuel the grinding engine of the reclusive nerd or mighty paladin, depending on how you want to look at it.
[image1]The less judgmental and more informed gamer will at least admit that, in general, online RPGs are a stock market, wherein the only investing you need in order to prosper is in the currency of hours. Prudence and girlfriends will not pay for an epic mount.
Having kicked the habit myself, I was a bit unsure what lure a ‘combat car racing online RPG’ would hold, but this is one hybrid which even hardened opponents of Al Gore might like to take for a spin. Upshift StrikeRacer describes itself as having quick and short game sessions as its goal, and having played it in such a fashion over the past few weeks, I’ll venture that it is a total blast to pull out the chain gun and strap it to your mustang whenever you have a few minutes to spare.
The main game mode is a simple Need for Speed-esque race, but with the addition – of course – of three weapons to your car, each with a limited supply of ammo: A machine gun, an explosive launcher and a trap laying weapon. There are plenty of different types of these aforementioned n00b squashers, which you can mix and match by purchasing new ones. Cars and specific paint jobs which modify the typical car statistics (acceleration, handling and top speed style attributes) are also acquirable in the same way, paying with a currency called “reputation” – Odd choice of name for a currency, I know, but apparently experience is called “light” in the world of Upshift: Strikeracer.
[image2]Experience contributes to your rank, which while of no practical consequence I’ve noticed, lets people know if you’re a wise master or a humble grass…er, tarmac-hopper. While probably balancing out long term problems with some people becoming untouchable, what is slightly irritating about the purchasing system for the casual player is that you can only buy upgrades on rental terms. So, if you’ve truly pimped your ride, expect it to be back to the rusty, no hub-capped Buick within a short while, at which point you have to throw all the ‘rep’ you’ve saved for further upgrades back into it to keep your lady from walking home instead.
The controls take a bit of getting used to as you’re controlling both cars and guns, but the short training does a great job of getting you ready to race and deface. There are also a few more game modes to Upshift such as straight up racing, but the dated physics and occasionally choppy graphics of the game makes non-murderous racing seem a tad Nintendo 64 era. For pure racing, you’re better off sticking with Forza 2. Minor gripes aside, blowing up fellow Game Revolution patrons has always been my forte, so I’ll take Upshift: Strikeracer any day of the week.
[image3]With the wanton explosion of vehicles and scattered item boxes across the levels containing boosts, more ammo and race leader-smashing rockets, it evokes the feel of playing through Mario Kart’s teenage angst years, which is no bad thing. It is fast, fun, free to play, and the game has just hit open beta, so competition is pretty lively. Despite the cool fire adorned paint job I roll with, there is an absence of pretension here, and I really like its attitude (and that of the few developers I encountered). The races are short, sharp, and to the point – the point being fun – and it hits its targets a lot more than I do with my car’s rocket launcher.
Although still in beta, this game is one of the rare cases in which you can surmise whether it’s for you or not simply by the premise. If customisable cars, racing, and shooting each other appeal to you, then it’s not to be missed. After all, it is, and will be free.
You can’t beat the price, so join up and leave the griding behind. You can download the beta here, and as soon as the ‘clubs’ function is active, there will be a GR racing club with special perks.