Go Speed Racer, go!
The nightlights are bright against the darkness of the 2 A.M. hour. Conversation
is muted by the dull roar of our mufflers and sound of the wind passing between
the trees. After a long night of spinning records at a local club, the weary gang
and I head home. Our little caravan of rice rockets comes to a stop at one of
San Francisco’s many traffic lights…and then, it begins.
A Mitsubishi Galant pulls up alongside, sporting one of the ugliest body kits I’ve ever seen and a muffler that could wake the dead. In fact, it has. The sleepy occupants inside a finely tuned Honda Prelude have come to life. The light turns green and all hell breaks loose.
While I still have no idea why the driver of the Galant thought he had a prayer
against us that day, I do know one thing for sure: street racing is the drug
for driving fanatics everywhere. And since driving enthusiasts can’t always
be behind the wheel, Crave Entertainment and the Sega Dreamcast have come together
to bring gamers the next best thing – Tokyo Xtreme Racer 2.
As the sequel to one of the Dreamcast’s top-selling launch titles, Tokyo
Xtreme Racer, TXR2 has a lot of expectations to live up to. While
a better game than the original, this racer still carries its fair share of
Right away, you’ll notice the amazing graphics that Tokyo Xtreme Racer
2 sports. It’s hard to believe, but the graphics are even better than the
first. Each car is exquisitely detailed and has the perfect shine as if it had
just rolled off the showroom floor. The lighting effects are brilliant, with
each individual nighttime light dancing across your car’s exterior. With the
right camera angle, you can even see the driver inside the car along with the
glowing lights of the interior instrument panel. Some small anti-aliasing problems
mar the perfect look of the cars at times, but the eye candy clocks in at the
top of the list for Dreamcast racers.
Getting yourself started isn’t as easy as it was in the first Tokyo Xtreme.
The quality of cars that you’ll be able to buy at the start of the game has
gone down noticeably. Oh well, I guess that Integra (or that Type-DC2M that
looks like an Integra) will just have to wait.
Selecting a car will also be more of a chore due to the lengthy amount of time
it takes to load each car on screen. Surprising, since the original didn’t really
make you wait much.
When you’ve finally decided on your new ride, it’s off to the mean streets
of Tokyo to battle over 350 rivals whose sole purpose is to burn you like dry
brush in the Oakland Hills. With so many enemies, you be spending plenty of
time in the driver’s seat.
TXR2’s physics engine has been overhauled and runs much more smoothly
than before. Cars in the original would often skid around like the road was
made of ice and hitting the rails often helped more than it hindered. Now, the
handling of the cars is much tighter and bumping into the side of the freeway
can quickly result in a lost race.
The battle system has also been tuned to produce a greater challenge. As before,
each car has a “life” meter, which begins to drain when the racer
trails his rival. As a new feature, cars will also lose life if they run into
objects. This means that you can have a monster lead and lose the race by running
head first into a wall at 200 mph. It’s just like real life… only without the
crushed ego, crushed car, and crushed body.
of the biggest complaints about the first TXR was that only one course
was provided. This “freeway” was way too short and there were no multiple paths.
Fortunately, TXR2 has taken that complaint to heart and made a change
for the better. While there is still only a single freeway to race on, you’ll
notice that it is indeed a massive freeway (over 100 miles long) with
plenty in the way of multiple routes. Players can even unlock other sections
of the freeway as the game progresses for an even larger track than before.
The game has over 120 cars for you to choose from. The initial pickings are
slim, but as you begin to rack up thewins, you’ll also begin to unlock cars
left and right.
To fix up your dream machine, you can head over to TXR2’s parts shop.
Here you’ll find everything you need, from the top of the line engines to the
meanest looking body kit you’ve ever seen. You can even customize the color
of your car or create your very own racing decals!
With all these great improvements and features, it is with a heavy heart that
I bear the bad news. Remember the slowdown that occurred in the first TXR
if too many cars got onscreen at once? Well, it’s still there, and now there’s
even a hiccup or two when your car is the only one on screen.
Then there’s the autopilot problem. As before, an autopilot takes over at
the beginning of each race. Several times this insane program sent me into the
bumper of a civilian car right before the start of the race. I’ve also been
sentenced to a death by wall collisions a time or three. It’s truly frustrating
to know that you’ve lost the race before it has even begun. All this courtesy
of the DUI convict that somehow got a job programming the autopilot.
Avert your gaze – there is still more trouble. In a fast-paced game such as
this, there shouldn’t be too much stoppage of play between battles. After completing
a race, the replay will automatically pop up. While this is great for showing
off the game’s graphics or reliving that amazing race you just had, it doesn’t
need to be done every single time. This wouldn’t be so bad except that
it takes time to load (and unload) the clip. Even after you get past this, you
still have to deal with a menu and the evil autopilot all over again. This game
is all about racing, so get on with it already!
And sadly, there’s no multiplayer. Why they took out the two-player versus
mode from the original is beyond me.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I really enjoy this game. It’s just that too many
things slow down what could have been a truly amazing experience. Still, if
you’re an import tuning freak or the kind of person who can overlook the technical
problems, Tokyo Xtreme Racer 2 won’t let you down.