Cruise or Lose.
This whole election fiasco got me thinking a bit about George W. Bush, Jr. Frankly,
he strikes me as an idiot. That whole “W” thing confounds me. I remember him telling
a joke about how all the Internet URLs start with three Ws, which somehow worked
in his favor. Come again?
In the racing game elections of the PS2, you’ve got moderates across the board.
The current crop of racing games try to wow us with flash and pizazz, but not
a one pushes something truly new or fun.
And now we’ve got Wild Wild Racing, the George W. Bush, Jr. of racing
games. Here you’ve got a game that starts out dumb before leveling into mediocrity.
Well, at least it isn’t trying to get any crooked propositions passed or hiding
secrets about its past.
Wild Wild Racing is an off-road racer in which you travel to courses
around the world. The principle game is a Championship set in three leagues:
Beginner, Amateur, and Professional. As you move up the leagues, you get to
race in more tracks and are required to complete more laps against more competitors.
There are five countries, each with their own track. Things start off pretty
restrictive and the starter tracks are strictly linear. But when you move up
in the rankings, the tracks become less straightforward. Alternative routes
open up here and there, and the game becomes slightly more interesting to play.
The tracks are all very long, but aren’t very inspired. Flatly put, these courses
just aren’t fun to drive on. Or maybe it’s because of the cars…
You start out with three extremely underpowered cars. The mix is standard – one accelerates better, one handles better, and one has the highest speed. And none of them are fun to play. The balance between you and your opponents is off. As a starter set, these cars just don’t cut it.
Left without a suitable car to drive, you’ll be forced into the Challenge
area, the brightest spot within this game. Here, you compete in three different
challenges to earn better (read: competent) race cars. Your first challenge
is to race through the course, grabbing all the letters that spell out the name
of your new car. Not especially new or original, and you are searching on a
mostly linear car course. You’ll play it a few times to figure out where the
letters are, then finally nab them all and move on.
The second challenge requires you to push a ball through a smaller test track.
It takes a degree of skill to figure out how to best bounce the ball across
the finish line. Speed control, turning, and maneuvering all come into play.
Finish it, and your new car will get increased statistics.
last challenge will have you running a short but crazy obstacle course, much
like the skills challenge, only no ball. You’ll be jumping across 18-wheelers
and going up vertical hairpin turns. It’s probably the most interesting part
of the game.
These challenges are all well and good, but it’s really just a means of gaining
cars with better statistics and bringing them back into the Championship area
rather than having fun. The rewards don’t really justify the process, since
the Championships are too typical and familiar. The courses get better as they
pose fewer restrictions on them, but why hold that off until the end? It’s not
worth the time it takes to get there.
The individual cars do look good, though. Details such as the smoke spewing
out the back to the little person inside that moves his hands across the wheel
are certainly cool. The surroundings go for a photo-realistic look and for the
most part capture it.
And in a final breath of mediocrity, the tunes are generic and lightweight.
Like the graphics, they neither help nor hinder the game. At least the sound
effects work, with wheels squealing and engines roaring.
Wild Wild Racing is something of a misnomer, since there’s really nothing
‘wild wild’ about it. The game starts out bland and moves on to hoist unoriginal
game goals that overshadow a clever yet underdeveloped Challenge mode. Why couldn’t
more of the game be built around the challenges? Why couldn’t they give us some
tracks with even less barriers and linearity? Indeed, this is the racing game
equivalent of George W. Bush. Unoriginal. Mediocre. And not fun… just like
it will be if he’s President. Can I get off the soapbox now?