At first glance, this game is very reminiscent of San Francisco Rush, with the same bright colours and somewhat cartoonesque graphics. This isn't surprising really, considering they're both supposedly faithful conversions of arcade coin-ops. As soon as you play Cruis'n USA though, you'll notice the difference immediately. Notably, SF Rush is quite challenging and a lot of fun... Cruis'n USA isn't.
Choosing (initially) from four different cars, the camera pans around your choice as you accelerate out of the parking garage to join the other cars waiting at the start line. A bikini-clad beauty pops out, waves her flag, and before you can say "Aren't you a bit cold wearing that outfit?" you're off.
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Everything seems fine to begin with, as the cars all burn off down the track jostling for position and you settle down to pick your way past your opponents... which will take you about five seconds (if that). Once in front, all you've got to do is stay on the track - no real problem as the cars are surprisingly responsive - whilst avoiding the oncoming traffic and any slower traffic going the same way as you.
You should find that you breeze through the stage - or even cruise through, if you will. The problems occur when you hit things. Collide with a truck and your car spins around, flips over and lands on its wheels facing up the road. Drive on, hit another car, do the same, and the same thing happens. In fact, there only seems to be one animation for collisions, the car behaves the same way every time you hit anything - spinning annoyingly. Most annoying is when you hit something fairly slowly, as the car still spins, and your vehicle and the other will usually end up facing each other, crash again, spin again, land facing each other, crash again, and so on. This can be infuriating, happens all too often, and is about the only thing which will stop you winning the race.
As you progress through the stages (they must be played in sequence to 'open' them for single races) you'll gain various bonus vehicles which you can then drive in addition to the initial four cars. These include buses and police cruisers, but they aren't really any more fun to drive than the original vehicles.
Cruis'n USA is completely lacking in anything interesting whatsoever. All you do is drive down a road and try to avoid hitting things. While you might think that this is about what you'd expect in a racing game anyway, there's no excitement to it. Crashing into things is just annoying instead of damaging, and half the trackside obstacles can just be passed through as if they're made from styrofoam! The cars in the game don't handle anything remotely like real cars. Playing Scalextric would be closer to reality!
The problems with this game, in terms of graphics and gameplay, have not changed, and whereas SF Rush had a whole extra element added to it in the form of hidden keys and secret stunt tracks, Cruis'n USA just hasn't got what's needed to keep you going back for more.
The only thing Cruis'n USA has to recommend it is the fairly low price (comparable to other N64 titles), but as Graeme said when he reviewed this in issue 1, it's really not worth £5, let alone £35!
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Cruis'n USA IS apparently a racing game, although Supermarket Sweep with cars instead of shopping trolleys is a more truthful description.
Taking place across the entire United States, driving in stages from west to east, this is a conversion of the ageing arcade game which had "Ultra 64" spinning on the screen but was actually running on a 32-bit board of Williams' own. At the very least the conversion hasn't downgraded the game any; with the Nintendo 64 version actually having a few minor enhancements.
Generally, as a rule in videogame development, it is always a good idea to check that the game is fun, no matter how faithful the conversion Is. But that one niggling detail has unfortunately gone unnoticed In this case. With the choice of only a feeble four cars, you take to the roads of America racing against nine computer controlled opponents, in the hope of winning a car that might be any fun to drive.
Cruis'n USA is painfully short of features that would disguise what is obviously the most basic of driving games, adding nothing to an ancient genre to pull it from mediocrity. Crashes are ugly, pre-defined affairs, so you either spin through a perfect 360° to face directly forward again, or flip the car in the air, only to land miraculously on all four wheels and pointing in the right direction again. Even nudging the sides of a track causes the car to rotate until you are facing straight down the road, and all this is so false and unnatural that it betrays the nice way the cars sway on their suspension during cornering.
Cruis'n USA also suffers from many other problems that make it look as though it simply cannot have been play-tested by anything higher in the food chain than a bap. For example, at the very start of each race all the cars line up on the right-hand side of the road. You begin at the back, but all you need to do is steer out onto the left-hand lane and drive past the rest of them, directly into first place! The computer cars will not deviate from their right lane until after you have passed them all.
If there are any real fans of the arcade machine, they will probably be in love with the idea of the split screen two player game available. Don't place any hopes on this mode saving the game from gameplay hell, it's far worse than the regular one player mode because of the crippling slowing down of the frame rate, which is particularly unacceptable on a machine of such obscene power.
Next up, the sound. Turning off the music lets you really hear what those sound effects are doing, and It's not much. Aside from when you rev the engine of your car, that is take your finger off the accelerator and put it back on again, your engine is entirely silent! So you can be hammering along at full speed, maybe i4omph, without so much as a timid whimper from the engine.
The civilian cars and opponents cars make sound as they pass, but yours doesn't do a thing. Pump the volume up high enough and you may be able to convince yourself that there is an audible hum, but that's as good as it gets, and a good raw car sound is so important to add feel to a driving game.On a stage like Redwood Forest where it is possible to drive a tiny bit off the side of the track, you will suddenly appear back on the road if you do so, as if teleported, so there is not one single Inch of freedom In the game, remembering that you can't turn around either. Another feature of the Redwood Forest stage is the ability to smash down several giant redwood trees with your flimsy sportscar, without even a hint of resistance, which simultaneously lets you see the wafer-thin dimensions of the trees as they fall down In front of you.
All in all, Cruis'n USA is a depressingly poor product that is not worth more than five pounds of your money. Each leg is only worth winning for the marvellous breasts belonging to the bouncy young lady who presents you with your trophy, but sadly this alone doesn't justify the heavy price tag. It is upsetting at such an early time in this fantastic machine's life to already see the familiar Official Nintendo Seal of Quality stamp on this product, and there is nothing here which will not be bettered soon enough. Steer clear.
One of the N64's earliest games, dredged up for some unaccountable reason nearly 18 months later for a UK release. Even those desperate for new games should avoid this - it might have a very low price for an N64 title, but it's also got a very low quality level! Shockingly inept stuff that makes even Multi Racing Championship look like a polished diamond.
Pathetic driving game that's fun only for those with half their brain kept in a jar by the bed. Avoid at all costs. You've been warned.
Pop-up cardboard scenery and music to make your ears bleed. Less about driving, more a rule book on how to cock-up console games.
Hold the Top. Left and Bottom-C to access some 'weird' secret vehicles at the car selection screen. The game's still crud. mind.