Bigger, better, faster, more?
Or just too little, too late?
Having seen XG2 in action at this year's ECTS. we have to say we were a little worried. There seemed to be little difference to last year's Extreme G (to which this is the sequel), and with both F-Zero X and Wipeout 64 on the horizon. XG2 looked like being the runt of the futuristic racing litter. And there's the case of THAT name. With Acclaim having declared that this is almost a completely different game from the original, and then distancing themselves further by not using the simple - and sensible - moniker of Extreme G 2, it appeared that we were being fobbed off with the same game under a different name. Foul play, it seemed, was certainly afoot.
And whilst Acclaim's logic is still a little wonky, we can report, with a big sigh of relief, that XG2 is definitely better than its predecessor, and rattlingly good fun to boot. Even if it isn't a completely different game Because it's not.
Extreme G was riddled with problems Which isn't to say that it wasn't a good game, because it was. Colourful, inventive and wig-whippingly fast, it took Wipeout. chucked in some bikes and injected the engines with nitrous oxide. However, winning the game was less about skill and more a case of bouncing off the walls until you reached the finish. It was simply too fast, and the tracks were too narrow to manoeuvre around successfully. XG2 - and this is its crucial distinguishing point -remedies these faults.
The game, although still faster than anything bar F-Zero X, has been slowed down enough to allow the player to react, and learn, and generally feel in 'control'. The tracks have been widened as well which means that it's now possible to succeed at the game without careening off the walls like a Special Brew-fuelled roadrunner. Indeed, you can now even get around the track without touching the walls once - if you're good. The powerslide (operated via R) is instrumental in this respect, as it lets your bike swing its back end out and skid around corners. A modicum of suspension has been added, too, allowing for more forgiving jumps and generally better all-round performance. It's also possible to go the wrong way around the track - this was previously forbidden and adds a new dimension to the game.
And that's really the core of what makes XG2 a better game than its older brother. There are other differences, more improvements and tweaks - which we'll come to in a minute - but developers Probe have listened to all the criticisms and made the necessary adjustments. And. as well as making for a more user-friendly game, the refined handling has a knock-on effect in other areas.
The weapons, which in the first game took a back seat to wrestling with your bike, are now of greater prominence. There's a lot more jostling for position this time around, and lining up an opponent in your sights to let rip with a fusillade of rockets is a far easier, and more tactical, prospect. Of course, the CPU-controlled bikes also have a greater chance of blowing you sky-high, and they take every opportunity to do so, the evil swines.
The hazy blobs that were the power-ups have been replaced with dirty great discs that you can't possibly miss. The shield-replenishment power-ups have been done away with entirely, and Extreme-G 2 now sports strips of road that, much like F Zero X. repair damage. The kicker is that these are often placed above the track proper, and can only be reached by zooming up a ramp.
There's almost a totally new selection of bikes - although a few stalwarts from Extreme G have found their way in (notably the Mooga and Grimace) - sporting lovely sleek n' spiky shapes. The Honda Pantheon is fantastic, resembling a sparkling chrome relative of Judge Dredd's movie-version Lawmaster bike.
So then, just how good is XG2? By now you've probably looked at the score and. despite our saying that this is a much better game than Extreme G. you're probably rather surprised that we've given it a lower mark. Well, the landscape of the N64 has changed in the last year. When Extreme G was first released, there was nothing like it on the N64 - and now? Well, we've played F-Zero X to death, and had some tasty experiences with Wipeout 64 XG2. as fine as it is, isn't as good as Nintendo's effort or Psygnosis' finished article. If Extreme G were released now. it would score much lower. Think of XG2 as the game Extreme G should have been. It's polished, violent, great fun and good enough to nab the Star Came award. And that's all the recommendation you need.
Reasons To Be Cheerful
All of the problems in the original Extreme G - speed that flapped your cheeks rather too much for comfort and handling that was about as efficient as an underwater toaster-ensured that the multiplayer aspect of the game was rather wasted. Which was a shame, as the four-player option could well have been splendid.
As it was, the only way to get any enjoyment out of it at all was if all the participants had played the game solidly for a month, and thus reached something approximating a level of skill.
Well, all the modifications Probe have made for the sequel lend themselves to a much improved friend-against- friend ruck. The straight race option, played over the tracks you've opened up in the single player game, is a much friendlier affair, allowing for closer, and more weapon based, races. However, the real ace in XG2's multiplayer crown is the all-new Battle mode.
In the same vein as Mario Kart 64's equivalent set-up, it features a selection of all-new battle-specific arenas, but swaps cybercycles for futuristic tanks. Necessarily slower than the bikes, but sporting wonderfully sensitive handling, they're based on the designs and specifications of their main-game bike equivalents (so you can still saddle up the Honda Pantheon, Freeker or Mooga).
And, unlike in Mario Kart it works brilliantly. This is due. in part, to a clutch of well-designed arenas (two of which are detailed below), all of which feature ramps, higher levels and hidden areas. However, its main strength is in giving full reign to the weapon based aspect of thf game. The accent is, purely and simply, on blowing seven shades of shinola out of the opposition. Some of the weapons, admittedly - like the ever-useless Mortar - aren't too effective, but several of the new additions work splendidly. The Railgun. in particular, is a delight to use. spewing green neon bolts and tracking the enemy via the tank-encircling rollcage it's mounted on.
Other trusty and invaluable staples include the Multiple Missiles and Homing Rockets, which you'll come to love as fiery, pointy-ended friends o' doom.
You also get the requisite three nitros - as in the normal races - should you need to make a quick escape or boost yourself up a particularly steep ramp. Plum.
Rampant Consumerism: Futuristic racing games have always been a bit 'hip'. Man. Well, Wipeout is. with its neon ganshness, trendy iconography and cooler-than-thou soundtrack. Extreme-G 2, covering all bases (and, probably, its behind), features endorsements/sponsorships/advertising, whatever from Diesel, Honda and Storm. Fair enough, there's a Honda bike in the game, but the Diesel connection manifests itself in a few billboards smattered around the courses, and Storm (purveyors of fine watches), cunningly, are present in that they've got their name under the lap timer. Baffling. But pretty cook, eh? Hmm. No.
Carneth Battle Arena
A dry and dusty killing floor, Carneth is based around Nintendo Environment No. 4, the Desert. There's a slight Egyptian flavour; the main area features a traversable pyramid, offering a nice vantage point with which to rain a hail of pain on the opposition. Best feature, though, has to be the tunnel that runs, underground, through the centre of the arena. Sit at the exit with the Railgun and boom! Chafe your chum as he emerges.
South Sea Battle Arena
The best of the arenas. South Sea consists of an elevated outside rim. connected via overhead walkways spanning a huge and treacherous bowl below.
Should you drop in. it's tricky to get out, and you'll give the enemy plenty of time to saddle up. lock and load and generally make a painful nuisance of themselves. Power-ups are invariably squirrelled away under the arches of the walkways.
Perhaps in a bid to add a dash of personality to the game. Probe have actually included wonkily animated drivers to each of the bikes this time around. At the bike select screen, you can see them standing by their steeds, waving cheerfully. Which is nice.
Of course, they make absolutely no difference to how the game plays, but. when you finish whichever level of the Extreme Contest you're playing, you're 'treated' to an 'amusing' little animation. Standing on a disc hovering above a pit o' flames, your little man-woman either goes a bit mad and breakdances in joy (if you've won), or, if you've lost in a fit of sulky and petulant rage, kicks the adjacent cybercycle, overbalances and plunges downward. Soon to be followed by the said vehicle, which slides off the now-unbalanced disc The most terrifying moment of the game, though, comes right at the start. The drug-addled, maniacally grinning, hunchbacked Goblin Woman, ensconced safely in her bike. The canopy lowers, she doesn't blink, move or twitch, and off she speeds. Woe betide anyone unfortunate enough to cross her cackling (we'd imagine) path. We never thought we'd say this, but It's a sight a thousand times more disturbing than that of Timber the Tiger, gyrating in an unsavoury fashion with the eyes of a madman.
All of which is to say that there's some kind of moral here. Although we're blowed if we know what it is. Don't put freaks in your game, probably.
Download Extreme-G 2
Based on a version of Extreme G2 (called XG2 for short) we saw at E3, the thing most noticeably changed are the game's graphics. On top of looking downright cleaner, Acclaim has said the frame-rate is twice as fast as the original. Other sources have mentioned the frame-rate has actually been slowed down so the game will be more playable. Whatever the case, it should be quite speedy. One very interesting feature mentioned in the press release is the game's support of the 4MB Ram Expansion pack. This pack will allow you to play the game in a breathtaking 640 x 480 resolution. How the pack is going to be sold is not yet known.
Environmental effects have been added as well, like flocks of birds flying by, brilliant flashes of lightning in the background and reflection-mapping under your bike on certain surfaces, while the amount of fog has been decreased for a greater view of the track. The 12 tracks in XG2 (36 counting the various paths you can take in each course) look to have many more paths with a lot of twists, ramps and turns to contend with, and are said to be both wider and longer. Of course, other extreme bikers still frequent the track along with you and can be destroyed with a graphically incredible arsenal completely new to XG2.
Racers now will have a face, name and bio attached to their mean machine, along with bike-specific attributes which will affect how your racer controls.
To add to the adrenaline-gushing experience, a powerslide has been implemented. According to Acclaim, the Multiplayer Mode has been "completely revised." This is a welcome revision since many people thought the Multiplayer Mode in the first game had a lot to be desired.
- MANUFACTURER - Acclaim Studios
- THEME - Racing
- NUMBER OF PLAYERS - 1-4
- Machine: Super NES
- Theme: Action
Get ready to slash your way through 15 stages of menacing mechanical assassins with G2. You control a mammoth size mech with awesome capabilities. Your main weapon is your sword, with which you slice and dice relentless hordes of mechs.
G2 is graphically intense, and there are all sorts of dangers awaiting the unwary. At the end of each zone, a giant Boss will threaten to take you apart piece by piece. G2 will pit your skills against a number of enemy mechs.
If you want a good action game, G2 will be coming out soon. Look for more info later on.
A very disappointing sequel to Extreme G, slowed down far too much and racing through murky, ill-defined backdrops.
Follow-up to last year's minor hit. Eclipsed by F-Zero somewhat.
The first thing you notice about XG2 is the speed at which the game runs. In Extreme G, the original game, the speed was such that most people said it was too fast. With XG2, Probe appears to have overcompensated. This isn't strictly true for all the bikes, just the majority of them, but you may find yourself wondering just when exactly the 'extreme G-forces' inferred by the title are going to make an appearance.
As usual with such games, there is a storyline which runs behind XG2, explaining exactly why you're racing assorted vehicles around the various tracks. We could go into that, but let's face it, with this kind of game it just doesn't matter. When you're racing around loops of track, all you care about is whether it's fun. The fact that the character on the blue bike that just raced past you might once have stolen your character's Weetabix just doesn't matter. Leave the storylines to the games where they matter.
Storyline aside then, the object of Extreme-G 2 is to compete in several 'Extreme Contests' by riding one of a number of powerful futuristic motorbikes around a selection of tracks, competing against seven other CPU-controlled players. As with the original game, to help and/or hinder both yourself and your opponents you have access to a number of weapons. Aside from the basic cannon - called a maxi-bolt - which can be fired rapidly or charged up for a larger, more damaging blast, every bike can collect a number of different bolt-on pick-ups ranging from homing missiles through shields to a simple headlamp, which allows you to see on otherwise dark sections of the track.
The game boasts 36 tracks in total, but in actuality these are actually 12 distinct tracks on which the route is varied a little each time to make another 24 'different' tracks. This is done by way of blocks which seal off different forks and turnings on the track and then are removed or added to change the route the next time around.
Initially you can choose from one of ten different bikes in the game. Each bike has different handling, top speed, acceleration, weapons and shields, and the five attributes are balanced so that a fast bike, for instance, might not have very good firepower or shields.
In addition to these standard bikes, there are also some hidden superbikes which you can access by completing the different tracks. You can't, however, qualify for the next set of tracks if you use a superbike to complete the previous set, so their use is fairly limited if you want to progress at all through the game. The most annoying thing is that you're not told at the start when you receive the superbike that it can't be used to qualify - the game waits until you actually come first and then tells you to try again without it!
As mentioned earlier, most of the bikes seem fairly slow, and initially at least the game itself does seem a lot slower than the original Extreme G. Later levels do run faster, but this is often accompanied by jerky animation which can be so bad that at times it almost seems you're watching a slide show.
Fogging doesn't seem to be too bad, but this appears to have been accomplished by making the tracks so winding and mountainous that you can never see very far in front of you.
For those of you who hated the way the bikes handled in the first game, the good news is that Probe have added a button for sharp turns. The bad news is that if you use the button your bike will usually turn so sharply that it'll end up pointing the wrong way. This also happens far too often when your bike clips the side of the track. Although, on some parts of certain tracks, there are banks which allow you to ride up on corners, other corners have no banks and usually if you touch the sides of the track at any speed your bike will spin around and face the wrong way, losing you valuable time. It's also quite difficult to right a reversed bike, which can be frustrating.
As well as the Extreme mode, you have various other racing options. Practice and Time Trial modes are fairly straightforward, allowing you to race over any of the previously-opened tracks. Arcade mode sounds like a good idea, but is in fact pretty naff. All you do is race round and round the I tracks shooting at some very graphically-unexciting drones. Hardly fun at all.
Multiplayer mode is, on the whole, disappointing. For a start, you can't have human and CPU players on the track at the same time, so if there's just two of you playing, then there are only two bikes on the track. The three and four-player modes are also fairly jerky, particularly on the more detailed tracks.
The one redeeming feature of the multiplayer mode is the deathmatch-style game. Instead of facing each other on bikes, players take control of tanks, and this mode is surprisingly playable. Perhaps Probe should have forgotten the bikes altogether and just gone with the tanks?
All-in-all it has to be said that XG2 is something of a disappointment, and hardly an improvement on the original game at all, despite the nicer graphics. If you've never tried the original, then it might be worth a look, but you're far better off waiting a little while and getting Wipeout 64 when it finally arrives.