Story? What story? All you need know about NGEN Racing is that speed is good! As a professional jet aircraft racer, you participate in an underground (that means highly illegal kiddos!) tournament, destined to earn you piles and piles of money.
You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll think its better than Wipeout! However, while it is good for a relatively simple racing game, it isn’t quite as cool as the _Wipeout series. What NGEN Racing does have going for it is sheer innovative control and handling. When I first got a chance to play NGEN, I said to myself, "This is just gonna be another racing game knockoff, total snorefest." Boy, was I wrong. Let me tell you how.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
The first thing you’ll notice are the controls. Extremely unusual for a racing game, these controls respond the same way a normal fighter craft would -- which means they are extremely hard to control. Three words: Dual shock controller. Once you’ve got one of Sony’s analog controllers in your hand, you’ll be going supersonic in no time. Fortunately, if you don’t have a dual shock controller, you can also set the game to respond in Arcade mode, which, thankfully, is much easier to control.
NGEN doesn’t disappoint when it comes to the controls themselves, which are simple enough to handle easily, yet complex enough to manage the flight characteristics of a jet fighter. The pitch, yaw, and trim controls all respond properly, giving you excellent control over the plane.
And when it comes to racing the tracks themselves, NGEN does not disappoint. The tracks are comprised of landing light style markers defining the out-of-bound area. Inside that area, you’ve got a complete free fly zone, including powerups for recharging your afterburners and hull integrity. Going outside of the out-of-bound area gives you a three second warning, after which an autopilot forces you back into the free fly zone and reduces your speed.
Far and away, the most enjoyable feature of NGEN Racing is the detail and attention put into the racing tracks. Normally, given the difficulty of flying an airplane through the traditional racing courses -- futuristic cities, underground tunnels, et al -- you might expect skimpy courses in a game like this. Instead, the tracks in NGEN are wonderfully challenging and invigorating, presenting a plethora of environmental challenges, from 180 degree turns to swooping under extremely low bridges.
If you’re looking for realism, play the Pro mode racing style. It duplicates the effect of having to manage the pitch, yaw, and trim of a real airplane. The only problem with Pro mode is that you’ll really need a joystick (something difficult to get for a PSX) to appreciate it, as a controller just doesn’t cut it when racing Pro.
NGEN uses a purchase system in order to upgrade and replace your aircraft. The only way to earn more money is to race more. This would be a relatively normal and painless way to earn money, save that you can race any track for money an unlimited number of times. Combine that with one of the time trial tracks that gives you a lot of money based on how quickly you beat them and you’ve got a seriously quick way to earn lots and lots of cash. Since the difficulty of the game is directly proportional to which plane you purchase and what upgrades you install, having that much money that easily definitely unbalances the game.
While the graphics on any PSX title are going to be a little bit dated, NGEN suffers more than most. Given the large space, nearly unlimited flying area, and processing capabilities of the Playstation, NGEN had to make some concessions in order to maintain playability. The texture details of the ground and surroundings aren’t particularly detailed, which was done, in the opinion of this reviewer, in order to maintain high framerates. That aside, the rest of the graphics in NGEN are par for the course, with relatively detailed airplane models and well done lighting effects.
Unfortunately, this is where NGEN takes its biggest hit. There’s been a tradition of pairing techno music with racing games and NGEN is no exception. What does stand out is the poor quality of the techno music in this game, especially considering its droning and repetitive nature.
NGEN Racing, for all of its many and varied flaws, is still a quite enjoyable game. Innovative both in design and playability, NGEN is very fun to play. Once you get past the relatively mundane graphics and annoying soundtrack, you’ll find that NGEN is like no other racing game and is, as such, extremely enjoyable.