Rollcage Stage II
|a game by||ATD, Psygnosis Limited|
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Ooh, hark at it. Stage II, as if they're taking gaming to the next level or something. Nonsense, this is Rollcage II, plain and simple, a premature sequel to the overrated futuristic racer, or as the press release would have it: "The breathtaking, ultra-destructive, hi-octane, 360 degree racing game that took the gaming world by storm last year." Effectively WipeOut on wheels, Rollcage was the kind of game that probably had PlayStation magazines describing it as the perfect postpub experience, one of the more banal cliches thrown up by the gaming press in recent years. If sitting in a darkened room with a bunch of pissed men playing a simple-minded game is the perfect post-pub experience, then they've clearly misunderstood what a pub is for.
Whatever, Rollcage was alright for half an hour, if somewhat blighted by a disorientating camera system that would often leave the player with little clue as to the whereabouts of either his arse or his elbow, not to mention his futuristic buggy. Stage IIcomes with a "new and improved" system, which alleges to ensure that you always know which way you're supposed to be going. Something of a prerequisite in a racing game, one might think, and it's a shame that no one saw fit to implicate it in the first game. What is Stage II then? A glorified patch?
Of course not, although to the untrained eye this game and its prequel might appear largely interchangeable. Sequels are a murky area at best, but particularly so in racing games. Unless gargantuan leaps of technology are being made, then improvements are only ever going to be incremental, if there actually are any. And with a game such as Rollcage, that has no basis in reality whatsoever, there is even less of an argument for a follow up. At least racing games that replicate real sports can attempt to justify themselves with seasonal updates, but when you're talking about heavily armed buggies that can drive on the ceiling, you might as well just ask people to send you their money.
In its favour, Rollcage Stage II has some 14 different game modes. Not in its favour, some of them are a bit dull. The racing is the same as it ever was though, with the freedom of movement making it possible to keep the acceleration button pressed at all times, with little consideration given to traditional mainstays of the genre such as timing and braking. Naturally, it all looks mighty impressive, but doesn't offer a particularly satisfying drive, with no real purchase to be had on the road. There is little subtlety involved, and races often degenerate into a pyrotechnic free-for-all, bereft of any real tension or excitement. Beneath the superficial exterior, it's a pretty shallow experience, and in all honesty you'd be better off staying in the pub.