XGIII: Extreme G Racing
Founded at the end of the 22nd century, the Extreme-G Racing League has brought racing to a place beyond imagination. With its creation, racing was taken to the next level as the speed and intensity stretched safety and common sense past the point of return. With the raw power of the bikes, riders were forced to make the quickest decisions and have the fastest reaction time just to survive. In addition, weapons are also included on these already dangerously fast machines adding one more level of intensity. As the league takes racing farther than it's ever been, who knows all the possibilities as teams keep pushing the envelope, looking for the edge that will put them in the winners circle.
XGIII: Extreme G Racing is the third installment of a less than stellar racing series. With its beginnings on the Nintendo 64, the first two attempts were plagued by various gameplay issues as it became evident the developers bit off more then they could chew. This latest installment, however, is a different story. Now with Acclaim running the show, they are able to create a racing game that gives a sense of speed and solid control, making comparisons to other games like WipeOut credible. Although there are still some minor gameplay issues and other areas that could have been improved, XGIII: Extreme G Racing will definitely keep your interest and, as long as you can handle the speed, you'll get a ride you won't forget.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Instead of entering races as a single driver, XGIII: Extreme G Racing offers more of a NASCAR feel, with teams being financed through sponsors. Before starting, you'll have the option of joining one of six teams, each with different racing styles, sponsors, and team members. Some, for instance, are made of all women, some are veteran riders, and others are just looking for the adrenaline rush. To help with the decision, each team has a short bio describing their sponsor and racing approach. Once a team is selected, a choice between the two riders must be made. Each rider has their specific strengths and weaknesses but generally, it has little effect on the game. Whether the rider is from Germany with an IQ of 200 or from Japan with an IQ of 90, it makes little difference while you are racing, but it does personalize the riders.
With a team and rider selected, there are various different modes of play available. The first option, which is the League or career mode, carries the majority of the gameplay and other options like Arcade have lesser roles and probably won't be used much. Although using the Arcade mode for a quick race may sound appealing, it makes more sense to attempt to qualify for the next race in the League mode, as each game can be saved after a race. Some racing games require three to five full races before saving, making it difficult to advance without some time available.
The League mode also is where the rider advances through each circuit. Here there are ten different tracks spread across four circuits. With unique designs and locations, each track is vastly different from the last and increases in difficulty. There is a problem here that focuses mainly around the small number of actual tracks. With only ten tracks available, the game's life span is significantly reduced and, although some are challenging enough to keep most people busy, once the track becomes familiar, it will be beaten fairly quickly.
Once a race is completed, credits will be awarded depending on the place you finished in. These credits can be used to upgrade the bike with different weaponry, better engines, or stronger shields. You'll quickly find the usefulness of these items as they give a necessary edge to a difficult race, also adding a touch of variety, giving other goals besides just winning.
No matter what other extras or how much variety is added, however, if the controls are difficult to use or are cumbersome, the game would be destined to fail. XGIII: Extreme G Racing does an excellent job here, mainly due to the GameCube controller. With the velocity the bikes are traveling at, every function and command must be fluid and easy to trigger. This is generally the case, but certain parts of the controls really shine. The directional control, for instance, is done using the control stick and the feel it gives is amazing. When slight pressure is applied, the bike gradually turns in perfect unison, allowing the player to get better responses and results. Other functions are also naturally placed and easy to use. The acceleration, for example, is performed using the A button with the boost controlled using the B button to its left. The air brakes are on the left and right triggers while the weapon control is on the Y button.
As with most games, there is a solid multiplayer option with a four player mode that is appealing. That four player mode is expected, however, as the GameCube can support four controllers without extra hardware. What is more impressive is the ability for two players to play the League mode on the same team. This definitely improves on the game's longevity as now it may be just as fun to go through the game again.
From a graphical standpoint, you won't find too many complaints. It holds at a solid frame rate with only an occasional infraction and the detail level, although not stellar, is enough to not be distracting. Other things like the location of the tracks and the fascinating design will help to immerse in the game. There are some effects like snow and rain that could have been better, as the snow looks particularly poor, but these are minor issues and don't affect the game.
Acclaim made a good decision incorporating surround sound into this game and it even masks some of the audio's weaker dimensions. When you're racing down a track and hear an opponent coming from behind, it's impressive and almost makes it fun to get passed. Most other general sounds are on the mark and the soundtracks aren't bad either.
XGIII: Extreme G Racing offers a level of speed and intensity that's difficult to capture in a game. It's a complex balance to reach, but Acclaim definitely came close to achieving it. Although not containing as many tracks as you'd generally like to see, other areas like the multiplayer options help to pick it up some. With solid gameplay and break neck speed, XGIII: Extreme G Racing is sure to impress and keep you going for hours.
Download XGIII: Extreme G Racing
761 miles per hour -- the speed of sound. It was once thought to be an impossible speed until a legendary pilot named Chuck Yeager, flying the "Bell X-1," broke the sound barrier on Oct. 14, 1947. Fast forward to the 23rd century and we find equally skilled pilots breaking the speed of sound while strapped to the backs of very powerful motorcycles. But breaking the sound barrier while racing on incredibly dangerous courses isn't enough for these adrenaline junkies. Now combat, while racing, adds to an already exceeded flash point -- something like "Let's break the sound barrier and then break our necks." Winding corkscrews, 90-degree inclines and other stomach-dropping obstacles litter these massively constructed raceways. Rail guns, heat-seeking missiles and other weapons are used to dispatch your fellow racers. If that isn't enough, the very real possibility exists of launching off the course -- not that you would feel anything on impact, since you would be reduced to little more than liquid.
XGIII, a very impressive futuristic racing/combat game, hits the PS2 with the force of a fusion bomb. With arcade fun and gimme-five surprises, the days of plain old motorcycle racing have been elevated to the next level.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
When I first started playing XGIII, I was reminded of the classic game WipeOut. While the idea is very similar with its varied racecourses and weapon implementation, XGIII does it all better.
First off, I will say that you can race fast enough to break the sound barrier. But to do so you will need to play for quite a while since this requires mastering all the courses, logging many, many first place finishes and purchasing the several needed upgrades. In other words, don't expect to break it very soon.
In XGIII, pilots race very sleek, very futuristic motorcycles. These motorcycles reminded me of both the light cycles from the movie Tron and the bikes the motorcycle gangs rode in the classic anime movie Akira. You can use either a first-person or third-person view to race these cycles. This reviewer found it easier to race in the third-person view since it was easier to see the oncoming turns and obstacles from its elevated perspective -- very important given the excessive speed of the game. The left analog stick or D-pad steers the cycle while the control buttons on the right are used for turbo, weapon fire, gas and rear view. The L2 and R2 buttons are used for air brakes, which are an absolute necessity in the tighter turns that blanket the varied courses. The R1 and L1 buttons are used to toggle through the various weapons you can buy with the winnings from your victories.
The motto "Live. Earn. Burn." takes new meaning after racing in the career circuit. There is an arcade mode and a versus mode that allow you to race on any of the courses you have unlocked during your trials -- but the career circuit is where it's at. Player(s) select a team sponsor (one of six) and pick one of the two pilots available. Once that's done, it's nothing but bugs in the teeth, rubber on the road and little itty-bitty pieces of motorcycle. Essentially, you start out in the Lithium league and are given a total cash amount that must be accumulated by the end of the three races. Of course, it's not that easy since positions one through seven (out of 12) all earn cash. So if you take first place on the first two races (equaling $24,000), the third race tells you what your minimum finish position must be to continue. In other words, before each race the load screen tells you the lowest possible position you must take in order to stay on the career circuit. I can tell you from experience that finishing higher in the standings makes for an easier time, since you will be able to afford the engine upgrades that you MUST purchase in order to finish respectably. When you're racing at speeds in excess of 500 miles per hour, it really comes down to hundredths of a second. There's no room for error here.
Each of the four leagues contains different races -- three on the first three leagues and one on the final fourth league. The tracks range from simple right-turn-only tracks, to double-corkscrew, inverted-loop, oh-my-gosh stunts. I really enjoyed the different tracks; Acclaim did a phenomenal job in varying them so much. Some were during the day while others were at night. Most contained multiple paths while still others had jumps, crazy-ass turns and dips. There's even a very tough track in the city at night while it's raining. For combat reasons, each track contains two different strips of energy. The green strip refuels your power meter, which reflects directly on how much shields and turbo boost you have left. The purple power strip refills your ammunition, no matter what weapon(s) you have on board. As you race the different tracks and wind your way through the leagues AND move up in racing class (engine 250, 500, 750 and 1000), the larger the number of laps you must complete and the more difficult the computer opponents become. For instance, while battling through two laps of the 250 racing class, the only weapon my opponents had was a standard machine gun. Once I made it to the 500 class -- three laps this time -- I noticed my opponents were using missiles and other projectile weapons. This also led me to believe that they, too, were upgrading their bikes.
As for the different upgrades you can purchase for your bike, they include rockets, rear-facing blasters, an EMP pulse rifle that disrupts the other cycles' weapons, and many others, culminating with the fear-inducing rail gun -- a weapon so powerful that the league had to scale it back because one hit meant instant death. Non-weapon upgrades, which are used to improve your cycle's performance, include the shield boost, shield scoop for collecting more energy and several upgraded engines. The prices for most of these items are not cheap, and it will take even a good racer a long while to get armed with multiple weapons and options, since you must upgrade your engine as soon as you can afford it. Otherwise your weapons would be useless, since you wouldn't even be able to keep up with your fellow competitors.
There is a two-player split-screen versus mode, and a two-player career mode where all the previous information is useful but now your team must finish in a respectable position. The stakes are higher, but the cash is greater. Again, split screen is not very easy since you really need a full screen's worth of detail in order to race the tracks effectively. Still, this game just screams for link cable. I pray that Sony makes it available soon.
The architecture alone is enough to make a graphics geek like me happy, but Acclaim wasn't settling for second best. They've also included beautiful light sourcing and environments that can only be appreciated by spectators, since players are concentrating too intently on the track. There are desert levels, city levels that remind me of the movie Blade Runner with flying cars passing by as the race goes on, and levels that involve racing underwater in these giant tubes that shield racers from the water.
The frame rate speeds by at an eyelid-peeling pace with absolutely no lag whatsoever. This game just screams next-gen racer. I'm positive the Dreamcast couldn't do it as well.
Two words: Dolby Surround. Yup, I plugged this puppy into my surround sound system and was literally floored. I didn't much care for the techno beat soundtrack, but the sound effects were awesome. I couldn't remember the last movie I watched that had so much noise coming out of my rear speakers. Using them, I could tell where the racers were, whether they were behind me or to the left or right of me.
This is one badass game. With its instant fun flavor and beautiful graphics, I decided that I couldn't put it down, and why should I? It's addictive and easy to pick up, yet provides a substantial challenge to those of us who think some games are just too easy. Let me tell ya something -- XGIII is a flat-out, go-for-gonzo experience, the coolest racing game I've played in years. Get it and relish the fact that you've purchased a very enjoyable game.