XGIII Extreme G Racing

a game by Acclaim
Platform: Playstation 2
Editor Rating: 7/10, based on 1 review
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Overview

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.

Multiplayer Support

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.

Graphics

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.

Audio

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.

Bottom Line

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.

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