Review by Merv Hart
Before I get to the nitty gritty of this review, I should point out straight away that if you own a Playstation 2 and you're interested in this review, then you probably already own Gran Turismo 3, and if you don't own it, you should. GT3 is without doubt, the daddy - it's the main reason people are buying Playstation 2's at the moment, and at the time of this review it's been the number 1 selling computer game out of all the formats for weeks.
So it's probably not the greatest time to launch another car racing game, huh? Well, maybe, and maybe not, because Tokyo Xtreme Racer is different enough to make it a serious contender, even if you already own GT3.
How so? Well, a stereotypical car game involves racing against other cars towards the chequered flag, where you earn money to buy better kit for your car to go faster. TXR isn't about trophies; it's about looking cool, and driving fast. 125 real (ish - they're replicas) Japanese cars are yours for the taking, to drive around 100 miles of realistically replicated Tokyo highways. There's no starting line, you need to cruise the streets, pick out a fellow Xtreme racer, challenge him with a flash of your headlights, and the race is on! Stay ahead of him for long enough and you've won, gaining money to customize your car with spoilers, alloys, logos, fancy lights, etc.
The game has a distinctly Ridge Racer type feel to it, in that it's very much an arcade style game in both graphics, sound, and handling. Realism isn't particularly evident here, but to have too much realism would slow this game down, you just want to drive fast and look cool. The aim is to out run your opponent, but if you can't then you can weave in and out of the innocent bystanding (bydriving?) traffic and try to outmanoeuvre the other racer. A "speed points" bar determines how well you perform - your bar decreases when your opponent is ahead of you, and vice versa. The pace is fast and furious, and can be thrilling stuff.
It's the advanced artificial intelligence in Tokyo Xtreme Racer that makes this game stand high above the crowd of other car racers, with the other drivers able to drive as though they were pre-guessing how you're going to drive against them. They can determine from your position and posturing where you're most likely to be headed, and will make every attempt to beat you to it and block you, giving this predominately one player game a very personal feel, and you really do want to beat those other drivers!
Visually, the PS2's advanced graphics capabilities haven't been utilised too well, as there are only small improvements on the Dreamcast predecessor. However, the plus points in Tokyo Extreme Racer include cars which shine with excellent use of lighting, and special effects such as motion blur and glowing brakes. The realistic roadways are the only real let down - the game is played at night, on Tokyo motorways, which means there's very little variety, virtually no landmarks, and you'll never know where you are by the landscape unless you've actually driven around the roads in your non-virtual car.
The sound is a mixed bag, depending on how you feel about repetitive J Pop techno will determine whether you love it or hate it. The sound effects are decent though, with different engine noises depending on the car of your choice, and tyres which squeal and screach as you take a corner too fast.
Even though the aforementioned GT3 rules the top shelf of computer game charts, a game based on the illegal world of underground street racing is a novel enough idea to make it do well. It may be a struggle, but with any luck this game can gain the legion of passionate fans that it deserves.Overall score: 8 out of 10
Publisher: Ubi Soft
Recommended Price: £39.99
Available: NowBuy Tokyo Xtreme Racer for the PS2 from Amazon