Not to over analyze the marketing teasers game publishers put on the box to entice buyers, but "Jam-packed with ultra-realistic arcade racing action" really leaves me wondering what they're trying to say. In my book, any title that models a real-world sport or activity is going to try to be a realistic simulation or an arcade game. Just what does "ultra-realistic arcade action" mean in this context? It tries to straddle the fence between the two, and if you believe (as I do) that the two are mutually exclusive, you just don't know what to think.
After playing SX Superstar, it's very apparent that the closest this game comes to being a simulator is the simulated answering machine in the somewhat hokey "Apartment Hub." The Apartment Hub is the menu area where selections are made to choose your motorcycle, track to race at, and other facets of the Championship mode. There's not much to differntiate the Championship mode from other console racing titles - you get to accept or decline sponsorship offers to earn "cash," and as you earn more cash you can upgrade your motorcycle. Frankly, these aspects don't do much for me (unless the publisher sends me a check for the actual amount I earn in the game - that would definitely motivate me!). Superstar tries to spice it up a little with mildly funny (think Al Franken on the best night of his career) wrong numbers that leave messages on your answering machine, and the misogynistic girlfriend feature. Not to be preachy, but the idea that the quality of your girlfriend is directly related to how much money you have is somewhat dated (albeit in some cases true).
Pet peeve: somewhere along the line, game developers all decided there needs to be a championship mode to add stickiness to the game, thinking that it will present enough of a long-term goal to keep you coming back. Personally, I would rather they pay more attention to developing the actual core product, in this case motorcycle racing, to make it more realistic, exciting and challenging. Another pet peeve (and this is by no means exclusive to SX Superstar, frankly it is epidemic to console games) is having to unlock . Hey, I gave you full price for the game; give me all the features. Dangling a smelly fish in front of me ain't gonna make THIS dolphin jump through your hoops, it's just going to make me shelve the game.
So, it's an arcade-style game, not a simulator. That means it should be easy to learn and tons 'o fun. It is easy to learn, but I'm not so sure it's fun. The problem I have with the racing action is that it isn't very challenging. The tracks are nicely done, and the bikes control pretty well, but the AI just isn't very good. If you blow a jump or slam into a wall, you wreck and the rest of the pack gets away from you. But not to worry: they will also wreck repeatedly until you catch up. Once you get out front, the other riders become far more talented and blow by you like you're standing still. The whole thing just seems rigged. Personally, I enjoy winning a lot more if I feel like I had to earn it. Otherwise, it's just going through the motions.
While the single player disappoints because of the lowest common denominator "no child left behind" approach to the AI, the multiplayer is fairly good, and in my opinion the only redeeming feature. Folks that are subscribing to XBox live won't be thrilled since there is no online multiplayer, but for those of us that want to race against someone sitting right next to us there is a nice split screen multiplayer feature. In this mode it is mano y mano with no AI riders to clutter things up. So if you want to win, you better not screw up, or hope the other guy does too. That's much more challenging and a lot more fun.
Bottom line: unless you have a buddy to race with, this one would have been more aptly named SX SuperSnooze.
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