Speed Kings (Xbox)

Review

posted 7/24/2003 by Charlie Sinhaseni
other articles by Charlie Sinhaseni
One Page Platforms: Xbox
I’m one of those people who stood by Burnout when it was being panned in the press. Coincidentally, I’m also one of those people who can sit around and play Burnout 2 for hours upon hours on end. Imagine my excitement when Acclaim told me that it was developing Speed Kings, a racing title that was being billed as “Burnout with bikes.” How quickly did that excitement die down? I’d say it died the moment I set foot in the game’s virtual tarmac.

Not that it doesn’t have all the goods that a wannabe motorcyclists like me would desire. Quite the contrary, the game has a nice variety of tracks, bikes, rider options, tricks and as a slight nod to the days of yore, it even has some decent combat elements. It’s just that none of these is executed particularly well and as a result, the game feels and plays like a second rate budget title as opposed to the heir apparent of Road Rash.

Like most Arcade-themed racers only a handful of elements are available from the start. Better bikes and more exciting tracks must be unlocked via a rather decent Meet mode. In this mode players must race a series of tracks. Placing well in these races is the key to unlocking the better goods in the game, but it’s also paramount to complete the secondary tasks as well. These secondary goals range from simple tasks such as performing wheelies for a specific distance to beating up a specific number of competitors. Upon completing these tasks gamers will be given more access to new bikes and tracks.

Where the game is most disappointing is in its sensation of speed, or the lack thereof. Many have compared Speed Kings to Burnout with bikes but trust us, after you’ve gotten into the game, the two have very little in common. Speed Kings feels very slow and the game decides to compensate for this by throwing in random obstacles with very little warning. This is accomplished by a maneuver called the “power down” which sends the bike onto it’s side so that the rider can slide underneath casual everyday obstacles such as big rigs, boat trailers and falling trees. While you’re hurtling down a freeway the words “power down” will suddenly flash across your screen. You’re given about one second to press the Y button, otherwise you’re street pizza. It’s a sweet gimmick until you realize that the game has you do it about three times a lap, with just as little warning each time. As a result gamers are forced to participate in a sort of twitch-based gameplay that makes the game feel more like Dragon’s Lair on bikes if anything.
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