When 3DO had its fire sale one of its most highly touted properties was Street Racing Syndicate
. I’ll admit that I was pretty concerned about the fate of the title as well. When I saw it at E3 2003 it wasn’t exactly amazing but it had some pretty compelling elements that could have added up to an intriguing game. Instead, it seems like the developers took a complete 180 in every single fathomable way and created a game that’s so poorly developed that it lacks the staple of the very scene that it looks to depict, the Honda Civic.
But I’m probably getting ahead of myself. SRS is a racing game well along the lines of Midnight Club II
and Need for Speed Underground
. In the core gameplay mode you will be competing in races in order to win cash that can be used to upgrade your ride. It breaks the mold from the two aforementioned titles by allowing you to choose your races and explore the town at your own discretion. In order to prevent everything in the game from being available to you at the start, the game uses a respect system as its artificial barrier. By winning races and performing tricks (like powerslides or jumps) you’ll earn points. As you gain more points more cars and races will be made available to you. In all the pacing of the game works really well, although you can get the game’s crown jewel, the Nissan Skyline, in fairly short order.
You’ll run into problems the moment you boot up the game. That’s because the initial load time is just a precursor of all the waiting that you’ll be doing in the game. Not one portion of the game’s design is streamlined, resulting in long wait times and endless frustration. Buying cars is frustrating because the game takes some time to load up each car’s stats so that you can compare it to others. Perhaps most puzzling is the lack of Honda vehicles in the game. It doesn’t make sense; the developers managed to acquire the licensing rights from other Japanese makers like Toyota, Nissan and Mazda, but they missed out on the biggest one of all.
Equally frustrating is the upgrade system which bows to the same flaws. Most of the fun in these kinds of games is supposed to come from tricking out your vehicle, but SRS somehow makes that facet seem like a chore. You get instant feedback on how well each part performs but for some reason, you have to wait for a three to five second load time each time you want results on a part. As you might guess this leads to a pretty agonizing experience. There are plenty of real-life parts and components but chances are you’ll get tired of waiting and opt to just rush through it. Upgrading should be simple and fun but instead it turns into a frustratingly hair-pulling experience. To put it short the game’s design is severely flawed and even worse, it carries over to the streets.
If you manage to make your way through the poor interface you’ll be greeted by a sub-par racing experience. This is due largely in part to the game’s poor sensation of speed. A little meter in the corner might tell you that you’re going 120 but your eyes and brain will tell you that you’re going 40. Objects pass by very slowly and the car always handles superbly. All of the vehicles feel very light and feathery and don’t exhibit any real weight or mass. When coupled with the poor sense of speed you’ll find yourself having difficulty taking turns because your mind has failed to realize that you’re actually approaching the turn at a high rate of speed. That means plenty of unnecessary spinouts and wall scraping that should easily be avoided. It seems like the designers knew what they had on their hands so they decided to compensate for it by providing you with brain-dead opponents. The game is a breeze from start to finish as you’ll blow away opponents with very little effort, fanfare or enjoyment.
If there’s an area where SRS must be commended is in its attention to reality. Similar titles allow players to drive recklessly and bang into walls without any real consequence or repercussion. SRS changes this by forcing the player to pay for the damages that they have accrued. This forces the gamer to rely on their ability to react to turns than their ability to use concrete dividers as guidelines. The designers also must be commended for the superb physics system that they have created. I’ve driven a few of the cars in the game and can testify that they do indeed handle like the real thing. Eutechnyx decided to take a simulation-style approach to their vehicle physics and the end result is pretty good.
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