XGRA: Extreme G-Racing Association

Review

posted 10/17/2003 by Charlie Sinhaseni
other articles by Charlie Sinhaseni
Platforms: PS2
Futuristic racers are making quite a comeback as of late. Sony released a new WipEout game awhile back and the true perennial classic, F-Zero, just made an appearance last month. Now it’s time for Acclaim to bring forth XGRA, a high-speed futuristic cycle racer that places a heavy emphasis on speed and combat. It’s not quite as good as Nintendo’s latest outing but it has more than enough going for it to more than warrant a purchase.

Don’t come here looking for an extremely deep game because you won’t find anything near that. Instead you’ll find an exciting and fast-paced arcade racer that puts a heavy emphasis on the gas and very little on hitting the brakes. At first you may find yourself a bit overwhelmed because of the amazing sense of speed but as you progress you’ll find that the speedy action only serves to add more excitement to the action as opposed to frustration.

Now in its fourth iteration, XGRA places you into the high-stakes world of futuristic cycle racing. In the core gameplay mode you’ll take contracts from various companies as you work your way up the ranks. As you succeed you’ll gain access to newer and faster bikes as well as better and stronger weapons. In addition to placing highly in the races there’s a new secondary goal that also can be fulfilled. These are generally simple and range from the destruction of an opposing team’s billboards to the destruction of another team’s rider. What’s nice is that completing them isn’t really necessary but the fact that they’re there serves as a nice little deterrent for today’s ADD-infused audience.

Speaking of which, al you ADD-freaks may want to take a pass on this one. Concentration is the key to success here and one lapse in attention can be the difference between first and sixth place. Sure the game is filled with tons of bright and shiny visuals but where XGRA excels is how it successfully conveys a convincing sense of speed. You’ll approach hairpin turns at speeds in excess of 500mph and throughout the course of the game you’ll really feel the part. Take your eyes off the screen for one split second and you’re in the wall while the rest of the field takes off ahead of you. This is some pretty intense racing and while it’s not quite up to the standard of an F-Zero GX, it’s pretty damn entertaining.

Where the game really falters is in the amount of tracks at your disposal. We have no qualms with the actual track themselves though, they’re some of the most unique and innovative designs that we’ve ever laid eyes on. You’ll twist and turn so often that by the end you probably won’t even be sure which way is up, nor will it matter. They’re all fun for about the first four or five times but when you’re on your 10th run through the same track the game begins to wear a bit thin. It starts to get a bit old and you begin to get a little bored with the game’s lack of variety.

It’s not all about racing though; you’ll have quite a few weapons at your disposal as well. Depending on which bike you choose you’ll have one primary weapon. This ranges from your standard cannons to your non-so-standard electrical shock. Secondary weapons work here in the same fashion that they do in most kart-style racers. You’ll have to collect little icons scattered around the environment, the more you collect the stronger the weapon that you can use. For instance, collect one and you’ll have a weak laser while collecting five in a row will give you a devastating mini-nuke that’ll obliterate your opponents. Combat isn’t the game’s main emphasis but running around and wreaking havoc upon your enemies is pretty fun from time-to-time.

Aside from the main career mode you’ll be able to run in the standard time trial and arcade modes. Both of them offer very little in the way of gameplay and are only meager diversions for you to cut your teeth on. Split-screen multiplayer is available but since the action is so fast and frenzied the reduced viewing port makes playing the game almost impossible. Don’t buy this if you’re looking for a game to play with your buddies because you’ll pretty much be disappointed.

This is a great looking game, at times it’s just breathtaking to see what the artistic designers were able to come up with. Then at other times it’s amazing to see just how uninspired some of the visuals can be. There are some very plain elements and some surfaces, such as dirt, just look downright ugly. This is a stark contrast to the futuristic structures and trackside objects that populate most of the tracks. The cycles themselves are pretty beautiful as they leave a colorful streak behind them as they move. When a couple of cycles get on the screen the game tends to slow down a bit but not enough to have a huge impact on the gameplay.

There’s support for Dolby Pro Logic II although I can hardly tell the difference between the Pro Logic II and the standard stereo setting. Very few of the sounds are filtered to the rear speakers and when there’s action from the rears it’s so quiet that it makes very little impact on the overall soundtrack. Not that the audio is really that bad, most of the sound effects are pretty convincing, save for the stereotypical comments that your opponents will dish out every so often. The music is your standard generic techno/rock that you would expect to find in a European club.

XGRA probably won’t make you forget all about WipEout or F-Zero but it’s a rather decent addition to any racing fan’s library. It lacks the depth that many of you are hungering for but as a simple little diversion, it’s a pretty worthwhile investment.



C
Inspired track designs, excellent sense of speed and above average visuals combine to form a pretty formidable racing package. It’s just a shame that the game gets too old far too quickly.


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