Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex

Gamestyle Archive intro: we’re back in November 2001 with a hugely popular character from the original PlayStation platform. Maybe I’m just out of touch with gaming nowadays but whatever happened to Crash? Writer JJ.

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Being with Gamestyle does have its advantages, not only do you meet some great people, go places and play games, it also provides an opportunity to experience new things. When Dean first asked me to review Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex, I thought I was in his bad books and that this was some sort of divine punishment for my previous sins. I was not looking forward to experiencing the latest Crash Bandicoot adventure and visions of console rage were foremost in my mind.

Never judge a game by its history or characters or you will be making the same mistake and miss out on something different, then again… Crash Bandicoot was one of the biggest worldwide successes on the Playstation by taking the elements that made Mario and Sonic so popular, then adding its own identity. Sequels and spin-offs soon followed while his popularity remained high. While the original creators of Crash (Naughty Dog) have moved onto something new with Jak & Daxter leaving Travellers Tales to do the honours, Crash remains and in a bizarre twist of fate his new adventure arrives just before his replacement is exposed to the world. Both look suitably impressive and come complete with slick presentation but given even the marketing muscle behind Jax & Daxter, Crash may prove to be more popular.

The story begins sees the return of Dr Neo Cortex and his ultimate weapon, this time determined to defeat Crash and spread his evil everywhere. Of course, Crash as usual is the thorn in his side, the nemesis that must be destroyed. In order to achieve this Dr Cortex awakens the Elementals, the natural power sources for earth, air, water and fire – sounds like some dodgy 70s prog-rock band. Crash must battle against each of these elements in a series of levels (over 25 in total with 5 boss levels) and at the end of each one; collect a certain item i.e. crystal before facing Dr Cortex and his ultimate weapon in the final battle. If all that sounds familiar then you’ll be glad to know that the same applies to the game itself. Given the task of continuing the success of Crash, the new developer has quite rightly followed the same formula as before.

Any fan of the series will not be disappointed as the basic objectives remain the same, reach the end, obtaining as many icons as possible and avoiding dangers such as TNT or ferocious creatures. The game features a large number of levels for you to explore, each adopting a variety of styles which was initially impressive but then given their short nature and ease of completion, fade away into obscurity. Once complete you rarely go back as there are no alternate routes or secret areas to be revealed. Levels can vary from traditional platformers where you are jumping over obstacles and destroying enemies by landing on their heads to Super Monkey Ball styled escapades to flying through the air, gunning down targets.

The adventure takes you across the world varying from the Wild West to the jungles of Africa, facing tsunami waves, tornados and stampeding herds of animals to mention but a few. Crash is now very much multi-skilled as in this latest adventure he takes control of aeroplanes, vehicles and a variety of weaponry in pursuit of his objective. The graphics shown in the game are some of the sweetest seen yet, full of detail and displayed at such a high resolution. The whole feel of the game is of a cartoon and the visuals enforce this without having to resort to cell shading. Effects such as lighting and water have been implemented and show off what the Playstation 2 can produce.

Playing the game for the first time reminded me of when I first experienced Sonic Adventure, very impressive and slick. On screen there is plenty of activity to keep you amused but a distinct lack of creativity and originality. These are things that even the greatest graphics in the world cannot disguise because after the initial levels, the graphical impact wanes, exposing the shallow game that is Crash Bandicoot: Wrath of Cortex. For the first time you also have the opportunity to play as Crash’s sister Coco that provides a welcome change of pace from the usually frantic, full-on approach of her brother. Yet given this and new touches such as Super Monkey Ball rip-offs the game lacks any new dimensions to attract new fans to the series.

This is, at heart, a straightforward 128bit version of the Psone titles that will annoy those as before and entertain the younger generation. Apart from the lack of creativity the game contains many frustrating elements that brought this reviewer to his knees. I will admit I loathe platform games but some the precision jumps necessary here shed Turok in a whole new light. The game is overall easy given the market that it is aimed at but on certain levels this is forgotten as you have to repeat the same jump, over and over again until you land it. Camera angles in the game are prefixed and this would be bearable if the camera was well implemented. On many levels you form the belief that the camera is just a touch slow and soon even paths become precarious. Annoyingly the game also includes levels where you have to run towards the camera, not knowing what lies ahead, fun in brief spurts but not for whole levels.

Crash Bandicoot The Wrath of Cortex is a game for the younger generation and an ideal Christmas present for someone who falls into that category. For the rest of us, there is nothing new or original here other than the graphical enhancements that are just eye candy.

Gamestyle Score: 4/10

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World Rally Championship

Gamestyle Archive Intro: For a while Gran Turismo became very boring although some would argue it remains so. The WRC offered a refreshing alternative to tarmac action by the need for speed in new directions. Writer JJ, published November 2001.

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God I hate Gran Turismo. There I’ve finally said it. While its influence on the driving genre has been immense, I long for the days of Rage Racer, the best racer on the Psone. Then you were up against the track and clock, no need to worry about realistic handling and realism in general. Racing was not a chore or task, the thrill was pure as was the speed and sensational power slides. Since those days and the advent of the GT phenomenon I’ve lost interest in racing games, why was Ridge Racer 4 so poor?

The influence of GT is why but something recently has renewed my interest in driving and that game is World Rally Championship (WRC). WRC has come as major surprise as although rally games like V-Rally and Colin MacRae were hugely popular on the Psone, I never found them captivating to warrant any long-term play. The game has reintroduced the sensation of man and machine against the track, clock and most importantly nature. Developed by Evolution Studios who are more known for their flight simulations for the PC market (as DiD) and helped by the muscle of Sony, WRC is the saviour of the driving genre – or it should have been. Games with official licenses litter the shelves of retailers all over the country and today it seems a pre-requisite for any sports based game.

WRC is no different in this respect as it offers the official license, the FIA World Rally Championship and therefore includes seven of the worlds leading car manufacturers. As this is a worldwide event, the game will take you all over the globe, experiencing every extreme condition known to man. Whether you fancy the twisting tracks of Monte Carlo, open plains of Kenya or a mud bath home coming, this has it all. The further you progress through the stages and countries the more options will become available in other modes such as time trail and single rally. In total there are 81 courses set across the world offering a variety of challenges and pitfalls for you to cross. The first thing that strikes you about WRC is the impressive front end, or to put it simply, the presentation and layout. A globe faces you on the screen and bit-by-bit you are zoomed into your next track, simple yet effective.

Due to the advantages of DVD you can even watch real footage of how the professionals do it and then try to be better. Clear and precise commentary provides useful information on the challenges that lie ahead and you can if you wish, test your settings and track surfaces using the pre-rally shakedown option. If you want depth and realism then WRC does offer this but the lower skill settings take away such reliance’s and free the player to enjoy essence of rallying. The novice skill settings is without a doubt, too easy for the serious driver and as such should be avoided if you want to experience everything that the game has to offer. Normal offers a good balance and upon completion will open up the professional settings – for those who enjoy a true challenge and only second to Sega Rally. The excellent presentation continues into the game itself, with the in-game screen containing a variety of view, helpful icons and tools if you so desire. Your co-driver is the most important of these tools and without him the game would be even harder.

The handling of the cars has come in for many criticisms from other publications and I have to disagree with their sentiments. This is a rally game for goodness sake; your car is going to require constant attention and minor taps on the stick or d-pad, even on the straights. Unlike Gran Turismo you cannot afford to relax on certain sections of a track because nature lies in wait for you. Your car will not stick to the track, you must work to keep it there and this is the essence of rallying. Its not easy or relaxing, it is an intense sport that punishes those who turn off for a split second. After the first few stages you will soon appreciate the time and effort that has gone into the handling, braking and physics. WRC is a game that is easy to dismiss at first and like any good album takes a few plays before it finally falls into place. Rallying is not a major sport and is still regarded as a niche interest but it is growing and games such as WRC are a factor in this.

The developers have captured the spirit of rallying more so than any other previous attempt but they have also sought to include some of the most satisfying graphics yet seen on any home console. The replays are some of the best delivered yet but I am also referring to the actual game. WRC is a graphic junkies ultimate dream and features photo realistic environments, first class lighting and the most dynamic sound effects that I have heard on any driving game. You can quite literally tell the condition your car is in by listening without referring to the icons on the screen or feel it through the handling. The game features realistic damage and this is not some graphical novelty as displayed by other games. If you slam into a hillside or road sign, a variety of things can suddenly happen; the steering, suspension, acceleration or temperature will be affected. It’s this that helps bring the environments alive as they may look real but with this feature they feel it as well.

More than any other game that I have played WRC forces the driver to use their senses (touch, sight, hearing) as you can immediately gauge your health by using these. As mentioned previously the game should have been the ultimate driving experience but there are problems or areas that let down the overall package. Firstly even though the game supports two players it should be regarded as a sole experience. The multiplayer element is several limited and hampered by graphical problems such as frame rate and fog that do not exist in the main mode. Loading has been a problem on the Playstation 2 and this game is the worst so far, an eternity is spent waiting for the tracks to load. Given the fact that you can only race 10 stages and your opponent appears as a ghost car it seems as this was tagged on as an afterthought.

The graphical splendour of the game is dampened by some pop-up in later stages and poor weather effects such as rain and snow – easily witnessed in the first person viewpoint. While there are bonus stages to open and as you progress more countries become available for other modes, there isn’t much here to keep the casual driver entertained. The developers have included a challenge mode in conjunction with the official website where you can obtain a rally license but once achieved its never revisited. Music included with a driving game is rarely appropriate and with WRC this is very much the case. Perhaps given the importance of sound effects, little attention was paid to the background music as it can only serve to distract the player. Whatever the reason, it is poor and easily switched off and never to return.

Given the carrot and stick approach that Gran Turismo has made the norm (win track, get car) most will race through the game once and miss the whole point of rallying. There comes a time when being first will be a foregone conclusion, you will be only against the clock and there lies the challenge. In the current climate this won’t be enough for many only concerned with winning and that is such a shame. WRC has come as a big surprise to me and brought much enjoyment in a genre that I had previously lost interest in with the exception of MSR. The best driving game on the Playstation 2 without a doubt and as a first console release from Evolution Studios an achievement they can be rightly proud of.

Gamestyle Score: 8/10

The Mummy Returns

Gamestyle Archive Intro: I cannot remember anything about this game whatsoever but it is one you’ll often see in bargain bins or charity shops. Another to file in the disappointing film license category. Dating from November 2001 and reviewed by JJ.

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One of the biggest films of the year arrives on the Playstation 2 in the form of a two-part adventure following the storyline closely. Developed by Blitz Games the game has been created with support from Universal Interactive and the cast of the film, ensuring that this really is the official Mummy game.

A disappointing sequel to the fun, if predictable original, the Mummy license is highly regarded even after the bland Psone game. Not only does the film contain memorable characters and visuals, it appeals to all ages without entering kiddie’s territory or horror. Now for anyone who actually missed the summer and therefore the movie, I will provide a brief introduction to the plot and the game. The hero from the first film (Rick O’Donnell) has settled down to raise and still try his hand in exploration of ancient Egypt and discovers artefacts relating the legend of the Scorpion King.

The story revolves around this Scorpion King, formally a good guy gone bad and the quest to unleash his unstoppable armies on the world. Amongst all of this, Imhotep is resurrected to race Rick in a roller coaster ride to find and command the Scorpion King. The unique feature of the game is that you can choose to play the part of the hero or villain on two separate adventures. Rick as the hero must rescue his family from Imhotep before then facing the Scorpion King. As Imhotep you must regain your powers by collecting various items before trying to resurrect the Scorpion King and his armies, then ensuring world domination. Both adventures feature different locations and follow the script of the film, proving to be rewarding for any fan of the epic. Disappointingly any fans of the film expecting to fight the Anubis armies or flee from the ever-hungry scarabs will be left wondering why such fantastic opportunities were not included in the game. When such enemies do arise, they are in single numbers, losing the epic nature of the film and robbing the game of some key sequences.

While many videogames are graphically solid but lacking a plot, The Mummy Returns is an exact opposite. True, the film may have been a series of fantastic special effect sequences linked together by a threadbare plot but in the videogames unfortunately, the plot and characters are good enough. The execution is frankly, very poor and not worthy of such an official license but how often have we experienced similar scenarios?

Graphically the game is standard fare, never really doing anything to harness the power of the hardware or capture the imagination of the player. Sucking the life from hapless victims as Imhotep is the highlight but the effect never changes throughout. All the characters in the game are faithful reproductions of those from the film however in cut scenes the effect is ruined by the lack of facial expressions or moving lips. The game uses Tomb Raider as a reference as you have to explore locations while figuring straightforward puzzles and fighting regenerating enemies. If there is one thing that can really annoy it’s the inclusion of regenerating enemies never mind with non-existent intelligence. Quite simply they are lining up to be hacked, punched, drained or vanquished to another dimension. Your companions as well as enemies will wander around aimlessly, often becoming stuck in walls or continue to run around in circles, somehow lost in a world of their own. As they regenerate as soon as you leave the room (and often chase after you) the game soon becomes a tedious button bashing of epic proportions. Help is on hand throughout from your supporting cast but more often than not, these prove to be a liability but at least you can take frustrations out on their lifeless bodies. Puzzles form the basis of most levels, reach a certain location, collect the item and return to where you came from. Repeat till end.

I would have hoped to experience at least a snippet of variety between the two different adventures, but sadly this is not the case. This is standard fare that we have all seen a million times before. Levels are nicely recreated from the film and the size is quadrupled thanks to the worst map feature ever. The on-screen icons will feature a traditional compass, totally useless for buildings that are on several levels. The compass also occurs on a map, which you can only view from one angle (zoomed in or out) making navigation far time consuming and annoying that it should have ever been. The bad design does not stop there as it continues to the control method, which is far from friendly. The triangle button will activate your weapon, which you can collect on every level and with several available it is an important feature. Yet, this button will also bring up your inventory therefore at times when you require a weapon, something else will happen causing loss of life. Controlling your character feels sluggish and not as responsive as you would have hoped for. Bad enough? I haven’t even mentioned the camera that at times needs constant correcting or becomes stuck in ceilings almost every time that you enter a new room.

In conclusion The Mummy Returns is a disappointment to anyone who plays the game whether it be a fan of the film or gamer. Only children may forgive its faults and enjoy the limited nature of it all.

Gamestyle Score: 3/10

Splashdown

Gamestyle Archive intro: another PS2 title that time forgot? This time it’s Splashdown from November 2001; a solid enough arcade racer but nothing to entail much longevity. This one is from JJ.

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Splashdown is the latest water racing game from Infogrames and Rainbow Studios but as with all games in this genre it can only be compared to Wave Race. Does the game try the same old things or make new inroads offering much needed fresh ideas? The concept is simple, racing on water but this time on the official Sea-Doo racers across the globe.

The game takes you from sunny California to the wet and miserable Loch Ness – more Scottish levels in games please! How did I know it was going to be raining on that level when I first played it? In total there are eighteen tracks, twelve of which are opened after completing the Career Mode. The rest as they say are up to you. The game offers four modes and these are Career, Arcade, Versus and Training Modes, nothing new or original and that must be viewed as a disappointment after the comprehensive selection offered by MXrider, also by Infogrames. Training is the most obvious starting point and is well worth the effort and covers the basics. Without this you will miss out on necessary manoeuvres to tackle obstacles after landing or methods to improve your speed and performance.

The Arcade option offers four events, these being Circuit, Time Trial, Free Ride and Countdown. The inclusion of the Free Ride option does raise issues as while it allows you to enjoy the design and look of the courses it removes the challenge of finding bonus items as mentioned later. Countdown is a variation of the Crazy Taxi challenge involving balloons and it nice, if abrupt distraction. I would have preferred an option with more depth such as design your own track, rider or Sea-Doo allowing some customisation and giving Splashdown some much needed identity of its own. The Versus mode has been given life with some playable enough options, rather than just racing Copycat (as the name suggests) is where the second player must copy the stunt performed by the leader. Each time this does not happen then the victor receives a letter, once you’ve spelt Splash, you win.

Stunts form an important part of the game and when used can cut seconds off your lap times – all the more disappointing that a Freestyle mode wasn’t included in the package. In total there are over thirty stunts available and these range in difficulty, from easy to hard. Successfully completing stunts increases your Performance Meter, which in time will give you a speed boost and more importantly it will allow you to bypass buoys thereby reducing your lap times. In order to even attempt any stunt you need to hit the water ramps at high speeds, perform the stunt in time before you attempt to land. If you miss a buoy when your meter is low, your racer will stall for several crucial seconds. The longer that you hold or perform a stunt the more dramatic the increase in the meter level but performing the same tricks will have a negative effect. Career mode serves as the main axis for the whole game as winning opens up new tracks that can be selected in other modes.

Extra bonus items are hidden off the main racing line and these items include new characters and wetsuits also accessed in Free Ride. Most are well placed, meaning that if you go for a bonus it will quite possibly spoil that lap, if you can locate the item in the first place. A qualifying round precedes each course in this mode and depending on the difficulty setting, the necessary qualification time is challenging. . Every so often before each race you will be invited to a take part in a little one on one Challenge Round. If you win then your opponent becomes a member of your team and unusually in the career mode you can switch between team members. If a particular course is proving difficult it may be advisable to try another team member as each racer has different statistics and qualities. It does feel like cheating to a certain degree, a true champion is someone that can overcome all obstacles put in their way.

The eight characters in the game are instantly forgettable apart from their atrocious accents and phrases. I’m not sure what dialect the developers envisaged Juana Lopez having, but a Scots accent perhaps wasn’t planned but is thoroughly amusing. The most important aspect of any game is how it feels and plays, while I will be critical of Splashdown later I find myself sitting down to play it without often realising. It certainly does have that, one more go factor, thanks to the solid course design and handling of the craft. One criticism of the courses on offer is that perhaps more imagination could have been implemented as more effort has been put into the surrounding environments. Courses can all be pigeonholed into a few difficult corners, well placed buoys, obstacles and finally water ramps. Big jumps are the most thrilling part of the game and to have just a few tracks that are not based on real locations, rather pure fantasy with enormous leaps off cliffs or waterfalls would have been a real highlight.

The Dreamcast title Surf Rocket Racers offered this as one of its strongest aspects. Graphically the game is good overall, suffering from no slowdown or jaggy edges that still plague many Playstation 2 titles released today. The detail and high resolution of the textures and environments cannot be fully appreciated unless you take a stroll in the Free Ride option. The water effects, which for this game have their own technical term (as with all games in this genre) are dubbed hydrodynamic, suitably impressive but after Wave Race: Blue Storm, lacking the touches of Nintendo’s series. The physics of the game overall good, control is affected in deeper, rougher waters and you soon learn to compensate by altering your angle. The weather and skies in Splashdown are impressive, you can feel the sun shining down on you and reflecting on the water. The work involved can only be appreciated in the replays offered at the end of every race and is worth reviewing.

Musically Splashdown has gone for the typical popular punk route but someone in the music department has a bit of taste. While we’re all aware of Blink 182 and their Quo-like repetition actually hearing Man or Astroman, The Donnas, Sum 41, Smash Mouth and the Groovie Ghoulies came as a nice surprise to the usual fodder we’re presented with. Some New Bomb Turks or Humpers would have topped it off a treat, next time perhaps? Overall a strong soundtrack and one that fits with the game you’re playing, however Mike still won’t (as many out there) enjoy the tunes. Three important areas that I find fault with Splashdown are firstly depth, as there is not enough on offer to keep you entertained once the short-lived career mode is complete. The bonuses are merely visual extras and with the exception of coming back for a quick play now and again, this will be a game that with some additional modes could have risen above good.

The second area is the control system, at times the analogue stick just does not feel right and overall it’s flawed, the D-pad is a saving grace. Most games use the square button to brake but here it activates an active camera, which should have been kept for replays only, very annoying when pressed accidentally. Pressing the shoulder buttons activates stunts and appropriate buttons/directions on the pad and it feels unnecessarily complex and unfriendly. The final area of criticism is collision detection, landing on other riders with no ill effects or flying off your craft with the slightest bump suggest problems. Yet with all these criticisms I still find myself playing the odd course now and again, Splashdown: playable, visually impressive and good but should have been much better.

Gamestyle Score: 6/10

Klonoa 2

Gamestyle Archive intro: another incomplete review but its almost fully there with just that last few lines. It’s also a rare review from Richard Stephenson, so I wanted to have an example of this writer in the archive. This Klonoa review dates from November 2001.

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We’ve had our Sonic’s, we’ve had our Mario’s and we have even had our Gex’s (shudders) but why this little fellow seemed to only entertain a small majority of gamers in the UK, is a mystery of HUGE (or is Elvis dead) proportions. Maybe it was the Japanese style of the game or maybe he was just not cute enough for you guys, well what ever happened, you can now amend your ways by not missing out on the improved sequel… Trusty Namco really do show the other developers how to convert a game to our slower TV’s!

And Klonoa is no exception, the game is converted beautifully with no black borders in sight and a nice 60Hz option thrown in just to make it that little bit more pleasing to the eye. Klonoa 2 is full of detail not only on the 3 dimensional characters, but the detail in the background is nothing short of outstanding! Your find your self stopping the jumping and solving puzzles, just to have a look at the fireworks at the fair, or the water breaking on rocks out at sea. So how does it play? If you owned the original (good for you) then it’s essentially the same old thing, using enemies against each other. By picking an enemy up with the ring (A simple tap of the circle button) and lobbing the poor thing at his mate, or even slinging him to the ground to get that extra height, for those hard to reach secrets.

You may now be saying, “Kirby rip off” and well you would be right, there are both very similar, but Klonoa has a few new features that never made an appearance in any of the Nintendo’s pink blob adventures. Quiet possibly the best new feature is the exciting surfing sessions, which have you surfing down the side of a mountain and down a Jungle river.

Klonoa 2 is a 2D game as there is only four directions you can go, up, down, left and right. Although the characters and objects in the backgrounds are 3D we will class this as 2D. It actually works surprisingly well for such an old style of gameplay. Throwing bad guys at each other isn’t the only way of getting to certain places or killing that annoying boss. Some puzzles get you mixing different kinds of enemies with each other. You start of with a “Likuri” (yes I know it’s a strange name) and throw it at say a “Moo” after sucking the life out of the poor little bugger, the finished product homes in on you, and Tada. You have a green Likuri, which can be used to open doors to progress to the next part of the level.

No adventure would be complete without it’s bosses, and as usual the first few seem easy, before things really pick up later on. With them chasing you through a war torn city, I tell you it’s an adrenaline rush when it gets close! Klonoa 2, as you may have guessed by its name is very much of a Japanese style of adventure. With it’s plain weird characters, (other than Klonoa, well done to the person who designed him) over the top Japanese voice acting and the hilarious music. You may feel it’s a bit to Eastern oriented but there is a lot of humour throughout the insane (this would never happen) story.

There is plenty to see and do, however the game difficulty is, well a bit easy. You think at times that it has been designed with kids in mind. Even with the occasional puzzle to figure out, this will only keep you for several days, the older generation of gamers will more than likely find this a bit too short for a

Gamestyle Score: 7/10

Burnout

Gamestyle Archive intro: here we have an incomplete review from Dan Kelly but as its just the final few lines and such a length piece, its being restored. Remember Burnout? It certainly made an impact although not a positive one from this review dating from November 2001.

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Cruising down the A56, with the only thrill being slightly breaking the speed limit, keeping a close eye out for Vauxhall Vectra’s with no hub caps, in case that the extra few miles an hour are worthy to warrant a small fine and a few penalty points, I often wonder what it would be like to put my foot down, cross the grass verge and play chicken with the unexpecting oncomers. Of course in reality this kind of thought would lead to a psychological examination. But finally I get to see what this would be like with the imminent release of Burnout. Will it finally satisfy my curiosity, or will I actually write off my Mondeo? I got quite excited hearing the news that it would be arriving through my letterbox in a matter of days, constantly questioning whether this could be the game that would leave GT3 standing, as many have claimed. Will my heart race and the adrenaline pump as I career down the wrong side of a by-pass at 3 figure speeds, desperately trying to get past the road hogging lorry before the oncoming family saloon reaches the tunnel? The answer to that question is, no, not really.

One of the first things that will make you think that this is the gaming experience you’ve been eagerly waiting so long for, is how fast the game is. It is undoubtedly one of the fastest driving games around, well, which doesn’t involve floating crafts. But this feeling of speed will soon dissipate as you notice how jaggy it all seems. You desperately try to keep a look out for vehicles coming towards you in the distance, but all you will see are horribly jaggy specs, that you assume are anything but a vehicle. And as you emerge over the brow of the hill, you are surprised to see this once jaggy spec only a matter of feet away, and even more surprised at the fact that it is actually a car. But its not all bad because as well as the forgiving re-spawning, you are treated to the questionably realistic crash replays. You can cringe and squirm, as the car collides with the object obstructing your racing line, causing the car to bend, buckle, roll and flip all over the road, leaving shards of broken windscreen, and damaged chassis behind. Another amusing aspect of the game is that the computer controlled adversaries, are from good drivers themselves, as an intense battle between you and one of the three other competitors, becomes quite significantly less intense as you manage to overtake him, and then soon realise your home free as you hear the crunch of his bonnet on the back of the of the newly overtaken bus. Which is made even more enjoyable when its your mate who’s the one who gets the short end of the straw in one of these situations, when playing in the two-player mode. But, and a big but, is that as entertaining as some of these replays are, they can get extremely frustrating.

This is only the second time this year I have actually shouted at the screen, and I consider myself a fairly tranquil kind of guy. The main cause of my anger is that for the main duration of the race I was in 1st place, quite far ahead of the competition, until I was involved in quite a nasty accident. This first accident caused me to re-spawn just ahead of the rest of the pack on the final lap. Then I ended up in another crash which inevitably left me in 4th place. But instead of letting me get on with the race and try to regain a decent finishing position, it thought it would be nice to show me the crash 3 times, at this point I was already on my feet shouting as loud as I could I KNOW I $#%KING CRASHED, GET THE $#%K ON WITH IT!!!!! Not good. The cars are very shiny, and remarkably stay shiny after you’ve done a bit of off road driving, they should at least pick up a tiny spec of dust. And the car designs themselves seem very dull, obviously based on real models, but drastically simplified for the purposes of the game.

As mentioned before its eye sore inducingly jaggy. The replays are jerky, they seem impressive in normal game speed, but are not anywhere near as impressive in slow motion. The realism of the crashes is questionable. In an attempt to see how realistic they were, I attempted to cause the nastiest crash possible. I managed to get the car to career off the road and plummet down the edge of a mountain. The car suffered minor damage, only a smashed windscreen, and a few unsavoury dents in the bodywork, oh and not forgetting the fact that the car stayed shiny. There are a limited few number of tracks, but vary greatly from each other. Although you may be racing along the same track as you have done before, certain changes like rain and darkness, make it feel like a new track. The music is dreadful. It sounds very reminiscent to a boss battle in a turn based RPG, with all the violins and atmospheric drum lines. And the mixing from one track to another sounds like it was performed by a one armed, hard of hearing, tone deaf disc jockey, just skipping from one track to another with no attempt to get them to blend. The crashes could have done with being crunchier, and sound more like whiplash inducing rather than cardiac arrest inducing. And many of the cars sound very similar to one another.

The controls have a very arcadey feel about them. Accelerate, brake, rear view, gear change, and burnout buttons are all there. The burnout meter is filled by driving as scarily as possible, driving as long as possible on the wrong side of the road into oncoming traffic, and performing long powerslides. When the bar is full, you can activate it by holding R1, but be warned, this causes you to go very fast, and I mean fast. But alas, there’s no handbrake or no reverse. The fact that there is no handbrake is almost hard to believe, as there are 90 degree turns and u turns to navigate, and is very frustrating as its nigh on impossible to take a corner without going too wide, without slowing down too much. And when the occasion arises when you do end up facing the wrong way, the car goes into a crazy wheelspin to try and let you whip the rear end round, to face the right way. But the first time I discovered this I ended up performing 5 unintentional, but impressive doughnuts, purely because there is no reverse. But other than that, the controls are sufficient to perform all the tasks necessary. A nice thing about the controls is that the analogue control is not too sensitive but sensitive enough, if you all know what I mean, and makes racing almost delightful, if it wasn’t for the other flaws in the controls.

There is quite a selection of modes of play. There’s the championship mode, where you race against three other cars. This usually consists of three races, three laps each with target finishing positions you must achieve in order to progress. You get three credits in each championship in order to perform this. Then there’s the single race, where you can practice previously unlocked tracks. Two player mode, where you can race against your mates, and force them into other vehicles. Other cars are unlocked by trying the Face Off mode, where you go head to head against the car you can potentially win. These are the main modes of play, but there’s also survival mode, to see how long you can last without crashing, and a mode where you can race without traffic.

In conclusion, it is a fun arcade experience, and is a very fast game, darting and diving through the traffic is great fun and does cause major amounts of perspiration and stress. But it is prevented from receiving from the score it deserves, because of some major and not so major flaws, in graphics, sound and gameplay. You could easily finish Burnout in under 5 hours worth of gaming which is disappointment if you want a game that will last. A question which another member of the team often asks himself when reviewing a game, which I now ask myself, is, would I feel satisfied if I had gone out and spent

Gamestyle Score: 6/10

Portal Runner

Gamestyle Archive intro: this early review from 2001 is incomplete but I think we’re only missing the last couple of lines from Mike Bather – from the general feel of things I reckon we know exactly where he was going with this 3DO title. Maybe straight to the bin?

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There are some things that various individuals or companies are famed for failing at; Tommy Cooper was never any good at magic, Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards was never any good at skiing and Trip Hawkins’ company, 3DO have never been much cop with games.

So with much dismay the DVD-Rom containing the latest 3DO game, Portal Runner, took the place of DMA’s Grand Theft Auto 3 and I began to play…… As we all know by now, 3DO don’t seem capable to make a game without basing it on those green plastic fool’s but in Portal Runner they take a back seat and we get to know Sarge’s missus Vikki G a little bit better. Vikki, being a modern woman and an intrepid news reporter, likes to look after her man and that she does, occasionally landing herself in trouble with her father, Colonel Grimm. Unfortunately, being a modern woman also means defying her father after being grounded and this spirals her into a plot fabricated by her arch nemesis, Brigette Bleu.

Now, Brigette Bleu needs a man for some good, fast and hard lovin’ and in a toy shop the choice is pretty limited so she opts out for our Heroine’s fella, Sarge. First of all though, this requires trapping Vikki on the other side of the Dinosaur world’s portal and that’s where the full game begins. Portal Runner plays with the usual action adventure/ 3D platformer third person perspective and contains three graphically distinctive styled levels; The Swamp, containing vicious Raptors, the Medieval World containing Knights in shining armour and finally, the Alien Spaceship, complete with crazy aliens. All of which are tied in together with fairly good FMV cut scenes to help the plotline and portal running to progress.

Each level contains a number of sub-levels where certain objectives and puzzles need to be overcome by Vikki, her bow and arrow and her newfound friend, Leonardo the Lion. At the end of each level the token boss can be found, the bosses being well thought out featuring a certain way to successfully overcome the enemy. A number of gems are dotted around to boost the player’s score and health. Each of the levels is (surprisingly) well designed with initially unreachable gems made obtainable by secret moving platforms and platforms triggered by hidden buttons, accessed by a carefully aimed arrow shot. A number of Vista points are dotted across each level and these open up a pre-rendered gallery of pictures from the levels, accessible from the title screen. Graphically, you can tell that 3DO have made an effort in improving upon their dire track record and that a positive effort has been made in the overall design, look and ambience of the game. Game play, a much lauded and needed commodity in any game; some companies grasp the concept, either by skill, suggestions and tweaks from their testing team or just plain luck.

Portal Runner’s creation has been ruled by the developer using the tools and libraries supplied by Sony themselves and we all know by now that quality games come with the effort of a development team writing, from scratch, their own tools or using quality 3rd party software such as Criterion’s Renderware. Unfortunately for 3DO, they seem to have kept and tweaked the game mechanics of Army Men: Sarge’s Heroes 2 instead of ripping it apart and starting all over again and this shows. Some of the greatest problems with the aforementioned game where control problems such as Sarge stopping midway whilst running in an arc and even though this has now been rectified fundamental game play issues still arise. It’s like the player never feels fully in control of what is happening onscreen and this is an unforgivable error, especially when precision platform jumping is required; To fall and die repeatedly from bad controls rather than lack of playing skill is unforgivable, especially from a full priced title.

Things can only get better, right? Wrong. The latter levels require the control of Leonardo and where 3DO have been successful in implementing the feel of trying to control a ferocious lion, it just doesn’t convert to good game play. Sonically the game has an atrocious title track but each of the levels has its own tune styled towards the graphical setting. A most memorable would be the second level, set in the medieval castle which features a nice track, reminiscent of all those ‘olde wurlde’ RPG’s. But no Dolby digital or 5.1 support I’m afraid! Voice-overs make their fateful return and in the opening scenes prove rather gritty with a lack of quality, but do improve as the game progresses, but the sound effects are nothing to shout from tall buildings about.

Overall, after completing the game within eight hours on the normal setting (with only expert above that, with ‘dream’ and easy below) I did find the story to be entertaining and amusing although aimed at a younger audience and maybe toward a more female audience too. But the biggest problem remains in the realm of playability and at times I felt the urge to hurl the controller at the screen, not due to difficulty but due to the fact that I had died through no fault of my own. At

Gamestyle Score: 2/10

MX 2002

Gamestyle Archive intro: we’re still in 2001, September to be precise. It’s hard to believe that’s 13 years ago now. Dan gives us his verdict on the BMX craze with MX2002.

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When I was given the duty of reviewing MX2002 featuring Ricky Carmichael, the first thing that popped into my mind was who? I like most of the populous of Grande Britagne know very little about these; sports. All I really know is that it involves persons of ages anything between 18 and 40, whose minds didn’t really develop much after puberty, throwing themselves off or up large objects, on some sort of primitive wheeled device. But it’s my duty to see just how extreme MX2002 really is.

What I consider extreme is things like tea bagging, felching, and chilli dogs. Its much like Tony Hawk’s Skateboarding, in that it includes a career mode, where you are given the opportunity to make a character and try to rise him through the ranks, to ride faster more powerful bikes, and to challenge this Ricky Carmichael himself. This is like many of the other extreme sports games out there in that pulling off fancy stunts whilst racing your hardest wins you points and the hearts of the crowds. But a downfall of this is that it often results in you, landing awkwardly, thus bruising your crotch on the seat at the finish line trying to pull off a Hart breaker with a superman Indian air, leaving you clambering back on your bike being overtaken by everyone else in the race. It starts off relatively straight forward, with an arcadey feel to the controls, i.e. hold accelerate and rag it around the corners at full pelt. But as you progress you will discover that you will need a lot more than the analogue stick and the accelerate button.

The tutorials within the game offer all the hints and tips you will need to have any chance later on. The latter races will require you to power up your jumps to go further, as well as raising and lowering the front of the bike to tackle the various series of bumps more efficiently, and can become very irritating when you get this all wrong. The races include the usual straight cross country races, and the crazy, jump 250 buses in a row events. There’s various bike manufacturers available to choose from, including the likes of Suzuki and Kawasaki. And then there’s the brand name clothing and protection, Oakley and Fox, to name a couple. I myself spent a long while creating a perfectly colour coordinated motocross representation of me, only to see him eat a shed load of dirt on most of the jumps. Good thing I had a helmet to protect my beautiful face.

The stunt modes are entertaining. Jumping lots of buses, trying to pull off triple somersaults, and cringing as you look at your character bend in ways that any medical practitioner would tell you to avoid trying. There’s a selection of 32 stunts to try and pull off. There’s the supermen, no handers, tail whips, and many many more, and are surprisingly easy to perform, by simply holding the L2 or R2 button and pressing combinations of the other buttons, will make Ricky and his chums flip and twist in all manner of ways. The graphics aren’t super duper, the tracks could be considered somewhat unimaginative, but are based on real race tracks, and if you don’t believe me, check out channel 5 at about half four in the morning. On the plus side, there’s no fogging and you can see well ahead on the track.

The bikes sound pretty close to the real thing, but can get annoying after a long session, the same whiney motor noise will keep everyone in the household awake until you decide to call it quits. The music within the game is as you’d expect, with the guitar strangling punk/rock music that the youths of today listen to. Singing, or shall I say, screaming about irrelevant things like getting cider from a lemon, and talking about his brand new car, which he thinks is a Jaguar. It’s definitely more of a 1 player game. The 2 player mode is a tad boring and access to some of the areas is prohibited.

The graphical detail is reduced, and there isn’t really a lot to do in it, except race, or out perform one another. Of course there’s the usual immature option of chasing each other around trying to knock your mate off his bike. Most definitely one for the solo gamer, unless you have one of those weird mates who prefer to watch, freaks! It won’t take too long to finish career mode either, a week of a couple hours a day, and you will be crowned champ, leaving it to gather dust on top of your TV, you might come back to it to try and pull off the odd stunt, but other than that, I think its one of those games you’ll soon forget you ever owned. It’s a good one for the motocross fans out there, and I did quite enjoy it, while it lasted.

Gamestyle Score: 6/10

World Championship Snooker 2002

Gamestyle Archive intro: back to September 2001 and its time for snooker. Writer JJ.

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Snooker does not have an image of an exciting, action packed, free for all sport and in these days of extreme pursuits must be overlooked by the majority consumers. What I know about snooker isn’t much, pool is my pub game as it involves fewer rules and therefore less thought, which is helpful after a few. Even Jennifer Lopez offering me a game of snooker wouldn’t normally be enough to entice me from my drink. However friends who are fans of the sport soon found themselves presented with a rare invite for a few sessions of World Championship Snooker 2002. Together we were very surprised by this excellent game from Codemasters who are building a reputation for creating good sports games without the need for flash licenses.

The game is approved by the World Snooker organisation and therefore comes with all the famous names (27 in total) that you see on Big Break with Jim Davidson. World Championship Snooker 2002 continues the series that started successfully on the Psone and PC last year. This version of course uses the power of the Playstation 2 to take the realism to new levels and incorporates new features such as the Coaching Mode; where Dennis Taylor takes you through the basics. This is a good starting place for any first time snooker player who isn’t familiar with the basics of the sport and the control/interface used by the game. There are several options within the coaching mode, allowing you to either play a full game or select an aspect that you feel needs improving i.e. potting the colours. The manual itself gives a brief and direct explanation of the game without resorting the encyclopaedia sized manuals that come with those Microsoft flight simulations.

The game benefits from a good overall design as it can accommodate beginners or seasoned fans of the sport. There are several modes on offer with the Championship Mode being the main, serious section for any fan and this is also known as the career mode. As with the ever-popular wrestling games you can create your own snooker legend, while not as intricate its still good. If you would rather ignore the option of creation the Quick Start mode allows you to jump in at the deep end. Here you can start ranked 65th in the world and work your way up to the very top (if you can) by playing in the qualifiers and main tournaments around the globe. Unlike other games, which pitch you against the very best from day one, World Snooker Championships contains many fantasy players who, truth be told, are worse than you. Certainly several will triumph over your inexperience but it gives the impression that you have a chance, at least until you meet the Steven Hendry’s or Ronnie O’Sullivan’s of this world.

After your initial encounter with the true professional player you soon realise that practice is very much needed! Many will prefer a quick game of snooker without the depth or realism that the Career/Championship mode offers. World Championship Snooker has several thought out modes and games to keep you and up to 15 friends amused for a very long time. The match option allows you to set up a quick game of snooker with various options available. Tournament is where you can with your friends or by yourself set up a custom event. These modes were perhaps some of the most enjoyable multi-player sessions we’ve had on a Playstation 2 since its release last year. A welcome relief from the frantic all out battles of Quake and Timesplitters. The final mode is the Fun Games that offers several games, which you and a friend can enjoy mostly based on time and making your shots quickly.

Any successful sports game owes its success to how easily the control method is; simple controls can hide a great deal of depth i.e. Mario Golf or Virtua Tennis for instance. World Championship Snooker uses a simple power meter to allow you to judge the strength needed for each shot. As you aim your shot two directional arrows will show were the cue ball and the target should go, this adjusts with the level of power. This is very easy to learn and leads to some outrageous shots later on in the game, simply because you feel confident with the whole method. Should buttons along with the analogue stick change the camera angle so you can look further down from the table. Pretty important for precision shots where you do not wish to hit a certain snooker ball and the aiming aid is available if you require its assistance. The physics and ball movements are realistic complete with those corner cushions that stop your net bound efforts. This is also true of the sound effects coming from the snooker table, a great deal of effort has been put into bringing you the real thing and it has been pulled off.

No game is without its problems and apart from being based on snooker; World Championship Snooker 2002 does have several noticeable areas that need attention. The animation and graphics of the players is noticeably poor, perhaps the code has been taken from the Psone version and graphically it could be better. The atmosphere of the game is totally wrong; crowds are noticeable by their absence. Yes snooker is played in packed quiet arenas but not with a morgue type atmosphere that we have in the game here. A bit more interaction from the crowd and surroundings would have improved the simulation aspect greatly. As with most commentaries in sports games they are mostly average or poor, here the latter is true.

Overall World Championship Snooker 2002 is an excellent rendition of the sport and will please any fan of snooker. For the more casual fan or gamer there is a great deal here that will keep you and your friends occupied for several months to come. A welcome surprise for anyone wanting some multi-player action on the Playstation 2.

Gamestyle Score: 7/10

CART Fury Championship Racing

Gamestyle Archive intro: back to September 2001 with this open wheel racer that I cannot remember anything about!

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Taking a break from the endless supply of Formula One licensed games was an attractive proposition, more so than Jennifer Lopez by herself in a hotel room. The game is based upon the American sport known as Championship Auto Racing Teams – also known as CART. Of course living over in Europe I was never aware of American racing (apart from those awful Nascar games which EA constantly releases which no one here really cares about) and the annual Indianapolis 500 race.

As you would expect from an official license the game comes with all the teams from the series and their respective drivers, names like Christian Fittipaldi, Michael Andretti and Mark Blundell – reads like a list of Formula One rejects. In total there are ten drivers from the series with another five hidden away for you to reveal. Midway even though having access to the license have chosen not to go down the predictable route every other licensed game takes these days. Instead they have taken the opportunity to restore the fun element into racing rather than realism because this is a game, and therefore it should be enjoyable! How many official Formula One games are ruined by the over-emphasis on realistic handling and physics? Just one wheel on the grass, a bad corner or poor overtaking manoeuvre and its race over or at least no points. Fun? Not really.

It may be morbid to confess but some of the most enjoyable and stunning aspects of any type of motorised race are the crashes and crazy overtaking; something this game offers in abundance. The game offers seven real life tracks (Long Beach, Surfers Paradise) and eleven fantasy tracks for you to enjoy such as Airway Raceway or the fantastic Skyway. There are five different modes available; simulation, arcade, season, Driving 101 and Sub-games. However the arcade nature of the game is prevalent throughout and makes for a more fun experience than Gran Turismo 3 ever has. This is very much a foot down, no brakes – flat out burn type of racer with oval and street tracks.

The inclusion of a boost feature just goes to show how detached from reality this can be; a super boost results in a trail of flames being left by your car as you race along the track. The boosts are available in all modes except simulation and must be mastered if you wish to finish in the top 3. Instead the simulation mode offers a variety of car customisation modes so you can tinker to your hearts content. The game moves at a constant and quick rate, I do feel that many of the backgrounds seemed flat looking; harking back to older consoles in order to keep the frame rate high. When the carnage and traffic on screen increases the frame rate will noticeably shudder, which is unfortunate to say the least.

The emphasis is very much focused on what is happening on the track, so you won’t really have the opportunity to enjoy the scenery as in other games. Yet the PS2 as its already shown is capable of much more even if there are 24 other cars on the track; mostly being destroyed. The crashes themselves are spectacular at first with cars breaking up in front of you but soon become routine as you try to avoid them. Even though the handling isn’t what it should be (your car feels jerky and unresponsive at times) your opponents will only really provide a challenge when they become debris on the track. The little challenge offered from your opponents does reduce the lastability of the simulation mode, however to Midway’s credit they have added replay value through the form of several hidden extras and a solid enough multi-player mode. Some of extras you can unlock excluding drivers and tracks are the death car & wall, fog, night drive and many more besides.

The AI of your opponents is increased due to the nature of the difficulty setting; increasing the difficulty does not affect their performance only your own car. A different approach certainly, but it does not work here. The presentation of the game is basic to say the least, cheesy photographs of women in team uniforms appear everywhere. The static nature of the front end does not create a good impression and should have been improved greatly before release. The sound also is a let down with generic music and terrible sound effects affecting your enjoyment. Everything is very much over the top and is instantly forgettable which is why this paragraph is so short. Cart Fury Championship racer is a solid enough racing game which is above average in certain areas but let down badly in others. With a bit more care and attention it could have been far better however as a fun licensed racing game it’s a welcome relief.

Gamestyle Score: 5/10