XGRA: Extreme G Racing Association Review

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Publisher: Acclaim
Developer: Acclaim Studios Cheltenham


Platform: Xbox, PlayStation 2, GameCube
Reviewed on PlayStation 2

Extreme G Racing Association (XGRA) takes you to the opening of the 2080 season of the Extreme Gravity Racing Association. The XGRA is the governing body for gravity racing throughout the solar system (with tracks as far away as Saturn's orbit). Carried exclusively on the Sports Interactive News Network (SiNN), XGRA is the high-speed cycle bloodsport of the future – today. Start with a racer in the opening invitational, sign a contract with one of the sport's many corporate sponsors and move on to the higher classes of futuristic competition.

Rating:
Kyle Ackerman


Building on its Extreme-G Racing series and its previous game, Extreme G Racing III (XGIII), Acclaim brings us its latest installment in the series, XGRA. If you're not familiar with the series or the concept, XGRA is a futuristic racing game in which you ride armed and shielded cycles that can exceed the speed of sound. Tracks can go straight up and down mountains, indulge in vertical loops or even twist through vertigo-inducing helices in a zero-gravity environment. To succeed, you need not only to master offensive and defensive driving, but to redefine your understanding of gravity and game physics, or you'll wear out your shields and end up a fiery ball of plasma and molten metal by banging into the sides of the track.

A Racer or a Contract Killer?


You'll need to race fast and place high to earn enough points to stay on the XGRA circuit and qualify for more advanced classes. After the qualifying round, you'll have a chance to open up your weapons and sign on with a team and a corporate sponsor. Each team and sponsor gives you access to slightly different bikes and weapons. Not only will you have to win through raw speed and aggression, your corporate sponsor will assign you specific contracts (to beat a specific racer, beat a fast time, exceed a top speed, place in the top few races or destroy the billboards of a corporate competitor). You'll need to deliver on these corporate contracts beyond just winning races to convince your sponsor to spring for the bike upgrades that you'll need to continue winning races (especially in the highest class). In fact, you'll need to get a lot of points and upgrades early on if you want to survive and advance in the higher leagues, such as the Super Sonic and Ultra Sonic levels.

Mostly, XGRA is a crisper version of XGIII that fixes some of the problems with the previous title. XGIII had you earning cash from winning races to upgrade your bike, but the races could be so brutally long that a slight error could ruin what seemed like an interminably long effort. XGRA's race-specific contracts and much shorter races mean that you don't waste huge blocks of time failing, and can often earn upgrades even when you place late in the race (by say, killing other racers while falling behind). The tracks look a little fancier, with nicely varied and colorful environments, but the most obvious improvements are with the sound. The sports casting from SiNN is well done and welcome (the first time through – it can get repetitive) and lends the game the sort of story arc you can get from following a single season in a sport. Your corporate sponsor's mechanic and other riders will pop up as talking heads. Caricatures of exaggerated sports figures, the athletes will indulge in trash-talk and your sponsor will pop up to complement or berate you. The music is good, and you can choose from rock songs, dance tracks or a mix. The simulated high-speed and the trance-inducing dance music settle you into a nice, mellow grove.

Know the Road


When played on a small screen, the rapidly twisting, mutli-colored race tracks and environments can be disconcerting. With a big screen, the visuals might require players to take Dramamine to block feelings of nausea. Although sometimes the track goes by so fast that you'll see occasional jumpiness in the video rather than smooth transitions, the tracks look dramatic as they trace through Saturn's orbit, the bottom of the sea and a nuclear reactor in Brazil. Everything flashes by at high speed and becomes intertwined with the colored trails from the bikes' engines. Unfortunately, success requires carefully memorizing every twist of the track and committing to memory every boost patch. Particularly where the track crosses or divides, it is critical to know exactly where to go. This is true on most tracks, but even more so in the extreme weather events, such as on Mars, in the midst of an intense sandstorm. All racing games require familiarity with the track, but XGRA is very hard to play as a "drive by the seat of your pants" arcade racing game. The stunning visuals mean that the game is cool to sit back and watch (particularly when the dance music is playing), but it's frankly more fun to watch someone else play than to do it yourself.

XGRA's replayability should come from taking different racers through the 2080 XGRA season with different teams (and different corporate sponsors). Each teams' bikes handle differently, and the various teams have access to different weapons. The problem is that you must be both a skilled racer and intimately familiar with the tracks to appreciate the difference in handling, and the weapons aren't sufficiently different to make it worth replaying solely to explore them. The weapons you'll use to take out other riders are the secondary power-ups – not the basic bike armaments. The racers themselves don't seem to make a difference, although you have to appreciate the ability to play as a victim of genetic experimentation or a bug-like battle droid rather than the usual bevy of beautiful athletes. Although there are problems with XGRA, the fact that it was released at a recommended price of $29.99 makes it worth your futuristic racing consideration.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on September 23, 2003 8:47 PM.

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