Carve Review

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Publisher: Global Star Software (Take-Two Interactive)
Developer: Argonaut

Platform: Xbox
Reviewed on Xbox

Carve drops you into the world of watercraft racing, as four wetsuit-clad teams compete to be the fastest to the finish line. Take advantage of ramps scattered around the courses to perform tricks or just swerve full-speed around buoys to become champion of the waves.

Kyle Ackerman

Carve is another one of those games where we have to remind you of FI's review criteria. Games are rated not only on quality but on price at release. Simply put, Carve is a competently executed trick-racing game, with some beautiful water effects, that shipped to stores with a $20 price tag. Moreover, it features online competition over Xbox live. Casual and budget-minded gamers will find plenty to enjoy at the price. Hardcore gamers with fat wallets will sneer at Carve and head to the portion of the game shelf with established and impressive franchises. Still, Carve isn't a waste of your twenty dollar bill – in fact, it's a good game for the price.

Do Stunts... Go Fast... Win!

The premise is similar to all trick racing games – finish a number of laps before your opponents do, and perform tricks to give yourself a short burst of extra speed called "Rush." In a minor variation, Carve adds buoys. The color of the buoy determines which side of the buoy you must go around. As in many racing games, Carve has shortcuts throughout the racing courses, but if you miss (go on the wrong side of) five buoys, you are disqualified from the race. Win races or tournaments and you unlock faster craft and courses. Do enough tricks and you unlock more flamboyant tricks worth more Rush. While the variety of tricks aren't going to drag gamers away from games like the SSX franchise, there are enough to fill your free time on the courses. Interestingly, the tricks are divided between those you can do on a stretch of water, and ramp tricks that require a jump. Stringing tricks together, of course, makes them produce more Rush.

The water is the graphical highlight of the game, with realistic and varied swells and waves. It sparkles, shines and reflects just as water should. It's almost as if developer Argonaut had created spectacular water, and was looking for a game to somehow drop it into. Weather effects alter the aquatic terrain: rain gives the entire surface a rough texture. Water can also be your foe. If you ride in the wake of another racer, you'll be slowed considerably, and you can use your own wake to delay anyone about to overtake you. This adds a minor strategic element, as a swerving S-shaped path can be faster when you're in second place than riding someone else's tail.

It's Not You Against The World...
It's You And A Teammate Against The World

There are four teams (for a total of eight racers) competing for the prize, and each team has its own strengths. Team Tsunami are the fastest in an outright competition, but gain little Rush from performing tricks. Team Venta are the opposite – slow overall but tremendous tricksters. When playing in the single-player game, your teammate will keep you apprised of racing conditions, and help you win. This is fun at first, but repetition of your teammate's banter can get irritating.

Two things help set this game apart, particularly at its budget price. You can race over Xbox live against real opponents. There aren't always active games, but this reviewer usually found races with at least six competitors. To the extent the single-player game doesn't seem challenging, live opponents will test your skills. Secondly, while playing against other Xbox owners, there is a Teamplay mode. This lets you race with someone else on your team, against other teams. A co-operative race against live opponents is a welcome change, particularly when it's you and a friend against strangers.

Fundamentally, Carve is a trick-racing game that has only attractive water and Xbox Live races to distinguish it from other such games. It may be a basic racing title, but at $20, those recommendations are more than enough to make it a worthwhile purchase. Given its bargain price, Carve is perfect for casual racing fans, budget-minded gamers and fans of other genres who just want a racing game to keep around in case a few friends drop by. Hard-core trick-racing gamers should look elsewhere.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on March 20, 2004 7:02 PM.

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