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XGRA: Extreme G Racing Association PlayStation 2

Published by Acclaim
Developed by Climax
Released: Out Now
Price: £39.99

Out of all the different styles that make up the racing game genre perhaps the most unpredictable has to be the futuristic racers. One of the better ones in recent times has to be Extreme-G 3. We looked at the GameCube version of Extreme-G 3 and it certainly was an enjoyable title and it is still, arguably, the best racing game you can buy for the GameCube here in the UK. XGRA: Extreme G Racing Association is the latest game in the Extreme-G series and this review looks at the PlayStation 2 version of the game.

XGRA will be instantly familiar to anyone who played Extreme-G 3. The game comes with three modes which are Season 2080, Arcade and Time Trial. Arcade mode allows for one-off races whilst Time Trial allows you to practice the circuits in isolation and without having to deal with competition. The big disappointment comes in the shape of no online racing. It really would have been a racing association if online leagues could have been formed and it would have added so much to the game.

The core of the game is the Season 2080 mode. Career mode begins with you picking a rider from the many that are on offer including Katarina, Romulus, the robotic Mark IV, Inferno and Jakar. Each of the riders has ratings for agility, weight and balance. Whichever rider you choose will affect the handling of the bike, so choose wisely. Unfortunately though you can't create your own rider, which is always a negative in games such as this. From the Season 2080 main menu you can either choose to race or make modifications to your bike. Progress in the Season 2080 mode relies on you amassing points. Unfortunately you don't collect prize money and you can't customize your bike with those extra special parts anymore. The only modifications you can make to your bike are to adjust the down force, ride height and airbrake power, which makes you feel less involved.

Racing in XGRA can be rather grueling. You don't have a speed boost attached to your bike but you'll find small sections of the track, which are clearly marked, that will give you a temporary speed boost (in a similar way to the Mario Kart games). These sections seldom span the width of the track and are usually on one side of the track or a small strip in the centre of the track. To win the races you'll need to hit as many of these speed giving sections as possible because you can bet that the AI drivers will certainly not pass them by. The tracks are very challenging and you'll need to know every curve and loop if you're going to win races. Racing on a track for the first time usually means banging off the sides more often than you would like. Of course you also have to contend with your opponents firing at you, as after all XGRA has its fair share of vehicular combat. Various power-ups can be collected during a race that will give you a temporary secondary weapon to use against your opponents. As you progress you'll acquire contracts that ask you to beat certain opponents or achieve a certain lap time etc.

Graphically XGRA looks OK but generally the tracks don't look as impressive as they could for a PlayStation 2 game. In all fairness though in a game where as high a possible framerate is of the utmost importance, the details are never going to push the limits of the console. On the subject of framerate, for the most part it's smooth and constant but it does dip on the odd occasion. Thankfully it's never at a critical point where it would cause you to loose control but it is a shame that some slowdown does occur. There are 16 tracks in all and they are huge. I don't remember them being as large as this in Extreme-G 3.

There are no real problems for deaf gamers. There are various voices in the game menus and during the races but these voices tell you nothing that can't be found on the screen. For instance a voice tells you when you can use one of the secondary weapons, that you acquire through power-ups, but thanks to a cleverly designed HUD this information is also highlighted at the top of the screen. All of the information in the game is presented in text so it's accessible to deaf gamers.

XGRA: Extreme G Racing Association can only be looked at as a luke warm sequel to Extreme-G 3. That's not to say it's a bad game, it's actually a good game, but I don't feel that it improves upon Extreme-G 3 and with the withdrawal of the detailed bike customisation it ends up not being quite as much fun. Online play should have also been included and would have made the game much more appealing. The gameplay needs online play for it to move forward, as Extreme-G 3 was probably about as good a single-player experience anyone could wish for.

Overall Game Rating: 7.4/10
XGRA is a good futuristic racer but it doesn't offer any real improvement over Extreme-G 3.

Deaf Gamers comment:
No problems at all for deaf gamers.