The driving idea behind the Extreme
G series is speed. Thankfully, the series has made the leap onto next-gen consoles where
that idea can finally be realized. Extreme-G 3 uses the graphical muscle of the Gamecube
to deliver one of the fastest racing experiences around. Unfortunately, fast does not
equal great. Despite a blistering frame rate, and a few dazzling special effects and
levels, XG3 lacks the kind of intensity, complexity, and originality that can turn, say, a
simple snowboarding game into SSX.
XG3 belongs to that genre of
super fast sci-fi racers that places you in an ultra-stylistic racing vehicle, arms you to
the teeth, and sends you blazing across a gravity-defying racetrack surrounded by a
futuristic landscape. The game is set up in the usual modes: Career, Time Trial, and
Multiplayer. Career encompasses four leagues consisting of ten tracks and escalating
racing divisions. This is where you can unlock new tracks and earn money in order to buy
faster engines and more weapons. The multiplayer is distinctive in the fact that it not
only offers 4-player races, but 2-player cooperative play in Career Mode as well.
But this game is really about the speed. The cycles burn up the tracks at 250,
500, 750, and 1000 Gs. They break the sound barrier. Everything about the
presentation of this game screams. The graphics move at a solid 60fps throughout most of
the game. Weather effects during storms add to the experience, as rain falls convincingly
toward the moving camera and spatters on the lens. One particularly impressive special
effect happens as you cross the sound barrier. The world blurs into a vortex of speed and
the music and sound effects descend into a low hum. This effect has the strange
distinction of being both the most intense moment in the game and the most serene.
Some of the
tracks in XG3 are wonderful, taking racers on a roller coaster ride of twists and turns,
climbing steep inclines, and cascading down insane drop-offs. Some settings are beautiful.
Siris Canyon traverses a great valley and takes you down into a gorgeous canyon. Oceania
dives deep beneath the ocean surface as you race through an underwater city. The best
courses are the ones that, like these, offer something vivid and unique, or take place on
a broad, sweeping vista where the speed of your vehicle and the craziness of the tracks
are balanced by the vast landscape. However, most of the tracks are not so inspired,
offering mostly confined roadways, tunnels, and bland Blade Runner rip-offs.
This sets off a string of mixed and mediocre qualities that drag XG3 down. The
graphics are good. There are lots of little details like the streaking exhaust flames of
motorcycles, some real time lighting effects, and such. But other than the frame rate,
some special effects, and a few terrific backgrounds, nothing will knock you over. Truth
is, most of the levels fly by so quickly that any real texture and detail would be lost
anyway. Aside from the perfectly understated moments when you break the sound barrier, the
music and sound effects are wholly unremarkable. The game does support Dolby Pro Logic II
surround sound, but the sound effects really dont give it that much to do.
at such high speeds, an intuitive interface is a must. In terms of control, XG3 fits the
bill. The directional stick moves you to the right and left. Pushing back will help your
momentum up steep hills and forward increases your speed on the way down. The A button is
your throttle, B your boost, X your rear view. Y fires your weapons, Z and the control pad
cycle through them. The left and right triggers control your air brakes, which help with
sharp turns. The C stick controls the camera. The HUD, however, does not perform so well.
There are only a few meters and counters to keep track of, but they are presented as odd
swooshes that have no incremental measurements, or any other easily discernable way of
telling just how much ammo, energy, or whatever you have left. Rather than looking at a
meter and knowing immediately that you have 6 missiles left, you are pretty much limited
to having a lot, a little bit, or none.
shortcoming leads to a tricky bit of game play mechanics that tethers your shield and
turbo energy to one another and pools the ammo for all of your different weapons together.
This means that whenever you use your turbo, you drain the same energy meter as your
shields. Likewise, when you fire any weapon, you drain a collective ammo meter for all of
your weapons. It seems silly to me that boosting your speed in order to get out of the
range of your opponents weapons is potentially as compromising to your shields as
actually getting hit by them. I understand that it adds a certain amount of strategy to
using turbo boosts, and makes for a slightly original style of game play, but it really is
more annoying than anything else.
And as strange
as it may sound after I have hyped the great sense of speed, XG3 lacks the sort of
nerve-wracking intensity that a game like this needs. The tracks are buffered by
guardrails and tunnels, so there is no real danger of flying off the track if you miss a
turn. The weapons are not devastating enough, nor the crashes spectacular enough, to
inspire fear. To be honest, I never felt there was anything at stake while playing this
game. Yeah, the game is fast, but most of my attention was spent trying to stay in the
middle of the road and conserve energy. I should have been more worried about what was
going to happen to me if I lost control of my motorcycle, or my opponents missile
made a direct hit. I should have been on the edge of my seat because one wrong move could
cause everything I have worked so hard for to disappear in an instant. But I wasnt.
In the end,
outside of being really, really fast, XG3 has nothing interesting or original to offer.
Despite the fact that this game features supersonic motorcycles as the vehicle of choice,
the physics and operation of the cycles is no different than the hovercraft or rocket
ships of others in the genre. The weapons are pretty much the same machine guns, missiles,
mortar shells, and rail guns you have seen a million times. Were it not for the processing
power of next-gen systems like the PS2 and Gamecube, there would be no difference between
this and all of the other shallow, soulless F-Wipeout-Extreme-Fusion-Zero-G games out
there. Add that to the fact that this game is very short, and I cannot recommend this game
for anything other than a rental, even for fans of the genre.