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mayan3.jpg (8638 bytes)Picture a future in which racers don kinetic suits and race through urban cityscapes and rural ruins. The postmodern terrain provides an environment that bends the traditional racing idea and combines human and "machine" to make a unique set-up. The tag line for Kinetica is "Racing Has Evolved"—unfortunately for us, it hasn’t evolved quite as much as we’d like.

mayan5.jpg (9163 bytes)Kinetica is structured like most traditional racing games in that it has a single player mode with single, season, and practice runs, as well as head-to-head two-player gaming. There are ten regular tracks and two bonus tracks, with the ability to unlock new environment as you play through the season option. You have the choice of nine characters (again, some become unlocked as you play), who are rated in the categories of acceleration, top speed, cornering, grip, and mass. As you race, you collect power-up crystals that give temporary increased kinetic abilities, such as added boost, faster stunts, and an ability to siphon off energy from other players which is reminiscent of kart racers.

pop079.jpg (8613 bytes)So far most of this will sound old-hat to racing enthusiasts. Where does the "evolution" occur? There are several points where Kinetica has attempted to push the envelope. The first, and probably most interesting idea used by the game is the ability to occasionally travel on surfaces in a 360 degree radius, meaning that you can use the sides of walls and "ceilings" of certain racing environments to avoid other racers or pick up added boost and power-ups. This opens up new ways of looking at racing that other games haven’t necessarily taken advantage of yet. I would have liked even more play with the environment in this area, as it tends to breathe life into an old scenario.

Shot_605.jpg (8971 bytes)The second area where Kinetica tries to branch out is in the ability to do stunts to gain boost, in the style of SSX or Tony Hawk. Unfortunately, this is where the game really shows its weakness for hardcore gamers. There are only ten air moves and four ground moves, none of which are all that interesting. In a world where some games have huge twisting, spinning, grabbing, unrealistic and super-cool moves, these stunts are not even lukewarm. They seem to be compartmentalized moves that fail to connect smoothly from one to another in an intuitive manner, a la THPS, and don’t require skill or style to execute. The idea of tricks mixed with racing in a futuristic environment is great, but when you have execution and vast options with games such as SSX, the pull of unique environments just isn’t enough.

Shot_628.jpg (8725 bytes)After the disappointment of not having the same "oomph" as some of the other "neo-racing" titles, I looked to the other aspects of Kinetica for salvation. The game goes too quickly to appreciate the scenery and graphics, but when I got to sit back and watch a friend race, I noticed that the environments range from very plain to very intricate. Some of the cityscapes are extremely detailed and interesting as are the see-through tubes of the environments that are elevated over a landscape (which is clearly visible below). Unfortunately, this isn’t something one tends to be able to notice while speeding through a race, but speed is a good thing, so I really can’t fault the game here.

The movement (other than my problems with stunts) is fluid and fast, and each character had a unique feel and "handling." I love the analog sticks for controlling the speed, steering, and direction, and it is easy to maneuver the character through occasionally confusing environments. The camera is fixed behind your character, and in two-player mode this can be problematic, which is why it is nice that the split screen can be put in letterbox view (which attempts to preserve the one-player aspect ratio). The music is a solid, pulse pounding techno that is complimentary to the futuristic tracks. There really aren’t that many sound effects, but that is not necessarily a problem.

This game has potential, but if I had my wish, I would want more options/complexity of stunts and more player interaction with other racers. While Kinetica has some great new ideas in environments and utilization of new surfaces/perspectives, I still don’t feel like I’m getting a truly new evolution. It has the smoke and mirrors of good graphics and an interesting set-up, but I still ended up feeling like I was watching the wheelers on Ozma of OZ attempting to do tricks. And, unfortunately, if I want any real satisfaction, I eventually have to put in a different game.

Monica Hafer   (01/05/2002)


Ups: Great control; nice sense of speed;  innovative racetracks.

Downs: Lame stunts; gets boring quickly.

Platform: PlayStation 2