|System: PS2||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Namco Bandai||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Namco Bandai||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sep. 12, 2006||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: E 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Cole Smith
When they cancelled the series, they should have also cancelled the game.
Based on an already-cancelled animated TV show, IGPX Immortal Grand Prix for the PS2 limps along and goes through the motions. They took the time to create it, now they have to display it. It's as though the developers caught wind of the impending cancellation and decided to scale back their efforts. But it's not all bad.
We here at CCC truly love our giant mechs, so when we see a giant mech game go wrong we are more saddened than angry - but not by much. It would have made me quite angry to play IGPX and find out that it was a total waste of time, but the more I persevered, the more I was able to enjoy the gameplay. Had I shut this game off after the first couple of hours, I would have never discovered that it actually has something to offer in the form of entertainment. I'm not recommending this game because I'm sure you'll find that the payoff doesn't compensate for the time spent with it, but if you are absolutely compelled to play it, there is a silver lining.
Mechanically, the game is sound. It even has good physics, but the graphics look bad and you'll have quite a struggle coming to terms with the controls, mostly because the manual just glosses over some of the more important issues. The storyline is virtually non-existent, not that you need one, and the voice acting is marred by dialog that sounds like it was written by a 12 year-old. Then there are the poor camera angles and the virtually unplayable multiplayer mode. But if you're still interested, then follow along. I admire your tenacity.
IGPX Immortal Grand Prix is a combination of combat and racing involving giant mechs known as IGs. These mechs are piloted by various teams, one of which is called Team Satomi. We follow the exploits of the three anime kids that comprise this team, Amy, Liz, and Takeshi, all of which possess that annoying anime enthusiasm that allows them to take on much more experienced pilots simply because they want to. If life were only that easy. Each race consists of three laps along a futuristic course that is not unlike a rollercoaster complete with twists, turns, peaks, and valleys. The mechs can travel at incredible speeds over 300 mph and they are capable of great destruction, but that's not necessarily good news for you.
At the beginning of the game, and for a couple of hours after, you are going to be at the mercy of the other AI mechs. They will beat the living tar out of you and your team, both figuratively and literally. It seems that you don't stand much of a chance, especially when it comes to combat. But this can all be resolved and eventually turned around to your advantage if you just play it conservatively at first - really, you don't have much of a choice. The key to being able to pummel your competition lies with upgrades. You can upgrade your armor, weapons, and abilities, but to do so will cost you money. You can earn money by winning races and by damaging your opponents. But since you don't stand much of a chance at the beginning, you should just concentrate on winning races. You don't get a lot of money for being the first at the finish line, but you've got to start somewhere.
Each race consists of three laps. You don't actually control the direction of the mechs on the course but you can instigate attacks and blocks and access speed boosts, among other things. The first lap is just to get you comfortable with the course. All hell breaks loose on the second lap when you'll have to dish it out and take it from the other rival mechs. Each team has three mechs, including you. There is the Forward, the Midfielder, and the Defender. The Forward is lighter and faster while the Defender can withstand more damage and usually takes the rear. The Midfielder is a combination of the other two. For me, it was typically the last one to go simply because I focused more on using the other two due to their extremes. You can take control of any machine at any time. The object is to keep at least one of them in the race to make it to the finish line. You can give commands to the other mechs to avoid damage, and thus try to make it a running game as you focus on getting to finish line in the third lap. This kind of strategy makes the gameplay more involved. You can select a super-boost from your meter to kick your mech into high gear in an attempt to win the race at the last stretch. Once you select the boost, you can't attack, and if you sustain any damage, it's game over. It's not too difficult to win a race as long as you plan it out accordingly. It may take several attempts to figure out what you're doing since the instructions are rather vague, but you'll notice that the competition seldom, if ever, uses the boost.
The AI's special attacks will definitely frustrate you as you have to throw up your shields at the right time. You can also access a safe fall ability which will minimize the damage that you take when skidding along the course after a devastating attack. For the longest time, you'll be reduced to button mashing in an effort to defend yourself but keep in mind that revenge is sweet. When you start to upgrade your mech, the tables will begin to turn. There are four slots for upgrades, which include the arms and legs. Weapons include various projectiles and other nasty features such as blades that will slice right through the competition. Some weapons come with special attacks, but they are few and far between. Other ability upgrades include offense, defense, and stability.
Once the combo meter is filled and flashing, you can launch a group attack which includes all three of your mechs pummeling your opponents with weapons or with mech body parts like some bizarre, roller-derby tag-team. You can order a crossfire in which your mechs will target the enemy with the least amount of health. You can command them to rally behind you in an effort to prevent the other mechs from passing you. You can also beat up on them by hitting them twice and then sending them off to your other mechs for a two-punch beating. This will continue until you accidentally punch them three times or miss catching them. In any case, these combos can't be blocked and will result in some serious damage. It's just unfortunate that it takes so long to arrive at this point of power. But if you approach this game from the perspective of a RPG where you gradually build up your powers, then you won't be expecting instant gratification.
The two-player Vs. mode is not in split screen. If either player gets too far ahead or behind, the camera goes to a wide view which makes it all but impossible to keep track of your mech since it's so small. There's just no getting around this. The camera will also give you headaches in the single-player mode as it switches perspectives like an action movie. This might be fine for someone watching but it really screws you up when you're trying to execute an attack.
IGPX Immortal Grand Prix is kind of like a buried treasure. There are all kinds of dirt and crap piled on top of it that you have to clear off to get to the goodies, but eventually there is some payback. It may not be worth the effort, but if you were a fan of the series or you just like giant mechs, then be patient and start digging.
By Cole Smith
CCC Senior Writer