It’s Scrilla Time!
As the PS2 continues to pulse with life, publishers are finding a few surviving licenses to populate the system with. After a poor showing in 2006, MTV’s Pimp My Ride takes another shot at being a worthwhile, video game extension for fans of the popular TV series. Moving away from the Grand Theft Auto-inspired, open-world approach of the first game, Pimp My Ride: Street Racing offers a more simplified package fans are sure to have a good time with.
This latest game is a straight-up street racer modeled after Need For Speed. There’s no open-world environment, no real hub, and no Xzibit. Truly, Street Racing does little to pay tribute to the license, though it’s still a surprisingly satisfying racer. The game’s main shortcoming is that it’s a single-player experience only. Even for a budget title such as this, the omission of a multiplayer mode is a feature that is sorely missed.
That said, the single-player offering is fairly robust, and the number of tracks, as well as the variety amongst them, is impressive. There are also a ton of unlockables, including new vehicles, parts, materials, performance-enhancing add-ons, and loads of ridiculously over-the-top vanity pieces for your front end. All those goodies aren’t just for show, either. As you race and earn medals, you’ll accumulate scrilla (mark this as the first game to let you become a scrillionaire) – the game’s form of currency – which allows you to unlock additional items to further pimp your ride.
Though there’s a quick-race option, Street Racing’s main attraction is its Championship mode. There are several courses, each made up of three standard races and one special event. You’ll unlock additional courses by placing in races, and each track offers optional challenges, such as taking no damage or nabbing each scrilla coin on the track. Completing challenges will earn extra scrilla, allowing you to unlock new items that can increase the Pimp Level of your vehicle; the more pimp your ride is, the more scrilla you’ll earn at the end of each race.
The game plays off of a simple formula of winning races and earning scrilla in order to unlock new items, courses and cars, and then going back into the menu to either switch over to a newly unlocked vehicle or further pimping out the ride you’re currently using. It works. There’s an undeniably addictive quality to going back in to tinker with your ride, upping the Pimp Level or vehicle attributes, such as acceleration, top speed, handling, and braking. You’ll also earn trophies, and there seems to be no end to the pimp goodies you’ll unlock along the way.
There are two main things that make the whole process enjoyable: the cars handle really well, and the variety, in terms of track design and aesthetics, is quite hefty. Though you’ll be running through a ton of cityscapes, you’ll never feel like you’re racing down the same old streets. Each track has a fairly unique design, and the motifs match up surprisingly well. You’ll race in France, England, and of course, the streets of Californ-I.A.
The vehicles themselves – a variety of trucks and cherried-out cars – all handle in unique ways but with an arcade feel and simple control design that is easy to get into and satisfying in long stints. You can opt to shift manually, and it works just fine, but the automatic transmission makes for a straightforward, two-button set-up that gives you great control over your vehicle while your attention is on high-speed turns and hitting boost power-ups.
The game also gives you a great sense of speed via a blurring effect, which really kicks in when you pick up boost coins. There are pedestrian vehicles as well, and though the streets are never overly congested with traffic, these extra obstacles lend a nice balance and feel to races. Additionally, there are several alternate paths/shortcuts on each track, as well as stunts that, when executed properly, earn you extra scrilla (and a slow-mo cutscene).
Though it’s a fun street racer at a great price, it certainly isn’t a perfect game. Occasionally there are invisible walls that aren’t clearly marked on the radar, and the radar itself is bland to the point of making it difficult to clearly see your adversaries. The A.I. also doesn’t put up too much of a challenge, and laps can tend to be a bit on the long side. Additionally, though crashing into walls and other racers slows you down temporarily, damage to vehicles has no lasting effect throughout the duration of a race.
The other main issue with Street Racing – though it has no real effect on gameplay – is the visual quality. There’s a lot of great variety when it comes to tracks, and the way in which each track is modeled feels authentic. But, the actual fidelity here is pretty poor overall. Lots of shimmer and blocky/jaggy textures, and everything has a general lack of polish. The game also sports load times for just about everything – starting a race, changing vehicles, pimping your ride – and they can take upwards of 20 seconds or more. The framerate, however, holds up well, though it seems slightly sluggish overall. In the end, though, the visual-design elements go a long way to making the gameplay more enjoyable, and that’s really where it counts the most.
The aural presentation is actually quite good, though the musical variety is a bit sparse. There are hip-hop tunes, as well as hard rock and techno, but you can hear everything the game has to offer within the duration of about three races. It is neat that you can switch songs on the fly using the directional buttons on the controller, but you can’t mute the music during races. The sound effects, though, do a fine job of supporting the gameplay, and in addition to tasteful engine sounds and skids and crashes, pedestrian vehicles will beep at you if you’re riding on the wrong side of the road – just one more subtle element that adds to the excitement of races. The sights and sounds are never overloaded, but there’s enough variety here to make for an enjoyable experience.
Pimp My Ride: Street Racing offers a fun racer at a budget price ($19.99). It’s often easy to write off games based on TV properties, but we have to give this one its due. In the end, though, three main things hold this title back from being a true bargain gem: it does very little to expand on the Pimp My Ride experience, there’s no multiplayer, and… well, it’s all pretty much been done before. But, if you’re still on PS2 and jonesing for some new streets to burn, you’ll get your money’s worth with this title.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.5 Graphics
The vehicles are kind of boxy and lack detail, and the overall visual fidelity is pretty low. However, the cityscapes and track design do a great job of keeping things fresh and fun. 4.3 Control
It’s a simple design, but it works and works well. Bottom line: you’ll have fun playing this game. 3.6 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
There’s plenty of variety, as far as the sound effects go, but the musical selection is pretty slim. 3.4 Play Value
The overall gameplay design isn’t very deep, but it’s still an addictive formula with plenty of variety. Lack of multiplayer, as well as a real connection to the source material, is a pretty fat omission. The $19.99 price tag, though, helps sell this one. 3.5 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.