Tokyo Xtreme Racer: Drift Review / Preview for PlayStation 2 (PS2)

Tokyo Xtreme Racer: Drift Review / Preview for PlayStation 2 (PS2)

For a game with lots of horsepower, Tokyo Xtreme Racer DRIFT is a one trick pony. by Cole Smith

May 8, 2006 – When it comes to racing, horseracing can be a sure bet but I think we can all agree there’s nothing very exciting about a pony race.

For a one-trick pony game, that one-trick better be pretty darn good if it’s going to hold our interest for hours on end. Unfortunately the focus placed on drifting is marred by an unresponsive control system. Drifting is undoubtedly an adrenaline rush in real life but the developers have failed to translate that level of excitement to this game.

Drifting is a relatively recent phenomenon that has gained a lot of popularity in Japan. It involves what videogame enthusiasts know as power-sliding. It’s when you force your vehicle to slide, or otherwise drift sideways, into a turn until you are basically facing your intended direction. Drifting can take place on city streets where crowds of spectators gather or the more adventurous will ply their skills on treacherous, winding mountain roads. Drifting can be initiated by any of these four elements or combinations thereof: Braking; accelerating, hard turning, and downshifting. Expert drifters attempt to make each drift last as long as possible, cover the most distance and then make a smooth transition into the next drift. The closer the curves are together on a particular track the more drifts you can try to link together.

What seems to be lost in translation is the finesse of the control system. A game like this requires precise controls and excellent physics. The cars feel a little on the light side and there is some delay with the control commands which compromises their precision. It’s really difficult to develop a feel for the controls since they are very inconsistent. One time you may pull off a perfect drift and the next time, using the same technique on a similar curve at the same speed, you lose control and spin out. There is no way to gauge the controls, going into a turn is almost a random event. Vehicles can be upgraded and at first I thought it was because I needed better tires, brakes and a bigger engine to pull off consistent drifts. After a few hours I finally got some serious upgrades but the vehicle handled just as poorly.

In the not-so-distant future, the beautifully scenic but treacherous mountain roads of Japan have been turned over to the drifters to practice their craft. The government is behind this and now the races are totally legal. But of course the government has to go one step further and make the roads totally safe for racing. We don’t learn what they’ve done we only see the results which is no damage to you or your vehicle. I don’t know if there is an invisible force field that perimeters the track or if the scenery is just made out of rubber. When you hit the side of a guard rail or mountain face, the worst you can expect is be slowed down a little before getting back on the track.

In the extra lengthy Conquest mode you attempt to shame all of the competition by cruising parking lots at night and challenging them to races. When you beat all of the guys in one parking lot, you can move on to another section of the city and do it all over again. It’s not even accurate to describe these as races. The winner is the person that acquires the most points, and the points are disbursed for drifting. The longer and smoother the drift, the more points you will be awarded. You can use the points for upgrades and eventually to purchase new vehicles but everything is expensive in this game. I guess that’s to be expected after the world learned of the six-dollar cup of coffee in the Tokyo airport some 15-years hence.

Sponsors will make themselves available from time to time to temp you with money and upgrades for taking on various challenges. The problem is that the challenges are all based on drifting. Remember, the pony only knows one trick.

In the Conquest mode, the days are open for you to test your mettle against your high score. It’s basically an arcade-style practice mode. You don’t compete against anybody else. One tip I will give you is that in order to beat the AI in an actual race, you don’t want to make any mistakes. Although hitting the side of a wall and spinning out of control won’t even damage your vehicle, it will slow you down. The AI doesn’t make those mistakes often and will greedily grab the lead when you let down your guard. Due to the unpredictable nature of the control system, some accidents may be unavoidable but it’s best to initiate conservative drifts to see how the car reacts. You can then apply some extra acceleration and braking in an attempt to extend your drift. It doesn’t always work but it will help keep you in the running.

In addition to the Conquest mode there is a Career mode and a Multi-player mode that features a split screen for one extra player. It’s a pretty decent mode if you think you’ve really got the hang of the controls because you’ll be playing against another human that is bound to be less perfect than the AI in the single-player mode.

Concerning graphics, Tokyo Xtreme Racer Drift falls firmly into the you-can’t-expect-much-for-a-budget-game category. While the environments look decent, they are much too repetitive. The vehicles are void of any streamlined, futuristic vision. The further away you view them, the better they look. When you get in close you can see all the aliasing and big boxy polygons. The fact that the cars don’t display any damage instantly hurts the game’s credibility.

The tunes are a good mix of rock and rocking blues with some J-pop thrown in for balance. The sounds of the vehicles are good but not what I would call in-your-face. It’s like your listening to the sound of the engine with your windows rolled up. At least the screeching of the tires matches up with the onscreen action.

Tokyo Xtreme Racer DRIFT very similar to the Midnight Club series but less dimensional. It’s priced under twenty bucks but I’ve seen it available on the net for less than ten – and frankly it might not even be worth that much.

By Cole Smith
CCC Senior Writer

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