By Eric Pankoke on Thu, 12/31/2009
A general rule of thumb for me is that you can’t go wrong combining futuristic racers and cool weaponry. As such you would think Speed Forge Extreme would be a no-brainer. While I’m definitely growing more fond of the game with each race that I run, the jury’s still out on whether I like this better than Phaze or not. There’s definitely a lot to like about the game, but a couple of things are kind of driving me nuts, the main one being that I need a much more responsive weapon trigger.
The year is 2142, and like many bored citizens partaking in the colonization of Mars you decide to engage in races that cross the landscape of the great red planet. The formula is pretty simple: select a racer, pick a track and try and get that coveted first spot. There are 16 areas to compete in altogether, comprised of 12 tracks and four arenas. The tracks are your typical multi-lap racing affairs, while the arenas are duel ‘til the death, and may the most frags win. All races other than the first must be unlocked, and as you win races you will also unlock more ship types, weapons and assorted other goodies. I’m not quite sure how well you have to do to unlock things, however, as there is no help in the game.
At the beginning of each race you get to choose one of three difficulty levels, and for the sake of the review (and my sanity) I’ve been playing the game on easy. Occasionally I’ll see and even get accosted by another racer, but for the most part I’ve had no trouble taking first place on each race. Just for comparison’s sake I did try one level (the sewers) on hard, and there is definitely a difference in things like CPU aggressiveness and such. I did still manage to take first, but it was only because at the last second I sent a missile up the leader’s afterburner so I could sneak by. I’d also like to note that unlike a lot of racing games, the different vehicles do in fact handle differently. As a result you’ll want to pay special attention to the stats of the racer you choose to make sure the attributes you value most are high.
There are two types of competitions – race and arena. Races are comprised of three or more laps around tracks that range from a quarry to an alien ship. So far the tracks have all been fairly interesting, but I will say that several of them suffer from “Mario Kart Wii” syndrome. That’s the problem where the cooler a track looks, the harder it is to tell where you should be going. Fortunately, none of the tracks suffer as much from this ailment as some of the Mario Kart ones actually do. On the arena levels you basically fly around a domed area, and you have to get a certain number of kills before your opponents do. I think I’d probably like this mode better if the weapon controls were more responsive, but right now even though I’ve won both arena matches I’ve played I still wish I could have skipped them. I much prefer the racing levels.
The game offers several variations on the control scheme, allowing for either tilt or on-screen controls to move left and right, auto-acceleration or on-screen button for acceleration, and on-screen button for breaking. So far I think I like using tilt the best for moving left and right, though the analog control (which is basically a slider) worked fairly well for moving the ships. Weapons are always controlled via on-screen buttons, and I found them to be not nearly as responsive as the movement controls. Sometimes I’d have to hit the missile button two or three times before a missile would fire, and by then I’d miss my target. This is especially frustrating on the arena levels, given that the whole point of those levels is to frag your opponents.
The levels in Speed Forge Extreme are quite stunning visually. Each level has its own look to it, and all the levels are rife with small details to help the tracks seem more alive. One track might have lights to guide the way, while another will have large spinning fans on the ceiling. As with almost any 3D engine there are occasional clipping issues, but they are fairly infrequent in this game. The vehicles look pretty sharp as well, and it’s clear the designer went out of the way to give each a separate look. The only bad part is that it is much easier to appreciate their designs when you’re selecting one than when you’re actually racing. Of course special effects like glowing shields and explosions look nice too.
The sound effects are all there – missiles, machine guns, and that annoying grating when you’re accidentally rubbing up against a wall. At first I wasn’t really sure if I was going to like the soundtrack or not. The music that plays during the selection process is really nice, but the first race music was a little too “rock-ish” for me. However, there’s a nice variety of tunes as you progress through the races, and even though they all have a bit of a rock edge to them, most are a lot more mellow than the first one. Overall I got to where I was enjoying the music.
Speed Forge Extreme definitely continues the trend of futuristic cars plus destructive weapons equaling lots of fun. I’m still not sure if I like it better than Phaze or not, but it certainly will give that racer a run for its money. The tracks are fun, the opponents are fierce, and everything looks quite nice. Hopefully they’ll make those weapon buttons a little more responsive, but otherwise it’s a nicely balanced game that plays well and makes you want to keep going.
Overall Score: 8/10
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