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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Racing

 

Publisher

Atari / Inforgrames

 

Developer

Milestone

 

ESRB

E (Everyone)

 

Released

Q1 2003

 

 

- Impressive graphics
- Engaging storyline
- Plenty of exotic and concept cars for multiplayer gaming

 

 

- Car physics more arcadey that simulation style
- Less car design input than you would actually like to have
- Weak soundtrack

 

 

Review: Project Gotham Racing (XB)

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Review: Gran Turismo 3 (PS2)

Review: Burnout Paradise (360)

 

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Apex

Score: 8.3 / 10

 

apex xbox review          apex xbox review

 

One genre definitely not lacking on the Xbox is Racing. Among the many motoring titles are quite a few good games, including Project Gotham Racing (PGR), RalliSport Challenge, Colin McRae 3, Quantum Redshift, and Test Drive. The Xbox-exclusive Apex can be added to that list of quality Xbox racers by providing an actual engaging storyline and a blend of challenging arcade and simulation-style racing.

Apex was supposed to be the Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec (GT3) killer racing app for Microsoft. The selling point is the ability to not only race with a garage full of 80 actual real-world cars from Jaguar, Aston Martin, Mercedes-Benz, Dodge, and

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Chevy among others, but to be able to design, construct, and race your own prototype concept cars. You will be part of the auto industry by building your own company from the ground up; however, the hyped-up design and car creation aspect of Apex isnít as hands-on as you would be led to believe, which may be a letdown for those Xboxers hoping for a GT3 similar racing game.

While itís true you will be in charge of a world-class constructor

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company in the gameís Dream Mode, the car designs are already drawn up for you. Once you win a certain amount of races required to start making exotic concept vehicles, you will only have to pick a car design and it will be built. You have no say on anything involved in the carís actual design except for its color and some minor tweaking of the handling features. Fortunately, the apex of Apexís Dream Mode is its engaging storyline, which gets you into the gameplay and keeps you there.

To get through the Dream Mode, you must race through dozens of circuits composed of multiple races. The further you go, the more cars you can design and market to grow your auto empire. And you also unlock more cars for the single-player and multiplayer Arcade Mode. It may seem repetitive gameplay to just complete race after race, but there are challenges and championships between circuits that break things up a bit. If you do accept a challenge, the only way to win is to finish first. For instance, you may be offered a contract from a city police force to supply their police cars, but only if your car is the best available. Or you may be challenged by a rival constructor who stole your car design through industrial espionage to prove whose model of the concept car is better, and more importantly, who gets to sell that car line. These challenges give a well-appreciated break from just racing.

You start off the Dream Mode in an old rundown garage you just bought on the cheap. Along with your partner, mechanic Mike Collodo, you decide to start work on a concept car that you can market for your budding automobile constructor company. Six months later, your first concept car is built and itís off to the races to show the world what your car is made of. If you do well in the races, you will start to sell cars. The better you place in the races, the more you sell. Sell enough (decided by a pre-determined quota) of one of your car models, and you can start building even better cars. There are four types of concept cars: roadsters (which you must start building first), sports cars, super cars, and the dream cars. Each model you develop will be upgraded from a Street model to the better Evolution model to finally the best you can create, a Racing model capable of burning rubber.

 

apex xbox review          apex xbox review


As your company grows, youíll be able to see the tiny, rundown garage transform into an ever-bigger auto plant. Youíll also be able to increase your staff to include a secretary, (Carla Sander, whoís more curvaceous than even the most twisting of Apexís racetracks) a research and development manager, and a production manager.

Championship races offer the opportunity to prove how good your cars are and the chance win trophies. They are based on a point scale. The higher you finish, the more points you get. Realistically, you must have no more than one lower-than-first finish to take home the championship trophy, which you can only get if you are the first-place finisher after all the championship races are completed. No trophies for second-place losers here.

Visually, Apex is incredibly impressive and a real treat for the eyes. The cars that you can drive, both real-world and the fantasy models in the Dream Mode, are highly detailed beauties. Iíll even go as far to say they are better looking than the rendered cars from Project Gotham Racing, and that is tough to do. The polar opposite of Apexís visuals is its weak and nondescript soundtrack. Music heard on the old arcade and Sega Genesis racer Outrun are better than what Apex offers up. Thereís no way of even changing the radio station as in Outrun or PGR. But making up for the bad tunage is the ability to use custom soundtracks.

The racing environments are also gorgeous and detailed. There are 54 tracks throughout Apex in city, mountain, racetrack, and speedway stadium courses of varying degrees of difficulty that make up the Apexís racing circuits. Overall, there arenít too many more impressive graphical presentations in an Xbox racing game. Another nice visual touch youíll find is beams of bright sunlight that hit your carís windshield, which, although can be blinding, is a realistic hazard you could really encounter if you happened to be flying around a race course at 100-190 mph.

Many of the twisting and turning mountain tracks present a real challenge, but the racetrack courses are ridiculously easy. The uneven challenge level is one of Apexís minor deficiencies, although for most of your Apex single-player Dream Mode gaming thereís a sufficiently difficult challenge from the opposition.

Even though the game hits the exhilarating sense of speed, separating Apex from its attempt at being the Xboxís ultimate version of GT3 is the law of car physics that swerves over to the arcade-style versus the simulation-style that applies to GT3 and even PGR and their necessity to master power-sliding driving, which isnít really a problem as long as you are aware Apexís racing is leaned more towards the arcade-style just like Test Drive. Donít expect a GT3 racing experience, where the cars perform as they would in real life driving excursions. However, you will have crash effects on your car if you get too careless and rough.

Apex doesnít go all the way in delivering on its lofty promised features of being a title worthy of comparison to Sonyís excellent benchmark racing game, GT3. Still, with a good story, excellent graphics, varied tracks, and a whole lot of great racing machines that most of us only dream of driving, Apex is one of the better racers to be found on the Xbox.

- Lee Cieniawa
lcieniawa@armchairempire.com
(May 3, 2003)

 

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